This piece by The Daily Beast's John Avlon is incredible: Scenes from Cleveland's Republican Trumpocalypse.
Instead of optimism there is moral exhaustion. The few Congressmen who decided to arrive have the look of spectators at a hanging. A surprising number of delegates quietly confide that they won't be voting for the nominee. Seasoned party operatives are anxious and apologetic, with one ruefully smiling before saying "I've got to go on TV and defend the indefensible."And why is it on that knife-edge? Because there are still "seasoned party operatives" who are willing to "go on TV and defend the indefensible," just to win. Because the Republican platform has always been about winning. And only about winning. At any cost.
...And that's the unspoken anxiety behind this scheduled celebration: these could be the last days of the Grand Old Party. Trump fans seem primarily united by their grievances. The party's racial homogeneity, always bad, is now much worse—with African-Americans support down to zero percent in multiple polls.
And the illusion of being a party built on policies and principles, rather than cultural and economic resentments, seems lost to the latest generation of Know-Nothings. Free trade has been all but abandoned but the anti-gay platform has been enhanced.
Hating Hillary, a time-honored pastime in conservative circles, has become the glue that holds this motley crew together. But even that partisan emotional outlet has crossed the line from typical team-ism to something darker and more surreal. A recurring theme in the convention hall is the chant to "Lock Her Up" while wearing t-shirts that say "Hillary for Prison." There are countries where political opponents are threatened with imprisonment. America hasn't traditionally been one of them.
But this time it feels different. America is on the knife-edge of something dangerous.
And if that was ever in doubt, it isn't anymore.