Is our outlandish, consequential presidential campaign too far-fetched for Hollywood?

Today’s presidential politics is so odd that, if it was a movie, the plot and characters would be unbelievable.

The Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump, is a reality television star who tweets insults and claims a former rival’s father might have been involved with murdering President John F. Kennedy. His source for this bizarre charge is a tabloid found at supermarket checkouts.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee, has worked on children’s issues and health policy for decades. She went up against the only declared socialist in Congress in her party’s nominating contest, and this week a small band of his strongest supporters protested in the streets, shouting vulgar slogans and carrying a giant paper mache marijuana joint.

While the runner up to Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, wouldn’t endorse him, Bernie Sanders supports Clinton and touts her policies and temperament.

This is not a year for boring conventions, although nothing can top what the great cynic-pundit-journalist H. L. Mencken said about the boisterous 1924 Republican assembly.

“For there is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a revival or a hanging,” Mencken wrote. “It is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming. One sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all the delegates and alternates were dead and in hell — and then suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour.”

We’ll probably never have a convention like that, with 103 ballots needed to pick a nominee, but parts of Mencken’s description still apply this year.

This year Democrats adopted a proposal to change the nomination system. After the Maine Democratic Party Convention and Democrats in other states passed resolutions to modify future rules, the national convention adopted a plan for a commission to reduce greatly the number of superdelegates.

Jessica Griffin | Philadelphia Inquirer | TNS

Jessica Griffin | Philadelphia Inquirer | TNS

This does not mean all was calm. Some Sanders delegates went beyond touting their preferred candidate and booed others or chanted in a disruptive way, even after Sanders himself told them, “Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning of backs, walking out or other similar displays.” However, unity increased as the first night went on and nationally 90 percent of consistent Sanders backers support Clinton.

Democrats faced another challenge after Wikileaks released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. These emails showed some inappropriate attitudes among party staff and one appalling idea, to make an issue of Bernie Sanders’ religion. However, no one carried out that terrible proposal and there were no actions uncovered in the hacked documents that affected how any primary or caucus went. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was replaced as the Democratic National Committee chair.

But this political season’s peculiarities should not obscure the seriousness of the choice.

While the Libertarian and Green Party candidates will get some votes, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Either Republican Mike Pence or Democrat Tim Kaine will be our next vice president.

Donald Trump promotes authoritarianism by presenting himself as an all powerful leader and by threatening past political rivals. His running mate is strongly homophobic and anti-choice. Both are anti-union and oppose the minimum wage.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s slogan is “Stronger Together,” and she has a long history of working in a bipartisan way on many policy issues. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, whom Angus King suggested Clinton choose, fought housing discrimination before entering politics and, as governor of Virginia, led the state to be ranked first for business.

Perhaps the oddest development this week was troubling and worthy of a spy flick — the Russian government’s connection to hacked DNC documents. As The New York Times reported, “Researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year.” Donald Trump’s top advisor, Paul Manafort, has close connections to pro-Russian leaders in the region.

Nothing quite trumps the bizarre possibility that a foreign government is trying to affect an American election, another preposterous plot element for an overdramatic movie.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.