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My big fat Republican wedding

 Melania Trump – seen here in 2011 – has been a Republican National Convention highlight, though not in a way anyone would’ve thought. Photograph by Glenn Francis.

Melania Trump – seen here in 2011 – has been a Republican National Convention highlight, though not in a way anyone would’ve thought. Photograph by Glenn Francis.

The Republican National Convention is like a bitter wedding in which the guests start ignoring the bridal party to entertain themselves by showing vacation pictures on their iPhones.

It is a measure of just how dysfunctional the convention is that for two and half days it’s been dominated by Melania Trump’s plagiarizing of Michele Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. Whether or not you accept the official, improbable explanation that has Trump speech-writing employee Meredith McIver falling on her Times New Roman sword, the fact is that the Trump campaign could’ve sailed past this by simply admitting that Mrs. Trump plagiarized the First Lady because she admires her – boy, is that going to be a great Dem bumper sticker. But it would’ve been One and Done.

Instead, it was the lead story in the July 20 edition of The New York Times, extraordinary for a potential first lady’s speech.

That’s not only because of the seriousness of what Mrs. Trump did. In college, she’d be given an “F” and possibly expelled. In journalism, she’d be fired immediately. But because the convention has no substance. It’s not for anything. Rather it’s against someone – Hillary Clinton. Big time. She’s been linked to the devil and tried, convicted and given a death sentence in absentia – for the murder of four State Department employees in Benghazi, Libya under her watch, for playing fast and loose with State Department emails. “Lock her up” is one of the nicer chants.

But here’s the thing about hate and its fraternal twin, fear, among this sea of bottled blond Christians: It’s a fire that consumes itself. Beyond the signs that proclaim “America Deserves Better Than Hillary” are empty seats. The Quicken Loans Arena empties out by 10:30, leaving the late speakers to play to a sparse audience, like a nightclub singer doing the 1 a.m. show. And the commentators frequently cut away from the speakers to talk among themselves.

It’s a far cry from the conventions of my youth when candidates took each other on over the issues, when the roll call of the states provided drama and pageantry – even when the outcome was preordained – when the discourse was a hell of a lot more civil.

America deserves better than this convention. Let’s hope we get it with the Dems.