It's not as if we haven't seen bad nominating conventions before. During the 1968 Democratic convention, there were literal riots outside the hall. At the 1972 Democratic convention, the presidential nominee chose a running mate, then felt the need to swap him out for someone else.
As the 1992 Republican convention, the American mainstream recoiled when Pat Buchanan declared a religious war. Twenty years later, Clint Eastwood got into an argument with an empty chair -- and somehow managed to come out on the losing end of the quarrel.
And yet, reading the New York Times' David Leonhardt's summary of the 2016 Republican gathering, it's hard not to marvel at this week's developments in Cleveland.
Screaming matches between delegates. Past nominees who refused to attend. Speakers who seem allergic to mentioning the nominee's name -- or policies. The runner-up refusing to endorse the winner.
Plagiarism. Lies about plagiarism. Talk of Lucifer from the stage. Humanizing stories about the nominee relegated to obscure time slots. Multiple speakers calling for the jailing of the opposing nominee. A prominent delegate calling for that nominee's execution by firing squad.
Well, sure, when you put it that way, it sounds like things haven't gone well.
It's important to note that this week's Mistake By The Lake still has one more night to go. Who knows, it's possible that this evening's developments will go off without a hitch and Americans will marvel in the splendor of a Republican triumph.
But if that happens it will be quite a turnaround from the convention's first three nights.