• Up-and-coming shaman

A lie is one thing. A sham is another. We don’t like liars—but when shamsters, whose lies are just small parts of an elaborate con, show up in movies they’re the heroes. “Of course, the whole thing was largely a sham. But it was a well-organized sham,” blogger John Cassidy wrote respectfully on the New Yorker website, summing up the Republican convention.

Cassidy went on, “Even after attending several G.O.P. conventions since 1998, I find it breathtaking, and a bit unnerving, to watch the party of Ryan, Todd Akin, and Grover Norquist present itself as a moderate force devoted to the causes of deficit reduction, middle-class prosperity, and equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless, of sex, race, or creed.”

Yet that’s what the Republicans did, and pretty well. Don’t grade the party on fidelity to reality. Grade it on the quality of the illusion. “The more familiar and less appealing faces of today’s G.O.P.—hard-right billionaire donors, social activists, religious zealots, libertarians, economic crackpots—were virtually absent,” Cassidy observed, “as was the last Republican to hold the Presidency: George W. Bush.”