An angry man is yelling at me on TV. He says our country is at a moment of crisis. Terrorists are attacking our police and our cities. Elect him, and safety will be restored. We cannot afford to be so politically correct any more. Homicides are on the rise. Illegal criminals and immigrants are roaming free and killing people. We are sacrificing our children on the altar of open borders.
Our country is suffering international humiliation. This is mostly the fault of Hillary Clinton, even though she has been out of office since 2012. She is responsible for all the problems of the Middle East. Her legacy is death, destruction, terrorism and weakness. The system is rigged by big business, elite media, and major donors. Corruption has reached a level like never before. He will rip up trade agreements and bring back jobs. He will build a border wall to stop the gangs and violence.
"Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it," he says.
"USA, USA, USA!" chants the crowd.
Donald Trump's dystopian vision of the United States capped the most bizarre presidential convention in memory – shambolic, hilarious, riveting in a train-wreck sort of way. There was very little in the way of uplift, no appeal to people's higher natures, no evocation of the values that make America great. His message is that the country is at war – with the thugs, the criminals, the crooks, the Islamists, and all the other bad guys who want to bring America down. Only he can restore order.
All presidential candidates invoke the party greats. Not Mr. Trump. After all, this is not the Republican party any more. It's the Trump party. His role models aren't Lincoln or Reagan, but Putin and Erdogan. When asked this week about Recep Tayyip Erdogan's suppression of the coup attempt in Turkey, Mr. Trump said, "I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around." Forget the roundup up of 60,000 people and the suspension of civil liberties, which, although unfortunate, were purely incidental.
Most of the Republican leadership stayed away from the convention. The ones who didn't deserve a special place in hell. They sold their souls for a shot at power. Some were under the illusion that they could persuade their candidate to be rational. They forgot the fable of the scorpion and the frog. Betrayal, deceit, bullying, stupendous grandiosity – he can't help it. It's his nature.
Mr. Trump did do one thing out of character on Thursday night: He stuck more or less to the script. He spoke in reasonably coherent sentences and paragraphs and skipped the compulsive references to himself. This made his speech less entertaining than usual, but more scary. It means he must have meant every word.
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"I am your voice," he pledged, appealing to the voiceless masses who believe they've been disenfranchised by the fancy-pants elites from Harvard and Yale, the Wall Street plutocrats, and the social justice warriors who think cisgendered white American males are responsible for all the evils of the world.
Mr. Trump's vision of the presidency is singular, which is no surprise. According to The New York Times, he sent his son, Donald Jr., to sound out Ohio Governor John Kasich as his running mate. Mr. Kasich was told that as vice-president, he would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy. What, then, asked Mr. Kasich, would Mr. Trump do? Mr. Trump, he was told, would be in charge of making America great again.
What's striking about Mr. Trump is that everything about him is a lie – his unparalleled success as a business tycoon, his executive abilities, his artistry at deal making (to say nothing of his hair). "I put lipstick on a pig," Tony Schwartz, co-author of Mr. Trump's memoir, The Art of the Deal, told The New Yorker in an article published this week. What's stupefying is that so many people can't see that the emperor is naked.
But plenty do. Only 38 per cent of Republicans say they're satisfied with Trump as a candidate, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Big donors have stayed away. The convention was largely a dispirited affair. There was little of that big-game excitement that inspires people to work their hearts out for their guy.
Meanwhile, the formidable Clinton machine is staggeringly well-funded. If organization, money and expertise count for anything at all, the lunatic with a detonator doesn't stand a chance.
Mr. Trump displays a unique combination of desperate insecurity and boundless narcissism. When asked this week by The New York Times what he thought people would take away from the convention, he said, "The fact that I'm very well liked."
In fact, he's the most loathed nominee in history. The fact that he's the nominee is truly terrifying. But some day, we'll be laughing at him.