Delegates are reflected in the side of a wall during the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Andrew Gombert/European Pressphoto Agency)

They seem to be in a daze. They behave as if a good 30-minute speech can show Donald Trump is serious. They talk as if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will convince previously skeptical Republicans. They suggest that if Republicans simply repeat over and over again that Hillary Clinton is dishonest or responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi then Trump will be the acceptable choice.  The “they” in this case is not merely the Trump delegates, but too many who should know better in conservative media and the ranks of GOP elected officials.

“The House Republican agenda is the best current expression of that vision, and Mr. Trump would be wise to embrace it,” says the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which supports legal immigration, free trade and a strong international presence of the United States. Or it did. But it imagines Trump will put it all aside because Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s agenda is smart and sensible. It is not clear why Trump would accept smart ideas now after promoting so many dumb ones. And if he suddenly changed his tune who would believe him?

Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) repeatedly counsels Trump to stick to a teleprompter speech. It’s good advice in theory, but Trump’s prepared speeches have the same panoply of misguided notions that he reels off in interviews and debates. And does the teleprompter show us he is more thoughtful, stable and inclusive? Perhaps his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who reportedly writes some speeches, is better than Trump, but it’s Trump who’s running and it’s Trump on whose judgment the country is asked to rely.

Elected Republicans and a great number of social conservatives praised the Pence pick. But who, after watching the “60 Minutes,” interview thinks Trump would respect, listen to and be persuaded by Pence, whom he was goaded into selecting? Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt keeps arguing that Trump need only name an all-star Cabinet to put Republican minds at ease. Which all-star would actually serve, and if they did, what evidence is there Trump would listen?

All of these unrealistic, desperate attempts to normalize Trump only underscore the vapidity of the Trump sales pitch. Vote for Trump because he could get better. Vote for Trump because he might read a good speech or two. Vote for Trump because he will decide to cede authority, stop micromanaging and let people do their jobs. It’s all deeply unrealistic, bordering on intellectual dishonesty.

The rank and file have their own political contortions. In the long — very long — recounting of Benghazi at the Republican convention Monday night, it became clear that virtually the only thing that is fueling the Trump campaign and his apologists is blinding, visceral hatred for Clinton. The mother of Sean Smith, killed in Benghazi, and others who fought in Libya recalled in excruciating detail the events of the attack. Speaker after speaker talked about their loss. Insisting it was not “political,” the Benghazi vets declared this all was reason to elect Trump. Pat Smith wants to put Clinton in stripes

Undercutting he professed concern for vets and their families Trump called into Bill O’Reily’s show while Smith was talking. Trump is so ravenous for attention he’d interrupt his own convention and divert attention away from a grieving mother trying to round up votes for him.

In a video shown at the convention, the families of those killed by illegal immigrants trooped one by one to the lectern. All of these people poignantly recalled their loved ones’ deaths. But was Clinton personally responsible for their loses? Was it she or the Senate Republicans who refused to take up an immigration bill? Policy did not enter into the discussion. It was all pathos, all pain.

The Republican Party is now apparently the party of victims, who direct their anger and grief toward Clinton. There is no talk of policy or of vision; it is all a ploy for sympathy and effort to stir up venom against their opponent. The party that used to deplore the Democrats for emotional manipulation in lieu of sound policy is now running on the loss of parents and comrades. It’s sad both because the presidential candidate now relies on others’ horrifying losses and because this sort of mawkish storytelling is reflective of a party bereft of ideas.