What the RNC will reveal to Republicans who look carefully

If last week’s DNC resembled an earnest and slightly inelegant telethon designed to sell America on the Democratic Party and its presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the RNC on its opening night quickly became a one-note commercial conveying a single, relentless message: Thank you, Donald J. Trump for being the greatest, best, most wonderful, accomplished president a human being could possibly imagine.

The message echoed through slick promotional videos; in speeches from ordinary Americans and Republican candidates and officials, delivered live and on tape; and in Trump’s own awkward appearances at the White House, first with seven unmasked first responders who obsequiously thanked the president one-by-one for his steadfast and fearless leadership in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and then with six former hostages held by foreign governments, who were equally impatient to express their great gratitude to the president for their rescue.

It wasn’t just a message. It was a benediction. A mantra repeated in segment after segment by everyone who stood or sat before a camera. Each of them was eager — nay, zealous — to express their love for their dear leader.

It was exceedingly creepy. But also politically peculiar. Just as the DNC ran the risk of placing too much emphasis on Trump’s awfulness when nearly everyone in the country has already formed firm opinions of him, so the RNC is gambling that its pro-Trump propaganda spots might lead significant numbers of Americans to say, “You know, I guess Trump is pretty great after all!”

But of course, as New York Times columnist David Brooks pointed out on Twitter, the audience for this event isn’t really voters at large. It’s just one voter: Donald Trump. “The whole convention is to make his lonely soul feel affirmed.”

And so it is. With the rest of us left to watch slack-jawed from the sidelines. Damon Linker

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