(Opinion) — I know the channel was tuned to show the Republican National Convention, but it felt more like I was watching an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” I imagined what the narrator would say next:

“Submitted for your approval: The time is 2016. The place: A Cleveland, Ohio, arena. A man who looks like an elderly version of Biff from ‘Back to the Future’ stands behind a podium and reacts to the large crowd with a blended smile and smirk.

“He shouts for the next 75 minutes, painting a dark picture of a world gone horribly wrong. The man describes gangs of immigrants roaming the streets in search of real Americans to either torture or take away their jobs. He is particularly upset about a woman who he says wants to take everybody’s guns. The crowd responds with an angry ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’

“He accepts the nomination of the Republican Party to be the next leader of the Free World. The announcement is met with thunderous applause.

“Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to witness is the unbelievable but true tale of the night America entered ‘The Trump Zone.'”

Unfortunately, this political nightmare wasn’t dreamed up by a Hollywood writer. Donald Trump really is the GOP nominee for president, and for the next 100 days — and perhaps the following four years — we are all screwed.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Trump, who some supporters (seriously) call “the blue-collar billionaire,” became a candidate at a surreal Manhattan rally where he paid people to cheer. One of his first pronouncements was to call Mexicans who illegally cross the U.S. border drug dealers and rapists.

In any other election year, that racist slur alone would have seen him forced to drop out of the race the next day. But in The Trump Zone, everything works differently. He piled on outrageous statements daily, with news crews hurriedly following him to see what crazy thing he would say next. He never disappointed.

Entertaining political theater

As political theater, it was all quite entertaining — until he started winning primaries and insulted and bullied his 16 Republican rivals into dropping out of the race. Horrified, moderate Republicans looked for someone to keep him from being nominated, but no savior showed up.

Polls found that 70 percent of Americans view Trump negatively, but it didn’t seem to matter. His nearly all-white, rabidly conservative base went wild, making him a folk hero and praising him for telling it like it is, or at least how they hoped it would be under a Trump presidency. As he proclaimed at the Cleveland convention, he knows how to work the system, and he alone knows how to fix it.

Trump selected a conservative Republican, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as his running mate even though they disagree about most issues. It wouldn’t have mattered if he’d picked Charlie Manson — everyone knows Trump is in charge, and only his words and actions matter. Except when they’re so moronic, and then they don’t matter at all to his fans.

He has fans because he was the host of the long-running, obnoxious “reality” TV show, “The Apprentice.” His trademark line was “you’re fired!” but he’s managed to convince people they’re all going to be hired and live happily ever after, all because his will to “make America great again” is so powerful it has to succeed.

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Everyone, including voters in Wyoming, should know better and be astute enough to recognize a con man when they see one. My fear is that here and in many states now reeling from the economic downturn that has hit many industries, the promise of jobs will be too much of a lure for people to resist.

The signs that peppered the GOP convention arena that proclaimed “Trump digs coal” show exactly how he will campaign in Wyoming and eastern coal states like Kentucky and West Virginia. People in the coal industry who have been laid off — or worried that they soon will be — are hurting, so it’s understandable if they line up behind a pro-coal candidate like Trump. Especially since his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, told a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio, in March, “We’re going to put a lot of coal mines and coal companies out of business.”

Yes, she said it. But there’s more to the story that the media has not taken time to add. The widely reported quote left out the context of her remark. At the time she also noted, “We’re going to make it clear we don’t want to forget those people. [They’ve] labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”

Clinton has a $30 billion plan that calls for increased job training, small-business development and infrastructure investment. It also seeks to safeguard miners’ healthcare and pensions.

Promise for Wyoming coal ignores realities

Trump wants Wyomingites to believe he can single-handedly resuscitate an industry that in reality is in jeopardy because of climate change and the immediate need to stop pollution from fossil fuels. Low natural gas prices resulting from the fracking boom have combined with common-sense energy regulations to protect our environment and put many coal companies out of business.

Coal-producing states like Wyoming need to quickly transition to wind and solar power, which also will create new jobs. The longer we ignore this reality, we’re simply ensuring that it will take our state’s economy longer to recover. Clinton knows this, but Trump — like many GOP officials — pretends climate change is a hoax and gives out-of-work miners false hopes.

But for a moment, we’ll play devil’s advocate and say Trump is right — he will be responsible for the coal industry somehow being revived. Would that mean Wyoming voters should automatically give him their support?

No way. Even taking away economic issues of great importance to the state, Trump has made far too many outrageous, unconstitutional and just plain wacky promises for anyone to consider he’s remotely capable of running the country.

Trump’s answer to our immigration problems is to build a “beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border and deport 11 million people. Even if that was legal or fiscally feasible, what Trump proposes would tear apart families by separating parents from their children. What kind of person thinks that’s a good idea?

The same one who said he would issue a ban on all Muslims who want to enter the U.S. After being told his plan is unconstitutional and facing the wrath of those who know it’s insane to think he can punish people because of their religion, Trump has changed it so only Muslims from certain countries engaging in terrorism would be banned.

Every day Trump makes more racist and misogynistic statements. He says he believes women who seek an abortion must be punished; a “Mexican” judge born in Indiana can’t fairly decide a lawsuit against him; he won’t disavow white supremacists who support him; and he denigrates all Native Americans when he insists on insulting a U.S. senator by calling her “Pocahontas.”

Would a revived coal industry be worth watching the United States become the laughingstock of the world as Trump trashes the character of any country’s leader he wants to pick on? Or encouraging violence against anyone who dares to protest him? Or banning the media when reporters say something he doesn’t like?

Trump becoming the Republican presidential nominee still seems like a big cosmic joke to me, and I dream that one day I’ll turn on the TV news and he’ll admit he’s been scamming us all along. In reality, though, I know he’s not kidding. I just hope enough voters can find a way to escape The Trump Zone to keep him out of the White House.

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact editor@wyofile.com.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. The Republican Convention seemed remarkably like a junior high election scene. But then like Trump said himself, “I love the undereducated.”

  2. Nailed it yet again.

    But it is not Trump who concerns me. He is a disgusting, foul-mouthed, arrogant, racist, xenophobic, narcissistic sociopath – that is obvious to anyone observing his behavior. What concerns me is that millions of Americans, and yes, the State of Wyoming, will support him. What has happened to the GOP and conservative values???

    1. You wonder what has happened to the GOP and conservative values? Nothing has happened. What you see and hear with Herr Drumpf is just the GOP stripped of any pretense of decency. With Drumpf, the GOP gets its disgusting, foul-mouthed, arrogant, racist, xenophobic, narcissistic sociopathic agenda laid bare without any interference from the shrieking dog whistles and tedious hypocrisy it usually employs to disguise its moral and intellectual bankruptcy.