If you stayed up to watch Donald Trump deliver his nearly 90-minute harangue, I admire you for your courage and your ability to control your gag reflex. All I did was read the transcript and catch a couple of clips and I’ve had enough.
What it all came down to is that Donald Trump told America and the world that we are in a hell of a mess and he is the only one who can fix it.
That has been the message of every dictator — from the left or the right — for time out of mind. Every one of them has cited facts they claim to be true yet are easily refuted. Every one of them has found a scapegoat to blame for the problems their citizens faced and accused them of treachery or worse. Every one of them has claimed to be the voice of the people, and every one of them, whether they’re standing on the stage at Nuremberg, the balcony in Rome, the wall of the Kremlin, the plaza in Havana, or the gates of the Forbidden City, has risen to power or seized it with that messianic claim, and every one of them has done it at the expense of lives, fortunes, and freedom. Fortunately no one has ever stood on the steps of the Capitol in Washington and delivered a speech like that, and if we are to live and grow and survive as a country, we never will hear it.
Mr. Trump’s speech was all about him, how “I” will do this, “I” will stop that, “I” will make some other thing happen. It was rarely “we,” and when it was, it was about what his administration — his government — will do to others.
But this is a nation of “We.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,” “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The echos of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt were lost in the bombast and narcissism of this belligerent bully who knows nothing of true compassion for anyone other than himself or what would feed his ego.
The one thing every dictator knows is how to feed fear and divisiveness. They know that it is far more easier to exploit our weaknesses than call upon us to work together; to accuse rather than encourage, to divide rather than multiply, and deliver on “What’s in it for me?” rather than “Ask not what your country can do for you.”
It’s hard to resist the siren call of a dictator: Let me be the one to solve all your problems, real or imagined, even if what I promise will cost you that which you hold most precious; not just your freedom but your sense of honor and dignity of living in a nation that has placed unity and service and the freedom to be who you are without inciting hatred or fear of the unknown. But what you saw or read from the stage last night in Cleveland was not a call to the nation that holds those values. It was a call to give them over to someone who cannot even convince himself that being a leader in America is not about him and his glorification and the trappings of power but the dedication to the finding the best in every one of us. That is the one thing you did not hear from that stage in Cleveland last night.