A friend asked me why I haven’t blogged about the Republicans’ convention. Part of the reason is that I didn’t have the stomach to watch any of it, so my observations would be second hand, based on what I’ve read and on the bits and pieces I’ve seen on the TV news. But more importantly, I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about Trump and his party. As far as I can see, the convention simply confirmed what we already know. But I suppose some things bear repeating.
Most obviously, the GOP is now a personality cult. Never has a president so completely owned his party. The convention reflected that reality, which is the culmination of a decades long evolution of the GOP into something resembling a radical right-wing cult as much as a conventional American political party. All that was lacking five years ago was a cult leader. Trump supplied the missing ingredient. In retrospect, it is unsurprising that Trump was able so easily to dispatch all his rivals for the 2016 presidential nomination—none of them had the requisite personality for a cult leader. And none of them was willing to go as far as he in expressing the angry, racist, and xenophobic impulses that drive the party’s base. But Trump’s takeover of the party wasn’t entirely one sided. He understood that to be a viable contender for the nomination he had to embrace the right’s most cherished dogma; anti-abortion, low-tax, anti-regulation pro-gun. His choice of Pence as his veep was an important signal that he would do so.
Trump’s ownership of the convention and of the party was evident not only in the adulation heaped upon the Great Leader. (It turns out the Trump isn’t a sociopathic racist and misogynist but a warm, generous person who respects women and blacks.) It was evident also in so many of the speakers’ adoption of the Trumpian style—the ridiculously overheated rhetoric and the routine disregard for the truth. That all of this is so very familiar by now makes it no less appalling. It is depressing to think that these people do in fact represent a good chunk of America.