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Republicans love their Daddy Trump and despise ‘Crooked Hillary’

The Republican National Convention is portraying Donald Trump as a good dad and Hillary Clinton as a crook.
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

Every presidential nominating convention is an exercise in making one’s candidate look like the second coming of George Washington with a bold plan for the future while simultaneously portraying the other party’s candidate as a pitiful mediocrity clinging to the failed policies of the past. The 2016 Republican National Convention has gone a dramatic step beyond. Most of the four-night program has been devoted to caricaturing Hillary Clinton as a homicidal, criminal monster.

Perfectly nice, middle-aged, prosperous, white Americans — i.e., the GOP convention delegates — have been transformed into a mob bellowing “Lock her up!” whenever the vilification of the Democratic candidate gets especially sharp, which is frequently. On the first night, a parade of beefy military men and grieving mothers charged the former secretary of State with direct and personal responsibility for the deaths of four Americans during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the role of a modern Cotton Mather prosecuting Clinton as a virtual Salem witch. Christie recited the inflated indictments against her and asked the crowd for a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The mob declared her guilty on all charges, of course.

On night three, it continued. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the stage to decry Clinton as the ultimate political insider. “If she was any more inside, she’d be in prison,” Walker said. The delegates, once again, jumped to their feet and demanded the Democratic nominee’s incarceration.

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Pumping up their own nominee has almost been an afterthought for these Republicans. Beyond the standard accolades afforded any nominee, the most consistent message of praise has been that Donald Trump is a great father. All four of his adult children, as well as his wife, have been given prominent speaking roles and they have attested to his wonderful paternal qualities. It appears much of his fathering was on-the-job training, not tossing a baseball in the back yard or reading books at bedtime, but there is nothing wrong with that. His kids now seem to be key players in the Trump business empire.

Beyond selling his qualities as a dad, though, there has been a surprisingly minimal effort to present a full portrait of Trump. Most of the convention’s energy has been directed at demonizing Clinton. Writing in “Mother Jones,” columnist David Corn characterized this process as dangerous to democracy. He noted that the rhetoric at right wing rallies outside the convention has been even harsher than the invective being flung inside, with speakers actually calling for Clinton’s execution.

“Trump’s convention has given voice to the most extremist portions of the right,” Corn said. “It has sharpened the partisan divide…. This is a perilous moment. There is talk of killing a presidential nominee and a foundation is being set for delegitimizing an election.”

The right was relentless in demonizing Barack Obama and questioning his legitimacy to hold office. Birthers said he was not born in America, bloggers insisted he hated the USA and loved Muslim terrorists, right wing preachers strongly hinted that he was the antichrist. Most of that craziness, though, did not seep through to the convention programs in 2008 or 2012. This year is different. The extremism is inside the hall and loose on the stage.

The only question left is whether Trump, himself, will vilify his opponent in the same rabid language in his acceptance speech tonight. Just how far will the GOP’s Big Daddy go now that his conventioneers have opened the prison door for Hillary Clinton?

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

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