Donald J. Trump is the most perfect coward in the long, weird history of American politics. I know this, because he has spent the last three nights showing the nation and the world how grossly thoroughgoing that cowardice is. Many have worked to produce this Republican convention, but all of it has flowed from one mind, Trump’s mind, and he is terrified of showing you who and what he truly is.
Wednesday’s theme was “A Land of Heroes,” and the convention used most of its 150 minutes poaching the tattered dignity of soldiers and police officers for its own scurvy needs. Yet in the throat of a pandemic made worse by Trump’s malfeasance, one that claimed yet another 1,000 lives that very same day, the speakers made mention of frontline medical workers and their life-and-death fight against COVID-19 precisely three times by my count. Each time, they brushed against the horror of it all with gossamer recognition before pivoting to ersatz praise for the man whose failure has laid so many low.
It has been this way since this filthy enterprise began. The brutal racist eager to use “heat ray” crowd weapons against civilians at the border two years ago spent part of Tuesday night hiding behind immigrants made newly sworn citizens, at least two of whom had no idea the ceremony would be shown at the convention until five minutes before it took place.
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Trump barely showed his face on Wednesday for a change of pace, yet his minions — at his obvious direction — perpetrated a fraud upon the public in his place. Trump was that fraud; not the real Trump, but a self-serving fantasy caricature.
After all the bluster and bombast of the last going-on four years, after all the bullying and Twitter screaming and strutting and mockery and bravado, one would think Trump would hold true to everything that has brought him to this convention and the cusp of re-nomination. One would think a man of such towering arrogance would stand on the ashes of his record and dare Joe Biden and the Democrats to knock him off.
That has not happened. Instead, Trump has gone into hiding in broad daylight, seeking shelter behind a false narrative that absolves him of blame while bathing him in stolen glory. The three nights of this convention have denied the ghastly baseline reality we have been struggling to endure and survive since he rode down that golden escalator five Junes ago.
That reality includes, in no particular order, the true nature of Trump’s racist white supremacist intentions at the border and throughout the land. It includes his astonishing subversion of the Constitution he swore to uphold and protect, going so far as to unleash federal forces on protesters. Of course, it includes his comprehensive and ongoing failure to address this lethal pandemic because doing so, in his mind, would make him appear weak.
To watch him deny this reality with his bare smirking face hanging out, to watch him run like a deer from that which made him so proud only one week ago, is to know the nature of cowardice as we have never witnessed it before.
The irony, of course, is the deliberately narrowed vision of this convention — as orchestrated by Trump — has hurled the entire enterprise into blazing conflict with a majority of the country. The speakers crow about a President Biden who will lock everyone in their homes, even as most of those people are desperate for an organized attack on the virus, and are willing to make sacrifices to see it done.
They mock the Democrats for their Green New Deal — No more cars! Or cows! Or fracking! Silly Democrats — even as climate-fueled Hurricane Laura spreads its dark wings over millions of terrified, fleeing people, even as California and Colorado burn, again.
They warn of a nation in collapse while ignoring who has presided over, augmented and profited from that discord and mayhem.
They have lied nearly with every breath for three grueling days to help Trump the coward hide from Trump the president. The small fraction of a man who would be king — “Twelve more years! Twelve more years!” — is more mirage than meat, and always has been, and always will be. Long nights of low-ratings television cannot obscure this, and indeed have only illuminated it.
And yet tonight, Donald Trump will accept the Republican re-nomination for president, likely before a rapturous and unmasked audience willingly complicit in the construction of his citadel of lies. Their confidence will be extreme, as will his, and why not? They prevailed last time, and fully expect to do so again.