Donald Trump has pulled off a spectacular Republican National Convention — the likes of which no-one in America has seen, or allowed, before.
The man — who built a global real estate empire by putting the word Trump on the front door of hotels — has now branded the White House itself with giant screens bearing his name.
Appearing on the balcony with wife Melania, before walking hand-in-hand down the marble stairs past endless rows of American flags, the presidential couple looked more like the King and Queen of Denmark.
His opponents saw it as another example of something rotten in the state — a grotesque and potentially illegal use of taxpayer-owned resources for political purposes.
To many of the 1,500 people seated on the White House lawns and millions more watching at home, Trump is akin to royalty.
And for the Republican party that first rejected him, then got dragged reluctantly along for the ride, the convention was an illustration of the devotion the party now shows to the cult of Trump.
So much so, the Republican party platform — normally a manifesto of policy preferences and principals — was abandoned entirely.
Instead, delegates in Charlotte passed a one-page resolution stating the party “has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda”.
In other words, we support the President, no matter what.
Trump touted his first-term accomplishments
Compared to the virtual Zoom meeting that was the Democratic convention, the Republican show was dazzling in style and quite strong in substance, too.
Trump went into granular detail about his first-term agenda, rightfully pointing out that many of the promises he made, he kept.
He pulled America out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, approved hundreds of conservative judges, moved the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, invested heavily in the military, oversaw the end of the ISIS caliphate, and started building a wall on the southern border.
It’s somewhat inconsequential whether his opponents believe these were largely bad ideas. The fact is he delivered them.
Conversely, he portrayed his opponent Joe Biden’s 47-year record as a “shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders of our lifetime” through his support for the Iraq War, his praise for the rise of China and his labelling of Trump’s early coronavirus travel ban as “xenophobic”.
For a leader trailing in the polls, Trump’s convention was also a prime-time opportunity to re-write American perceptions.
Trump depicted himself as a coronavirus hero, a champion for racial justice
The United States has 4 per cent of the world’s population, but 25 per cent of its confirmed coronavirus cases.
About 180,000 people have died, a number that increases by about 1,000 per day.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the pandemic.
But this week Trump’s response was depicted as a triumph, complete with testimonials from frontline health workers and the bold promise of a vaccine “before the end of the year”.
On the issue of immigration, Trump spent much of his first-term pitch demonising Mexican migrants as “criminals, drug dealers [and] rapists”.
At the convention this week, he oversaw a live citizenship ceremony celebrating five new “incredible” members of the American family.
And, after attacking sports stars demanding black justice and using tear gas on peaceful protesters, Trump presented himself as a hero to black Americans.
“I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln,” he boldly declared.
Throughout the week, a parade of black speakers declaring their support for Trump belied the fact the Republican party has just one African American senator.
To a point, the display of diversity was aimed at welcoming voters of colour into a party that has been portrayed as hostile to them under Trump.
But it also, perhaps much more consequentially, was aimed at convincing white voters in the suburbs that voting for Trump doesn’t make one a racist.
This is the demographic Republican strategists are most concerned about and it’s why safety and security were such strong themes throughout the convention.
US views on racial unrest are shifting
One of the most striking elements of the recent Black Lives Matter protests has been the support from white Americans.
But in recent weeks, there’s been a subtle shift.
Unfavourable views of police are trending down toward their pre-protest levels.
And the number of people who believe there’s systemic racism in America is also slipping from record highs.
It seems there was a level of acceptance regarding the violence, destruction and looting in the days and weeks after George Floyd was killed.
But with cities like Portland, Chicago and New York still facing regular bouts of unrest, tolerance is wearing thin.
After police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back this week in Kenosha, his mother begged people to stop the violence and looting, saying her family is “quite frankly disgusted” with the civil unrest.
That night in Kenosha, three people were shot — two of them fatally — as mobs roamed the streets again.
For weeks, Trump has been attacking the Democratic mayors and governors responsible for cities where violence and looting continues on a regular basis.
Now he’s tying them directly to Biden.
“No-one will be safe in Biden’s America,” he stated bluntly on the final day of the convention.
He portrayed the 77-year-old as a “Trojan horse for socialism” and an empty vessel being overrun by the “radical left”.
In response, Biden claimed the President was “rooting for more violence, not less”, pointing out the violence is happening on Trump’s watch.
“He’s pouring gasoline on the fire. This happens to be Donald Trump’s America,” he said.
The protests themselves could drive more voters to Trump
At the conclusion of Trump’s convention, guests were met by angry protesters as they left the grounds of the White House.
Senator Rand Paul thanked police for “literally saving our lives” from a mob that surged around he and his wife as they tried to get to their hotel.
Other videos on social media showed an elderly couple being verbally abused and others being harangued down the street by mask-wearing protesters. Media were also targeted.
One by one, camera crews — including the ABC — were confronted by a small element of the crowd, verbally abused and physically pushed out of Black Lives Matter plaza.
A video showing a crowd of mostly white protesters surrounding casual diners in Washington DC this week, demanding they raise their fists in solidarity, has been viewed almost 13 million times.
These affronts are minor, compared to the systemic inequality that black Americans continue to face daily.
But they could prove to be more effective at driving votes to Trump than any political ad or glitzy convention the Republican party could ever dream up.