Last night Republicans officially nominated Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. Also, Trump plans to purge Obama appointees. (More)

“It’s not a campaign anymore, it’s a movement”

So declared Donald Trump Jr. last night, after GOP delegates officially nominated his father as their party’s candidate for President of the United States:

Donald J. Trump was formally crowned the Republican nominee for president at the party’s convention on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous primary season but not the nagging questions about his polarizing candidacy as he once again found himself embroiled in controversy.

With his campaign appearing in disarray after his wife, Melania, delivered a convention speech cribbed in part from one once given by Michelle Obama, Mr. Trump officially claimed the nomination. But the gap between Mr. Trump and the party he now aims to lead yawned as wide as ever across the convention.
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“It’s not a campaign anymore, it’s a movement,” said the younger Mr. Trump, surrounded by his three adult siblings. Reflecting his father’s brashness, he pledged to put New York, which has not voted Republican in a presidential election in 32 years, in play.

Put New York in play? Yeah, as if. But yes, it’s a movement. A bowel movement.

“Lock Her Up!”

For the second night, convention speakers led GOP delegates in anti-Clinton chants. And this time it was no mere Hollywood hanger-on:

At times, the only unifying appeals – the only themes truly capable of rallying the Republican Party, even briefly – were ominous denunciations of Hillary Clinton. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Trump ally stung by his rejection in the hunt to be Mr. Trump’s running mate, rebounded with a call to arms against Mrs. Clinton.

Casting himself as her prosecutor in a mock trial, Mr. Christie roused the crowd to spontaneous chants of “Lock her up!”

Before you dismiss that as mere rhetoric, consider that Donald Trump has already said he wants a Supreme Court nominee who will open a federal criminal case against Clinton:

“I would probably appoint people that would look very seriously at [Clinton’s] email disaster because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that,” Trump said on Good Morning America [in late May].

“What she’s getting away with is absolutely murder.”

Never mind that U.S. Supreme Court Justices don’t open federal cases. Trump either doesn’t know that or doesn’t care. But an Attorney General can open a federal case, and you can bet a President Trump would appoint an Attorney General who pledged to indict Clinton.

“This is not a path we’ve ever gone down”

That’s part-and-parcel of Trump’s authoritarian mindset, as Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall warned:

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance rewatch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don’t fool yourself: worse can happen.

The Trump campaign has always been about revenge and reclamation. Trump is a catalyst not a cause. It is all borne from the social and cultural transformation that is currently changing the country. Hillary Clinton has plenty of flaws. But they have no necessary or clear connection to the venom and increasingly violent anger directed against her. She’s simply the symbol and target. “Lock her up!” “Lock her up!”. This is an American political convention. She’s the opposing party nominee. This is not normal. Not normal at all.

It is no exaggeration to say the driving themes of last night’s program – with a brief interlude of uplift from Melania Trump – were a pervasive vision of insecurity, violence and bloodshed, committed by national outsiders and abetted by the betrayals of political enemies. We debate the definition of fascism and just what governmental structures it involves. But setting that largely academic and mostly unhelpful debate aside, this is precisely the kind of febrile victimology and demands for aggression and revenge against enemies that gives rise to it. ‘Fascism’ is a distraction that is more a cudgel than an explanatory device. What Trump is, however, is a would-be authoritarian ruler. And, as we’ve discussed, authoritarian rulers require violence and disorder because it is their justification for rule.

Lest conservatives deny it, last night Rep. Steve King (R-IA) proudly declared the white supremacy that Marshall describes.

And Republicans would argue that we have indeed gone down that path before, in the forced resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. Two decades later, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) admitted that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was driven in part by his party’s thirst for vengeance over Watergate, and in 2013 Mike Huckabee cited Watergate as a precedent to impeach President Obama over Benghazi. White supremacist Matthew Vadum argued that President Obama’s “serial acts of malfeasance have cost hundreds of lives while Nixon’s caused no loss of life.”

Yes, they really believe that.

“A perverse and authoritarian pageant that preyed on the worst, darkest tendencies of the Trump movement”

Still seething that President Obama will have served two full terms, and still seething over Nixon’s disgrace, Republicans have turned their vengeance on Clinton. This is nothing less than the criminalization of political disagreement, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explains:

Chris Christie delivered easily the most chilling speech of the Republican National Convention. He didn’t just attack Hillary Clinton. He led the crowd in a mock prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

Christie’s conceit – a prosecutor inviting a mob to condemn the accused on count after count – resembled a show trial more than anything else, free of any and all protections for the defendant.

Obviously it wasn’t a real trial of any kind. But the implication was nonetheless clear: Clinton deserves to be dragged to court for what she’s done when what she’s done is pursue policy options that Chris Christie doesn’t like. The implicit threat, too, was clear: Christie is clearly auditioning for attorney general in a Trump administration, and his audition was to lay out the reasons he would try to jail the leader of the opposition party.

It was a performative case for criminalizing disagreement, a perverse and authoritarian pageant that preyed on the worst, darkest tendencies of the Trump movement.
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There were two genuinely unusual and somewhat shocking dimensions to Christie’s speech. One was the sheer severity of the charges he leveled against Clinton. He didn’t merely accuse her of mishandling Boko Haram. He directly accused her of responsibility for Boko Haram’s schoolgirl kidnappings, calling her an “apologist” for one of the most brutal terrorist groups on the planet. He didn’t merely accuse her of mishandling Syria but also implied she was responsible for every death in the Syrian civil war.

These are truly grave charges for which there is no evidence, yet Christie leveled them casually, like they were any other campaign talking point. That’s a remarkable escalation of rhetoric – even for this bananas election.

The second shocking element of the speech was the ease with which Christie essentially called for the criminalization of political disagreement. You can like or dislike the Iranian nuclear deal. But helping negotiate it, and supporting it, is not a crime. Doing that is participating in statecraft. Christie suggested that bad policy should put you before a jury ready and eager to condemn you for anything they deem mistakes.

Add that to Trump’s pledge to send the IRS after Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and his pledge to rewrite libel laws so he can target media outlets that criticize him, and it’s clear that Trump imagines himself a strongman who would use the instruments of government to intimidate and imprison political opponents.

“Donald likes to fire people”

And in a closed-door meeting, Christie said a Trump administration’s campaign of vengeance would not stop with Clinton:

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Indeed Christie’s plan is a corporate wet dream:

“One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said.
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Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Christie added that the Trump team wants to let businesspeople serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector.

Imagine the EPA run part-time by an Exxon executive, a Secretary of Defense who keeps his job at Halliburton, or an insurance company CEO moonlighting as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

And all after purging the government of employees nominated by President Obama. Because substituting political loyalty for competence and experience never caused any problem, right?

Trump would take “heckuva job, Brownie” to new heights, and the U.S. and the world to new depths. But let’s all fret about Melania Trump’s plagiarism….

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Photo Credit: Damon Winter (New York Times)

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Good day and good nuts