In a scene that once seemed inconceivable, Donald Trump completed a hostile takeover of the fractured Republican Party on Thursday night by accepting the nomination for president and declaring himself the law and order candidate. He exploited the fears of Americans staggered by police shootings and terrorism, and he sketched an isolationist's view of the world that would make this nation less engaged and more vulnerable. That is not the path for a diverse America in a world more interconnected than ever.
While Ronald Reagan talked of morning in America, Trump described a nation cowering in darkness with murderers around every corner, illegal immigrants streaming across the borders and approaching economic collapse. The reality is quite different. But Trump exploited the sickening killings of police officers and the terrorist-inspired attacks in Orlando and elsewhere to proclaim himself as the powerful leader who would make everyone feel personally safe and economically secure. He apparently would rely on the bombast and bullying that made him billions, because his domestic policy proposals are few and farfetched.
Of course, Trump held former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responsible for an unstable world, from the real setbacks such as the rise of the Islamic State and the deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, to imagined ones such as the forward-looking nuclear deal with Iran.
''This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,'' Trump declared. "But Hillary Clinton's legacy does not have to be America's legacy. The problems we face now — poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad — will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them.''
Yet what Trump referred to as "Americanism, not globalism'' is the same isolationist approach that preceded world wars. It is even less defensible in an era when terrorism recognizes no political boundaries and economies are interlinked around the world. His renewed call for building a border wall, banning immigration from unnamed countries and imposing trade tariffs — and telling the New York Times he might make military defense of NATO allies conditional rather than unequivocal — would weaken America's hand abroad rather than strengthen it.
On the last night of a bizarre Republican National Convention, Trump characterized this election as robust change versus a failed status quo. But Floridians are particularly familiar with the consequences of a wealthy businessman who has never held elected office persuading voters into thinking that private sector skills qualify him to run government. Gov. Rick Scott has taken the state in the wrong direction, and there is every reason to think Trump would be even worse for the nation. At least Scott is polite and has no access to nuclear weapons.
Trump is the first nominee for president for a major political party not to have held elected office since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Eisenhower was the general beloved by the troops he led to victory in World War II. Trump has resorted to Richard Nixon's dog whistle to fearful white voters. He has a well-documented record of denigrating women, Hispanics, the disabled and his political opponents. His modest appeals to minority voters Thursday night sounded like afterthoughts.
By conventional measures this was a failed political convention that will be remembered for its coarse tone and anti-Clinton chants of "Lock her up!'' The calamity in Cleveland exposed the Republican Party's divisions, lacked a moderating pitch to the broader electorate and was consumed by drama — plagiarism in a speech by Trump's wife, a public snub of Trump by Sen. Ted Cruz and the absence of prominent Republicans such as the Bush brothers. Trump is an unconventional candidate who thrives on chaos and improvisation. It can be entertaining, but voters should see through his hollow brand of "Americanism.''