Phil Chapman of Highland was one of 54 Illinois delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last week to cast a ballot for Donald Trump as the party’s nominee for president of the United States.
Chapman, who also serves as secretary of the Madison County Republican Central Committee and is a GOP candidate for the Madison County Board, was an early Trump supporter. This was the first national convention in which he took part.
After his return home, Chapman answered questions from the News Leader about his experience, the GOP’s ticket, and events that made state and national headlines at the convention.
Q: Why did you want to be a delegate?
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A: Like many, I haven’t felt the country was headed in the right direction. I felt I had no right to complain unless I did something about it. Given the poor track record in Washington, I wanted to go to the Illinois Republican Convention and to the National Convention as an elected delegate to support Donald J. Trump, who talks straight and isn’t politically correct.
Q: Were you a Trump guy from the beginning?
A: Yes. In 2014, the American people repudiated Obama’s policies and delivered (the Repbulicans) the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Since then, many have observed the congressional majority has little to show for their mandate. There has been no clear candidate to rise from the congressional ranks to be considered “presidential timber.” No governor’s record seemingly sufficiently warranted the White House.
So, the people, and the Republicans, needed to look outside the traditional well spring for a suitable candidate. That is why, from the beginning, I supported Donald J. Trump, successful businessman, builder of skylines, and entrepreneur.
Q: As a delegate, you got to cast a ballot for whom you wanted to be the nominee, but the convention was four days, what else did you do?
A: I met some of the greatest people in the world, including rank-and-file delegates from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. I learned from the knowledgeable speakers at various events off the convention floor, team-built with other committed individuals, (and) visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Q: Did you have to pay your own way or did the party pick up some of the tab?
A: I think folks should know I paid for my hotel room, food, transportation and all gratuities.
Some think the party pays for it, which means you have to do what they say, or say what they want.
Q: Given events around the world in the days leading up to the convention, there was considerable worry about security. What was the security situation like on the ground?
A: Your question isn’t unusual. My cousin asked the same thing on the phone. First, the Republican National Convention, if improperly planned, might easily draw an attack from Islamic terrorists, other security threat groups, or deranged individuals.
Sadly, given recent events, the convention could have drawn cop-killing assassins we all abhor.
I don’t scare easily and won’t be intimidated, and since I felt I had to be there to turn the country around, nothing could have stopped me from going.
At the convention, I felt safe at all times, due to the police presence. The layered security effort could not have been better. The Cleveland police, Ohio state troopers, state troopers form numerous other states, including Florida and Georgia, and the Secret Service put their lives on the line for us.
Given the increasingly dangerous country and world we live in, we should be praying everyday for our police.
Q: How do you think Cleveland represented itself as a host city?
A: Cleveland rolled out the red carpet. Everywhere, people welcomed us graciously with warm smiles and conversation.
The first evening, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 50 vendors provided us free specialties for the supper. These vendors provided tremendous variety, from Mexican, Chinese, German and American, to seafood. We enjoyed salads of every conceivable type and desserts from cupcakes to Italian ice.
Everywhere we walked, people extended warmth and welcome.
When we returned to our hotels from the evening sessions, hotel staff welcomed us back with a smile while holding the doors open for us.
Overall, the Cleveland venue and warmth of the city folk could not have been better. They appreciated us.
Q: As a first-time delegate, what were your expectations going in?
A: I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered if the Republican elitists would make an effort to derail Mr. Trump. But whatever efforts there may have been proved little and fruitless.
I expected to meet other Republicans from Illinois, and in this, I wasn’t disappointed. The state party performed flawlessly in providing excellent events that allowed us to get to know one another.
Q: Was the convention what you expected, or was there anything that surprised you?
A: Given the dire predictions of the press, the total failure of anti-Trump forces to derail the nomination or really cause any major damage to party unity (was suprising). They seemed to come from the press’s imagination — little more than a ineffectual paper tiger.
Back-to-back grandslams surprised me. I don’t know if it was a surprise, but Mike Pence’s acceptance speech was a grand slam, hit deep into the left field bleachers. It was no surprise Mr. Trump rose to the occasion the final night, but his grand slam clearly cleared the stadium roof in delegates’ minds. Both men captivated the crowd.
