Donald Trump's apocalyptic acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was easily the scariest political event I've ever witnessed outside of 1930s newsreels. As CNN's Anderson Cooper summed up: "He painted a dark and frightening picture of America, he talked about people being attacked by criminals, attacked by terrorists, betrayed by their leaders, the game is fixed. And he said he can be their voice." The thing about this tactic -- a far cry from conservative saint Ronald Reagan's inspirational "shining city on a hill" much less Obama's hope and change optimism -- is that it captures (and, yes, fuels) the zeitgeist of white America.
The Republican convention's most telling moments happened every time the camera scanned the delegates in Tampa, Florida. Yes, it was a 2012 political convention but it still looked predominantly white from my vantage point. Republicans could take a paint-by-number lesson from Canada's political play book -- primarily from one Preston Manning.
The Republican convention showcased a party that has become a loose coalition of social conservatives and a membership base that does not reflect the national demographics. This was embodied in the "mystery" speaker, Hollywood Star Clint Eastwood. His rambling speech, with failed prescriptions and disrespect toward the President, will become a metaphor for this disjointed, grumbling party and its campaign.
While evidence mounts that climate change and sustainability may be the security issue of our generation, both Romney and Canadian Prime Minister Harper seem completely unaware that it even matters. Ironically, Romney like Harper, is out of sync not only with the scientists but even with major corporations and the Pentagon.
A key challenge facing Republicans is that of moderation -- can they regain its luster and substance to capitalize on Americans' economic frustration? President Obama is ahead nationally and in swing states largely because Republican excess on the far right has put him there. If Republicans are determined to let abortion, apparent anti-immigrant bias and fuzziness on medicare define their conservatism they will be choosing the choppy seas of undulating radicalism as a base from which to win the bridge on the ship of state.