The Republican party gathered in Tampa to tell a terrible and tragic tale of American decline. They couldn't quite say that, explicitly, of course. This is the party of Reagan and sunny optimism, or so they'd like to present themselves, but you couldn't help notice that the three days of speeches on the convention floor were an orgy of imagined persecution, grievance and doleful recollections of halcyon days gone by.
But the packaging for this message was insistent invocation of American greatness. As Rachel Maddow's team documented in a montage for MSNBC's convention coverage, almost every single speaker told a story of upward mobility, usually taken from their own family's past: tracing the arc of the American dream that had brought them to the podium.
Part of this is just standard political treacle, a way for, say, an extremely wealthy prep school graduate like Ann Romney, to seem relatable. But the larger reason this was such a dominant theme at the RNC is that the Republican Party's platform and tribal identity are zealously committed to the notion of American exceptionalism, and when people talk about American exceptionalism, this is usually what they mean.
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