Fear is a powerful instinct. Fear is so potent, and the innate drive to protect one's self from harm is so overpowering, that it can override almost every other instinct, including those related to intellect and judgment.
Which is why Donald Trump desperately wants to frighten you.
The obvious problem with the Republican presidential nominee's convention speech last night is that it was less a speech and more a series of strung together scary falsehoods. In the actual United States, crime rates have dropped, but Trump insists they've increased. In our reality, illegal border crossings have fallen, but in Trump's mind, they've skyrocketed.
For those who care about facts, the United States has fairly low tax rates among industrialized democracies, but in Trump's version of reality, "America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world." The truth is that the killing of police officers in the line of duty is down, but Trump nevertheless wants you to believe the exact opposite. In reality, Iran is not even close to the path to nuclear weapons. In Trump's mind, "Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons."
Early on in his speech, the GOP nominee declared, "[H]ere, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else." Trump then lied in literally the next sentence.
But let's not miss the forest for the trees: Trump wasn't just lying for the sake of routine deception or even for self-aggrandizement; he was lying because it was the only way to leave the audience terrified. If he told the truth, voters wouldn't be frightened, and if voters aren't frightened, he's going to lose the election.
And so Americans were treated to the kind of demagoguery rarely heard from a presidential candidate of any era. Trump wants you to be afraid of criminals. And immigrants. And Democrats. And refugees. And government regulations. And quite possibly the monster that could be hiding under your bed.