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u.s. election 2016

After a year of campaigning and four days of the Republican Convention, Donald Trump's acceptance speech – the big, or huge, huge oration – was not so different from what the man said back at the Iowa caucus when the year we live in was new and fresh.

Not much new or fresh about his pitch. The point of the acceptance speech was, obviously, to use the massive platform of TV and reach beyond the adoring crowd in the room to touch the millions of mildly curious or unconvinced voters, with a convincing message.

The message, delivered in the now familiar style of vainglorious boasting that has got him this far, was this: I'm gonna make you safe. You're worried? I'm gonna fix that. You trust me and I'll take care of these punks and palookas. That makes me the person capable of running a country. The appeal is anchored in what is presented as brutal common-sense logic and disdain for irrelevancies like policy. What was odd about the moment, the theatre of it and the speech, was the lack of vision beyond the threat – and it sounded distinctly like a threat – that the return of law and order would make everything great again. The United States would simply rise up, like one of the many phallic towers he has built. (The ones "record-setting in their height" said his daughter Ivanka, no less.) And therefore there would be prosperity and security again. The ins-and-outs of that the viewers had to intuit for themselves.

Trump is obviously an emanation of the culture forged by reality TV. But there's a perverse twist.

Eight years ago when Sarah Palin, the self-styled hockey mom from Alaska, made a defining speech at the Republican National Convention, the point was to heighten her realness. The torque that drove so much of the popularity of reality TV was the plausible belief that ordinary people, with all their messy baggage and lack of sophistication, were more authentically American than the fictional doctors, lawyers and detectives, or the real but highly polished politicians, seen on TV. On TV, trashy lumpen proles were transfixing and undeniably authentic. Every hit reality show proved that.

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Palin ended up being an over-reach in the strategy to use the reality-TV meme to define a politician as authentic. She had charisma and impact but her ineptitude was embarrassing. Trump is the apotheosis of the phenomenon. He acknowledges no weakness and knows no shame, like the most hypnotic of reality TV stars. But he has the added ingredients of great wealth and built-in fame. He has familiarity, he's already a brand and the brand's message, long shouted, is this: Everything Trump is awesome.

It's not that television has been used by Donald Trump to succeed in politics. TV has used him. He looks ridiculous on TV. His manner of speech is not merely lacking in gravity; it is juvenile and brimming with puerile pretension. He has the vocabulary of a 12-year-old. Yet, he's been there in the public glare forever and it seems like nothing can kill him off. Not bankruptcy or disgrace, or having his show cancelled. Nothing.

Besides, those boasting buffoons on those ordinary reality shows are mere amateurs in his arena. Trump is the biggest boaster in the history of the whole world ever. And he'd probably thank you for that compliment. That's how he presents on TV – mesmerizing in his grandiosity. He and his family are the Manhattan-elite version of the Alaskan hillbillies that Palin and her family presented as. And the Trump phenomenon will expire too. Trump's ace is the bigness of the bragging and his weakness is the inability to recognize the inevitable disdain of those viewers and voters who tire of reality TV buffoons and turn away.

And TV isn't Trump's medium, really. Not in the long term. There is too much of the menacing thug about his body language, demeanour and tone. Twitter is his ideal medium, with its freedom for snark and mischief. It's an unserious medium. Television will always reveal the skull beneath the skin and will tire of the same pretension over and over.

As a finish to the Republican convention, Thursday night's speech and what surrounded it was anti-climactic. More Trump children praising dad. A friend and colleague claiming that Trump has time for the little guy. There were times during the convention when it seemed the Trump campaign was being run by a gaggle of interns running around with their hair on fire. It all ended as expected and necessary, though. Just like the Iowa caucus events, it was about boasting and law and order, and terrorists. A new script is needed. It's unlikely Trump and his gaggle, and family, have it in them, in the long run to November. The act looks tired. That's TV fame for you.