The Dallas County Republican Party treated Donald Trump Jr. like a celebrity on Saturday night at their 2017 annual Reagan Day Dinner at the Omni Hotel. More than a thousand Republicans from all across Texas filled the third-floor ballroom, all dressed in their Sunday best, cheering and hollering as he took the stage.
Black hair slicked back, smile perfected, Trump Jr. looked like a rockstar working the crowd from the stage. Two giant screens flanked him and projected his image to the audience, and they hung on his every word, every sentence, as he praised them and other Texas Republicans for sending his father to the White House.
“Texas came through for us, they came through for this country,” Trump Jr. said, crediting Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for jumping on the Trump campaign train early. “Texas wasn’t just big for this campaign. Texas gave us the funds that we needed to go over and win all those other states, all those areas we weren’t supposed to win, all those areas where we had no chance, all those areas that were close but we ended up blowing them through the roof. It was because of the money we raised in Texas.”
Trump Jr. claimed they raised more money in Texas than California and New York combined.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick introduced Trump Jr., and former presidential nomination foe Sen. Ted Cruz closed out the show. Talk radio host and CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson hosted the event and took more than a few jabs at liberals, a few of whom gathered outside on a street corner in front of the Omni. They held protest signs about illegal immigration, the Dakota pipeline and other issues deemed “liberal” and chanted, “No human being will ever be illegal.”
Journalists were herded to the center of the room. Security and police officers scrutinized the identification of any reporters who strayed from the area, including this one. On stage, speakers made time to denigrate the press in general.
“If you ask everyone in the media, they were saying we’d be standing here tonight, and Hillary Clinton would be the president of the United States of America,” Ferguson told the crowd, who booed and shook their heads not only no but hell no. “But guess what? We’re all a bunch of deplorables, and I think we had a pretty good [election] night.”
Ferguson then showed a video to excite the crowd about where the future of the Republican Party is heading in Texas and around the country. Images of oilfield workers, business professionals, ranchers and other wholesome conservative ideals flashed across two giant screens as a narrator’s smoothing voice fell into a rhythm that energized the crowd.
“Was it just an idea?” the female narrator asked. “An idea to hold within us, each of us, spurred us into action, to dream, to unite, to do more, to be more. The simple, powerful idea that government should be small and more accountable to the people. That politics isn’t a hobby, but a calling. That Texans are ready to work for a better tomorrow.”
In his introduction to Trump Jr., Patrick reiterated why some of this change was needed as if he were admonishing the small group of liberal protesters who held signs that read, “Everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” and “Trumpty Dumpty, we don’t want your wall.”
Patrick first highlighted some facts regarding criminal aliens in Texas, including that more than 200,000 were arrested from June 2011 until January 2016 and charged with more than 500,000 crimes. “We have to have the wall,” he proclaimed. “Donald Trump can be the first president to pass true legal immigration reform so people can come to this country in dignity and not live in the shadows.”
Trump Jr. spoke briefly about being lost in the shadows when Patrick approached him early on in the campaign trail. He credited the elder statesman for his advice and experience and rallying the troops in Texas and shared a story of Patrick putting him on a call with 87,000 Texans to spread his father’s message.
“He took the initiative,” Trump Jr. said. “He got his Texas Trump strike force out there.”
Trump Jr. also reminisced about stories of his time with the strike team knocking on doors and making phone calls to raise money for his father’s campaign. “Once you get a little taste of that action, it’s hard to leave,” he said and laughed. “I don’t miss the politics, but I miss the intensity.”
He touched upon the furor related to his father’s decisions unfolding on the news. “I see all these people freak out, and they’re going crazy, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I see it, and I’m like, ‘You realize you’re freaking out over someone who is a politician now who is actually doing all the things that he said he would do.’”
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“Democrats in Washington began walking around in a state of utter shock and dismay [when Trump was elected],” Cruz said. “A very well-known and fairly vocal liberal senator was staring straight ahead and in absolute stupor, and it’s not great human emotion to take joy in suffering of others, but I was not a strong enough man to hold back just a little bit of a grin.
“If anyone is more upset than a whole bunch of Democratic senators, it’s our national reporters,” he added, “who en masse have checked themselves into therapy.”
To his credit, Trump Jr. avoided making fun of liberals or the press and ended his speech with a message that could have been directed at conservatives as much as liberals. “The only place that there is a lack of diversity is a lack of diversity in thought, and that is something that we have to change,” he said. “You have to be able to argue both sides of the coin. I think that was something very important for me growing up. It’s something I learned a lot from my father. He would make you argue the opposite side even if you didn’t necessarily believe it because he wanted you to put yourself in those shoes. And this notion that that doesn’t exist anymore is very scary.”