The Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan idolatry worship died last night.
32 years after the 1984 Reagan reelection campaign gave us the hopeful imagery of a sun rising on “morning in America,” the new leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, says the sun has set, replacing Reagan’s imagery with a dark dystopian vision of “midnight in America.” In acceptance speech, Trump’s America is a dark and desperate place. And his sycophant convention delegates cheered him.
Perhaps the Republican Party officially died last night as well.
As Tom Toles of the Washington Post says, The GOP is now a personality cult built around a man who doesn’t have one.
A careful analysis of Donald Trump’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, too long speech reveals some truths about the man. Trump is an ego-maniacal sociopath who projects himself as a “strongman” and sees himself as a tin-pot dictator of a banana republic, unburdened by a Congress and the courts in a democratic system of co-equal branches of government. America would be Trump’s banana republic.
Trump’s speech was heavy on his narcissism, repetitiously repeating “I” and “only I” and “I alone” can solve your fears and problems — the mark of a demagogue. “This is the classic theme of an authoritarian seeking to manipulate the masses by raw emotion.” Trump doubles down: Fear justifies a strongman.
You will find few, if any, references to cooperative democratic governance, such as “together with a Republican Congress we will do …” There is no “we” in Trump’s world (in stark contrast to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s inclusive “We’re stronger together.”) For Trump, “I give the orders and get things done.”
Trump emphasized that “I am with you” to the Tea-Publican grassroots convention delegates who helped him win the nomination, to the dismay of the GOP establishment. His goal is to align himself with a personal fan base of supporters, not the Republican Party, because the party is superfluous in his vision of ruling as a “strongman.”
Trump’s supporters want to “lock up” their Democratic political opponents, and soon enough they will turn on any Republicans who oppose “Dear Leader” as well. Trump’s bizarre press conference on Friday morning should make Republicans nervous. Trump just held one of his weirdest, Cruz-bashing, JFK conspiracy theorizing rallies ever. The man is unhinged.
As Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post mocks, Trump’s speech was a creepy fascist infomercial:
Donald Trump is the miracle product that will fix everything that is wrong in your home. He is also your father figure (put your little hand in his), who will be your preacher, teacher (everything you had in mind). He’ll be your dream, your wish, your fantasy, your hope, your love, everything that you need. Truly, madly, deeply, he loves you.
He is the way, the truth and the life. None shall be saved except through him.
He will protect you. He will fix your aching bones and your bad hearing and when you walk home at night you will know that nothing can harm you, because Trump is there. You will get a good-paying job. The thing in the shadows that frightens you will melt away as if it were never real to begin with. (And perhaps it wasn’t.)
Praise Trump from whom all blessings flow. Believe him.
He will also build a wall. It will be as tall as you want it to be. If you want the moon (Newt Gingrich does!) he will throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. He will solve all your problems.
Why should you believe that he will do this? Listen, you’re awful nosy, aren’t you? Isn’t the word of Donald Trump’s children enough for you?
Say what you will about dictators, royalty, mafia dons, supervillains and Trumps, they have a well-defined aesthetic. You get an immense, Wonderful Wizard of Oz-scale picture of your head, some flags, and then you stand in front of it with your well-groomed family, and they say that if only people knew the real you, they would admit that you were great.
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And then Donald Trump began to do what he has meant to do this whole time: talk about Donald Trump.
If Barack Obama was supposed to be your new bicycle, then Donald Trump is your new miracle juicer. He looks better on TV than he actually is. He is mostly plastic and he probably won’t work when you get him home. But the commercial makes him sound like the solution to everything that ails you.
In this case, he went on for 76 (such a patriotic number!) minutes, advertising himself.
* * *
“Nobody knows the system better than me,” Donald Trump said, “which is why I alone can fix it.”
How? There is no how. All that has to happen for a thing to be so is for Donald Trump to say it. This is certainly how all his statistics work.
Clear your mind of questions.
See, Donald Trump is always right. If he says that Hillary is damaging our prestige in the world by leading from behind, then the problem is that Hillary is damaging our prestige in the world by leading from behind. If he says that America needs to stop upholding its obligations to NATO, then the problem is that NATO is taking advantage of us and we need to stop being had.
He will bring back law and order and end lawlessness, but also he will decrease regulations. We need more law and order, but also we need fewer laws and more freedom.
Whatever is wrong, Donald Trump will fix it, even if it contradicts the thing he just fixed. Believe him. The system is broken, and Donald Trump will fix it, by winning. He will make only good deals. This idea has never occurred to America before, to make only good deals. Donald Trump will try it, for once.
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There is a hidden logic to its incoherence. It coheres because it offers a single system for fixing everything that ails you. It answers all your woes. It fits all complaints. Just like Donald Trump. Everything he touches with his hands — which are the correct size — he cures, or at least turns to gold-colored brass.
Donald Trump is selling America a miracle juicer. The juicer is Donald Trump. It is orange and it will never let you down. If you order now, Donald Trump will send you another one free.
Donald Trump will make America great again. “Great” is a vague word. It means whatever you want it to mean. Donald Trump will make America that place you see when you close your eyes.
And the crowd cheered, “Yes you will!”
You love Donald Trump. He will be a dear, dear leader.