"There is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a revival or a hanging," H.L. Mencken wrote in 1924. "It is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming. One sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all the delegates and alternates were dead and in hell — and then suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, so unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour."
Take comfort, then, that the spectacle that will unfold this week in Cleveland is not an unprecedented descent into madness, not a radical departure from the stately decorum we like to imagine our forefathers exhibited when conducting political business. Just the same old craziness in a new box.
That said, given Donald Trump's genius for attracting the carnival fringes of American life, the Republican National Convention, beginning in Cleveland on Monday, promises to be a circus on an epic scale.
Ring One is the candidate himself, whose off-the-cuff pronouncements are — take your pick:
A) a refreshing breeze of candor wafting into our sealed room of political correctness.
B) terrifying blasts of hate and demagoguery that would tear our nation apart if anyone took them seriously. (Spoiler alert: It's "B.")
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