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East Anglia is not, perhaps, an obvious place to assess the American vote this autumn, but back in the UK on a brief trip, I noticed that the small section in a Norwich bookshop dedicated to the US presidential election featured almost nothing on Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump was represented by a series of biographies, exposés, comics and even colouring books. Few, if any, were admiring, but they crowded the Clintonware out. As so often, Hillary had been reduced to a grey blur (to borrow one Menshevik’s unwise description of Stalin), barely visible against the madcap backdrop of Trump’s trickster parade.

Donald Trump is a threat to the security of America and the world. Has Presidential politics gone through the looking-glass? (©John Moore/Getty Images)

An election to decide who becomes the world’s most powerful man (or woman) is inevitably intensely focused on the character of the contenders. Even their running-mates, appointed amid brief, synthetic excitement, are speedily hauled away from the limelight, demoted to surrogates deployed to savage the opposing team in a manner that a presidential candidate cannot, or, more positively, to throw a sprinkling of low-wattage stardust over small crowds in small states.

That’s in a normal year. It’s symbolic of this campaign, dominated by the personality of one man, that few running-mates have been pushed quite so quickly into the background as Trump’s choice, Indiana governor Mike Pence. Adding respectability and good hair to a campaign with little of either, Pence is a stolid reminder that the GOP is traditionally the “daddy party”, a quality that risks being drowned out by the playground taunts of its presidential nominee.

From the tweets of Donald Trump: “@SenJohnMcCain should be defeated in the primaries. Graduated last in his class at Annapolis — dummy!”

For the record, McCain, a bright but truculent student, came not last but 894th out of 899, not quite ignominious enough for The Donald. Reducing the senator still further in the rankings was an example of Trump’s use of “truthful hyperbole,” a clever term (dreamt up by his ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal) for a clever idea. It goes a long way to explaining Trump’s success as a salesman of buildings, of stories, of conspiracies and of himself. What matters is not what is true, but what is remembered, and how.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Many voters seem less disturbed by Trump’s abusive relationship with fact than they should be. They understand that Trump is true to himself if not to the truth, a proof of his authenticity even when based on lies.

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