Donald Trump said many things on Monday that -- up until this year -- might seem unusual coming from a presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party.
There were a few conspiracy theories, such as when he seemed to imply that President Obama had something to do with the Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack in Orlando. Then there were the facts Trump just had wrong, like claiming the Orlando shooter was born in Afghanistan, when he was born in Queens.
But let’s pause for a moment to consider a theme he kept coming back to during Trump’s 30-minute speech in New Hampshire on Monday: He said he is the better candidate for president to help the gay community.
“Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?” Trump said. “Clinton wants to allow Radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country — they enslave women, and murder gays. I don’t want them in our country.”
Generally speaking, the gay community does not agree that he is a better ally compared to Clinton, for a number of reasons. But leaving that aside, here we had, for the first time in American history, a likely Republican presidential nominee openly courting the gay community in a major address.
Trump brought up the gay community and his positive feelings toward them several times during his Monday speech. There are three reasons why Trump could have kept coming back to this points. The first is just political calculation: If he can make any inroads into a voter block solidly with his opponent, it is just smart politics.
But the two other reasons show what a unique moment in American politics yesterday’s speech could become with time.
First, the nation has shifted so far and so quickly to support gay rights in the last decade, that Trump’s statements about the gay community simply are not as controversial as they would have been a few years ago. For example, even as recently as 2008, Democratic presidential candidates like Barack Obama and Clinton talked about inclusion for the gay community, but they did not publicly support gay marriage.
The second reason points to the unique nature of Trump as a Republican politician. The GOP has become a party of the South and the West. But Trump is an urban, Northeastern, largely non-religious figure leading the party.
Was Trump’s address as significant as when President Obama compared the gay rights struggle to other movements in American history in his second inauguration speech? Not at all. And while Trump spoke out against North Carolina’s new transgendered bathroom bill in the heat of a Republican primary, he still believes marriage is between a man and woman.
Still, considering that previous Republican presidential nominees would only huddle privately with gay Republican groups, Trump’s speech marked a sea-change moment -- at least for the party. For the first time, the presumptive Republican nominee is openly embracing this community.