The opening night of the Republican National Convention presented perhaps the darkest, most dystopian vision of America that either of our major political parties has offered in our lifetimes. It sounded as if we lived in some destabilized banana republic sliding rapidly into lawlessness and anarchy.
The reality is quite the opposite. Crime rates are historically low, the economy remains in recovery, stock markets are at or near record highs, unemployment has fallen to 4.9 percent and the United States, in terms of peace and prosperity, is the envy of the world. None of this was acknowledged Monday night in Cleveland. Speaker after speaker warned urgently of impending doom.
Most apocalyptic of all was the speech by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. On a scale of 1 to 10, he cranked the volume up to 11 and the hair-on-fire rhetoric all the way up to 25 or so. At one point, he warned the assembled GOP delegates that they could not afford to wait for the next election. “There’s no next election,” he thundered. “This is it!”
Um, this is what, exactly? Does Giuliani know something he’s not at liberty to tell us? Is the asteroid with earth’s name on it about to hit?
Giuliani’s mad soliloquy was apparently well-received inside the hall. On television, however, it came across as almost unhinged. Put it this way: If you were on a plane sitting next to a guy who was talking that way, you’d alert the flight attendants.
It was not hard to figure out the reason for all the doom and gloom. The theme for the first night of Donald Trump’s convention was “Make America Safe Again.” To convince people of the need to make the nation safe, you first have to sell them on the idea that it is desperately unsafe. Speaker after speaker tried to do just that.
At one point late in the evening, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) warned that ISIS, or the Islamic State, was present in all 50 states. She offered no evidence to support this claim, of course, and there is no reason to believe it is true. But the point wasn’t to speak truth; it was to make Americans fear there were terrorists living down the street, just waiting to strike.
You are in grave danger, speakers at the convention told Americans, and the person responsible is Hillary Clinton. Obviously, convention organizers thought this was a winning message. I disagree.
It is risky to apply the rules of a normal election to this bizarre cycle, but the fact is that optimism almost always sells better than pessimism. It is no accident that many commentators deemed Melania Trump’s speech the best of the evening. She offered a positive vision of her husband and the kind of president he would be. I happen to believe her assessment is completely wrong. But it was a relief to hear amid all the warnings of apocalypse.
She was born in Slovenia, though, so the convention can’t make a last-minute switch of Mrs. Trump for Mr.