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A Festival of Distortion

Photograph Source: PBS – Fair Use

The fake other worldly Republican national séance was marked by an orchestrated festival of lies, distortion, fear-mongering and cult-like worship of Donald Trump. At its apex, the people’s White House blatantly was used as a prop that violated a longtime tradition of not mixing up governing and politics.

This crowd of incompetent conservatives that fooled with us for 3 ½ years while its mafia don-like leader violated the tenets of this sacred democratic experiment, raking in financial benefits, has played with us again at a convention that created a Disneyland administration out of a dystopian nightmare.

The glitzy Las-Vegas-style flag-bedecked show focused on Trump’s law and order campaign, the denigration of his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden Jr., and the twisting of recent history that glorified the president as a champion of the people. There was no Republican platform for possibly the first time in the party’s 166-year history, only a pledge of loyalty to the president’s whims. So the party has no agenda. Trump certainly doesn’t.

“Rather than bring a new program to bear on the party, he has made the equivalent of a trade: total support for his personal and political concerns in exchange for almost total pursuit of conservative ideological interests,“ wrote New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie on Aug. 25.

The fairy tale convention unraveled for two hours each of four nights as if there were no crises spooling alongside its party atmosphere: no pandemic, no collapsing economy, no unemployment of about 30 million workers, no repeated demonstrations for racial justice — which are worsening — no shooting in Kenosha, Wis., that killed two people, no school closings and no leaving millions of people in limbo without financial help as the Republican-led Senate went on a monthlong break.

“It’s just one lie after another – lying, lying, lying, lying,” Biden said on the Democrat-friendly MSNBC on the final night of the convention.

Trump, trailing in the polls against Biden, repeatedly lied to us, treating us as if our memories had been surgically removed. They revised history, making it seem as if Trump had saved the planet from the coronavirus even though he downplayed it, saying it would disappear while governors pleaded for medical equipment to help save lives as he denounced Democrat-led cities. He even said the virus was not his responsibility.

America was left to fend for itself, leaderless but for a handful of Democratic governors. It’s as if a mad king had pushed the country into a twilight zone, the universe turned upside down in a cruel real-life demonstration of what it must be like to live in Orwell’s “1984,” where “ignorance is strength.”

The Trump-engineered coronation set the tone at the outset, with him telling the nation that in confronting the coronavirus and its COVID-19 that has killed nearly 180,000 Americans, “We did the exact right thing. We saved millions.” Right. Pure fantasy.

Instead, like some quack doctor, he offered cures like ingesting bleach or a malaria drug that medical experts said could be harmful.

Trump falsely asserted several times that it was he who guaranteed preexisting conditions would be covered by health insurance when it was President Barack Obama who included that in the Affordable Care Act. Rather, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to outlaw it, which could mean 22 million people would be without a health care safety net.

Yet his family and supporters exalted him in a sickening display of fealty, as if his second nomination for president were the Second Coming. They glossed over and reinvented a first term in which his handling of the coronavirus was a catastrophic disaster and appealed for a second as a panacea of governance, as if town criers were signaling all’s well.

The doomsday scenario portrayed by Trump and his allies against Biden and the “radical Democrats” should they win the election was all part of the convention’s law and order theme. Yet all of the current crises are occurring on Trump’s watch. But he dealt only with street protests, foolishly initially deploying unidentified federal agents to confront demonstrators.

“The hard truth is, you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Vice President Mike Pence said in his keynote address.

Are we safe in Trump’s?

“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens,” Trump said on the convention’s final night. He appeared to be appealing to suburban White women, who polls say are abandoning him.

Further, he forecast another coronavirus shutdown of the economy if Biden were elected and said, “The cost of the Biden shutdown would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation, job loss and much more.”

Bottom line: What is sacrosanct, what has meaning, where is truth if the president stands before the nation and lies like a common criminal, no sense of propriety, no dignity, no class, dropping into a putrid swamp of dishonor of his own making?

What are we as a people, as a nation among nations, when a section of the Congress that is expected to oversee the executive branch becomes part of the foul stream bubbling up from within that swamp?

As for that séance, the spirits Trump and his Republican cohorts have summoned to whisk the president into a second term may wind up to be no more than “double, double, boil and trouble.”

Richard C. Gross, a career journalist at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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