The Republican National Convention is over. Its main message: be afraid. Be very afraid. Of socialism. Of people coming to take your guns. Of open borders. Of anarchy in the street. Of “cancel culture.” And so on.
Its ancillary message: the Democrats are not a rival party of patriotic Americans. They are dangerous. Dishonest. Scheming. And un-American.
In last night’s acceptance speech, Trump was his usual huckster and grifter self. Perhaps my favorite claim was when Trump said he’d done more to help black people than any other president, Abraham Lincoln excepted. There’s little doubt that in his own mind Trump believes he’s done more than Lincoln “for the black.”
By fomenting violence and fear and lies, Trump has acted not like a true mirror but a funhouse one.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the alternate (un)reality that Trump sells to his acolytes? It’s total BS, it’s fantasy, it’s often hateful or spiteful, but it resonates with certain people, even as it disgusts others.
Trump, among many other things, is a sower of discord. A manufacturer of outrage based on lies and misinformation. But he needs an audience of willing followers, and there are plenty of those in America.
In life, Trump has failed at so many things. I’d argue he has failed miserably as a president, dividing the country instead of uniting it, effectively feeding the rich while starving the poor. Yet the man has captured an entire political party and the fervid support of roughly one-third of those Americans most likely to vote in November.
He has shown us a face of America we’d prefer not to see, a face defined by appetites and grievances and prejudices actuated by violence and fear and lies. But I’d go further. By fomenting violence and fear and lies, Trump has acted not like a true mirror but a funhouse one. He has distorted America. He has made it more grotesque. He has twisted it and contorted it and made it more like him.
In short, he has made his mark on the face of America. And that mark will be a very difficult one to erase.
William J. Astore