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Unfortunately, my job involves watching a lot of speeches by Donald Trump. So I had some trouble putting my finger on why I found Trump’s nomination acceptance speech, delivered Thursday night, so much more alarming and off-putting than usual.
Then I figured it out: Trump wasn’t funny, or charming, or likable.
And then I calmed down, because I realized this probably meant the speech wouldn’t be effective in winning over voters.
Over the past 13 months, Trump has run a campaign that is angry and rude, that has demonized minority groups, and that has painted a dismal picture of the state of the country. But he has done so with an impish grin and a sense of humor.
Part of what makes Trump so dangerous is that he disarms his audience while riling them up. At his rallies and in debates, it’s obvious he’s having fun, and it makes whatever outrageous nonsense he has to say seem less outrageous.
In spite of myself, I often find myself amused watching Trump. His charm has been an important factor in normalizing his divisive message. But Thursday night, there was no charm.
The speech, delivered mostly from a teleprompter, dropped the humor and any vestige of likability and turned the alarmism dial up to 11. It was a dark, depressing, and paranoid, and Trump shouted it at the audience for 72 minutes.
I’m going to have to wait for the polling before I say for sure that this version of Trump didn’t appeal to voters.
But my gut feeling is that it didn’t sell. It was too angry, too paranoid, too scary. It lacked the personality elements that made it possible for Trump to win the primary. David Duke liked it, but I think it did not set Trump up well to win over undecided voters in the general election.
At least, I sure hope that’s the case.