Q: Was there anything you heard or saw at the convention — either from a speaker or a fellow delegate — that altered your thinking on a particular issue?
A: Much has been made by the Democrats about Mr. Trump’s “anti-women” stance. I’m not sure I believed this, as many women came forth to repudiate the New York Time’s article.
The facts Ivanka Trump provided about women’s salaries being commeasurate with men’s in Trump’s organization, the fact there are more female executives in Mr. Trump’s organization, and the fact that maternity leave is not a problem for Mr. Trump’s employees, tells me he puts his money where his mouth is — not just talking equality, but delivering equality, and then some.
The film providing female executive perspective provided a powerful testimony to his fairness and could not have been faked.
Q: Did you have a chance to speak with any anti-Trump people? If so, what was that exchange like?
A: Yes, two individuals. The exchanges were respectful and cordial. We listened to the press describing huge schisms and laughed. The delegates made every effort to get along in their personal relationships. I got along fine with the two anti-Trumpers. We enjoyed lunch, dinner, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame together. There was no rancor in our exchanges, and by the end of the convention, they both supported the nominee.
Q: There were many celebrities and nationally known politicians there. Did you get to meet any?
A: No celebrities. However, U.S. House Rep. Pete King of New York, who I greatly respect due to his efforts to make our homeland safe against terror, kindly provided me a picture opportunity.
Congressman (Adam) Kinzinger of Illinois spoke with me, as did our well-known and -liked congressmen, John Shimkus and Rodney Davis.
I also held a 30-minute conversation with Illinois Congressman Peter Roskom, who provided me details of the recent initiatives in Washington to cut spending levels and to replace Obamacare.
Q: There were many calls before, during and after the convention for unity in the Republican Party, do you think the convention helped in that effort?
A: The convention brought unity to the party.
There is no doubt Trump/Pence is the ticket. The selection of Gov. Pence, who is both a successful congressional legislator and governor, (was correct). His success in Indiana will set the tone for American resurgence. Delegates not initially supporting Trump will do so now.
The issues Mr. Trump articulated resonated with the delegates and the American people.
Q: What did you make of notable Republicans, i.e. the Bush family, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, being convention no-shows?
A: If some chose not to attend, this may or may not be unfortunate. If they didn’t want to be there, perhaps its better that they weren’t.
Jeb Bush spent millions of other people’s money and has little to show for it. This fact signals that it may be time to move on from the Bush-Clinton era and put it in our rear view mirror. You can’t live in the past.
Mr. Kirk’s absence seems irrelevant to Mr. Trump’s chances.
Q: It seemed to many on the outside looking in that much of the convention was focused on beating up on Hillary Clinton rather than boosting the image of Donald Trump. Did it seem that way to you? Do you think all the Hillary-bashing was a good idea, or could it backfire in November?
A: Every candidate contrasts themselves to their opponent on issues or character and issues. Many think the left-leaning press gave Hillary a free pass on numerous professional failings and personal character issues. Character still counts.
Convention speakers reminded folks about Ms. Clinton’s responsibility for deaths in Benghazi and her lies — misrepresentations of the truth — to cover them up and her failure to keep American secrets safe on her email server and her cover-up afterward.
Ask the grieving family members of those who died in Benghazi if character and sound judgement counts. If people are upset, perhaps they should hold her accountable in November.
Given Mr. Clinton’s secret visit with the attorney general to discuss grandchildren — and the FBI investigation, which brought no charges — it appears no one else will hold her accountable.
Telling the truth isn’t bashing, and it should be a normal part of public discourse, not the exception.
Q: There was some news made each day of the convention. Day 1 was the failed effort by the “Never Trump” people for a roll call vote. What did you make of that?
A: The “Never Trump” movement could never work, because the people spoke at the primaries. The Republican elitists should honor their judgement. When officials fail to heed the will of the people in a democratic republic, it’s time for those leaders to go — not the new ones like Trump the people elected.
Q: Day 2, there was the controversy about Melania Trump’s speech being plagiarized from a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 DNC. What was your take on that?
A: I watched Malania Trump speak live. She is a cultured woman, dedicated to her husband and her family. She would make an excellent first lady. No one would ever question her loyalty to America. The issue of plagiarism may only have been used to confuse folks. I don’t think anyone could find fault with what she said, or the values she espoused.
