For the past three days I’ve been transfixed with horror as I’ve watched the people who want to run our country lie and rage, egged on by Donald Trump, who thinks that the goal of the whole event was to demonstrate “the fact that I’m very well liked.” I’m not alone. Lot’s of commentators seem to have been gobsmacked by the spectacle to which Trump and the RNC have subjected us. Consequently, I’m going to deviate from my usual focus on what’s going on in Missouri and survey a few of the more telling responses to the Cleveland Carnival and to the Carny-in-Chief behind it all:
Screaming matches between delegates. Past nominees who refused to attend. Speakers who seem allergic to mentioning the nominee’s name – or policies. The runner-up refusing to endorse the winner.
Plagiarism. Lies about plagiarism. Talk of Lucifer from the stage. Humanizing stories about the nominee relegated to obscure time slots. Multiple speakers calling for the jailing of the opposing nominee. A prominent delegate calling for that nominee’s execution by firing squad.
It’s time to ask where the Republican National Convention of 2016 ranks on the list of modern history’s worst political conventions.
Trump brings together aggression and narcissism with a kind of militant ignorance which can be harmless or even amusing in the make believe world of reality TV or New York real estate but becomes positively dangerous on a national and global stage, thrashing about like a hose spewing fire. As Will Saletan memorably put it, the GOP is a failed state and Trump is its warlord. […]
In any case, here we are. Trump’s convention is everything you could have predicted: a mix of bracing disorganization, provocation, aggression and lies. It is simply impossible to pick apart the incompetence from the transgressive behavior and pettiness. […]
This is Trump. His convention would be his presidency – entertaining and hilarious if he weren’t also a live wire against the fumy gasoline can set against our national home. It is quite literally a terrifying prospect. He’s quite likely to lose his quest for the presidency. But he might not. He’s that close to the unimaginable. And he’s brought almost an entire political party along with him. We will be blessed if we can escape this with no more harm.
… . There’s something rotten in Republican politics, and it’s contributing to the convention fiasco. This is a party lacking in leadership, substance, and ideas. Each of the individual errors this week help add up to a debacle, but what GOP officials need to recognize is the bankruptcy underpinning all of their many problems.
The nomination of a racist television personality to be president of the United State is a symptom of a larger crisis. Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann explained this week that Trump’s rise in GOP politics is “the culmination of a proud political party’s steady descent into a deeply destructive and dysfunctional state.
… . Trump wants the key takeaway from the whole convention — including his speech tonight — to be that people come to appreciate that he is very well liked, specifically, that he is already very well liked. Not that he hopes to spell out his and his party’s vision for America (if you can call it that) with new sweep and clarity. Not that he hopes to demonstrate that this vision is preferable to the opposition’s. Not that he hopes people who are undecided in this election, concerned about the country’s future, and choosing between those two competing visions will come away reassured and persuaded by his own.
Trump’s convention has given voice to the most extremist portions of the right. It has sharpened the partisan divide. It has cast Clinton as a figure who cannot be allowed to take the White House—even if somehow she collects more votes (or the “rigged system” says she collects more votes). Trump has established a term sheet for this election that establishes an alarming dichotomy: If he wins, the process worked; if she wins, the game is corrupt and the results cannot be trusted. This is a perilous moment. There is talk of killing a presidential nominee and a foundation is being set for delegitimizing an election. And the convention is only halfway over.
The journey [i.e., the demonization of Hillary Clinton at the convention] into what once would have been written off as the land of the lunatic fringe explains how Trump has seized control of the GOP and forced traditional Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to bend to his will. Far from being an intermeddling alien force, Trump represents the true center of gravity in a party that has spent a quarter-century defining itself through extravagant shows of opposition first to the Clinton family and then to Barack Obama.[…] Trumpism is an ideological wasteland where anger is the only point and winning is the only objective. Here in Cleveland, we have seen what the wasteland looks like.