Q: Day 3 was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s introduction as the vice presidential nominee to the convention. How was he received? Do you think he was the right pick for VP?
A: Mr. Trump chose a man of great worth to the ticket and nation. Mr. Pence is an accomplished congressman and governor of Indiana. He brings talent and experience to the Trump team. His term in Indiana as governor brought prosperity to his people.
Compare that to the failed economic policies of (Illinois House Speaker) Mike Madigan and (Illinois Senate President) John Cullerton, who have run Illinois into the ground.
Should — God forbid — Mr. Trump fail to finish his term, Mr. Pence would be an able president.
By the way, delegates all thought Mr. Pence’s acceptance speech was a home run.
Q: Also on Wednesday, the Illinois Republican Party tossed a delegate from Chicago from the convention for making racist comments on Facebook. Gayne posted a photo of police on top a building in Cleveland, writing, “Our brave snipers just waiting for some ‘N— to try something. Love them.” Was the party right to revoke her credentials?
A: I feel unqualified to speak about this, as I have read little and seen nothing about it.
Q: The other big news from Day 3 was that Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump during his speech on Wednesday and was subsequently booed off the stage. Cruz took a pledge to endorse the nominee, do you think he should have? Do you think the crowd was right in its reaction? It was reported that the incident caused a rift among the Illinois delegation.
A: Mr. Cruz seems to be more interested in his political aspirations in 2020 than supporting the nominee, as he promised in front of the country on national TV. Where I come from, a man keeps his word or he loses his honor.
The election is more than which person wins or loses, it is about the future of America, our freedom, and prosperity as a people. I would suggest that he should have never been allowed to speak, unless he agreed to support Mr. Trump.
As it is, Mr. Cruz’s political future is in jeopardy, because he seemed (more) stuck on himself than the nation’s welfare.
At the end of the convention, there was no rift in the Illinois delegation over Cruz. We uniformly supported Trump. Cruz seemingly hurt himself that night worse than anyone else could have. It may be an example of the old adage, “We’re our own worst enemies.”
Q: Day 4 was Donald Trump’s speech. Some said it was too negative, but a CNN snap poll showed 75 percent of those asked had a favorable view of it. What was your take on how it played with the crowd, and how you think it will end up playing with the nation?
A: If 75 percent had a favorable view of the convention (speech), this figure speaks for itself.
I think the Illinois delegates appreciated the efforts of the National Committee and of the Illinois Republican Party to make the convention a great success. My sense is every one enjoyed it, and it will be a time we treasure throughout our lives.
Q: Given what you learned at the convention, what is the message you will be bringing back home to Highland as you try to sway presidential voters in the fall?
A: Mr. Trump will make America great again. Trump supports law and order, a stronger military, and will improve the veterans’ health care system. In addition, Trump will get tough on Islamic terrorists at home and abroad. Trump will help America work again by making better trade deals that don’t destroy union jobs outsourcing them to China, Mexico, and elsewhere. Trump will build the Keystone Pipeline, creating good union jobs and make America energy independent. Trump will help put the union coal miners back to work.
Hillary Clinton will continue the policies that put them out of work. The American people will decide if the points about Ms. Clinton’s public and personal failings matter in November.
Q: And finally, would you care to handicap the presidential race? Can Trump win? Many political science experts say the national demographics are stacked against him. In your opinion, what does the path to victory look like?
A: I’m not Jimmie “The Greek” Snyder. Many predict a Clinton victory, but what we have is ingredients for a “perfect storm.”
After predicting sure victory, Ms. Clinton has lost leads against Barrack Obama and against Bernie Sanders. If it weren’t for the Democratic National Committee ensuring her the super delegates, she might not be the candidate.
On the other hand, Mr. Donald J. Trump has overcome great odds to become the nominee from a field of 17.
Clinton has a penchant of losing leads, the other (Trump) for coming from behind against all odds.
In football, you have to play the game. The Baltimore Colts were predicted to blow out the New York Jets in the first Super Bowl. The Jets won. You have to play the game to find out who wins. The people, not political pundits’ handicaps, will decide the race.