Overdosed on compassion? Sickened by sweetness? Never want to be nice again? All classic symptoms of Convention Rejection Syndrome (Rhubarba Republicana). Then come with me to a ballroom in downtown Philadelphia where fangs are just what they used to be: the Christian Coalition's Faith and Freedom rally.
"Hey," says Dr Pat Robertson, founder and president (who once tried to beat Bush the Elder for the actual presidency but discovered that "it was not in God's plan for me"). "Hey, this is bigger than the real convention". That's not entirely true - but it's certainly as big as your average Tory conference. The place is heaving with white middle class folk in matching shirts. The coalition has clout. It wrecked McCain in North Carolina. The coalition knows - in the words of senator Rick Santorum - that "there is no constitutional separation between church and state here". The coalition is thus overtly political - and joyously triumphant. "Two-thirds of the people at this convention are People of Faith," says Dr Pat. And "George W Bush will be the first born again man in the White House."
So what would the president-preacher have him do? Abolish the Department of Education and give its $40bn budget to organisations of goodwill (like the coalition). Cut off funds to planned parenthood clinics. "There's nothing in the constitution about contraceptives." Appoint only "righteous judges" to the supreme court. Robertson may be a little rheumier, past his brimstone prime, but he can still whip up a firestorm of cheering. A ferocious lady named Phyllis returns in triumph from the Republican platform committee, hailing victory. No more sex education - just "abstinence education". Marriage between men and women only. The 10 commandments on display in schoolrooms. No gay scoutmasters amongst the boys - or gays in the military. English as the only American common language. No tax dollars for obscene or irreligious art.
Ecstasy! You may not have read the manifesto, says Phyllis, but it's a triumph. "And we commit ourselves to the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms." Ecstasy squared. The warriors of the Lord depart in high good humour, out into the streets where uncoiffed warriors are doing a different sort of battle with Philadelphia PD. Indeed: when you thumb through the close typed pages of the platform, it's all there. Out with the "scores of judges with activist backgrounds in the hard left". In with judges "who respect the sanctity of innocent human life". Granules of granite buried amid the compassionate mush.
Surely that's not George W's "big tent" Republican party, the one which dares let its only openly homosexual congressman (Jim Kolbe) on main stage to talk about free trade? The one that invites Theodore Roosevelt IV to talk conservation and ask: "Are you for pelicans or progress?" The party which gives John McCain a stander for a notably low-key performance?
We shall only see when the tent is folded away. But one thing, echoing between Dr Pat's ballroom and convention centre, was clearer than ever. All of them sing the same patriotic songs. America the golden, the special nation, the last best hope, the saviour of the world. Even Dr Condoleeza Rice, the coming intellect of Bush foreign policy, does the "shining beacon" bit before embracing bigger and better missile defence and telling us that "victory is not a dirty word" for her George. Church, state? There's an odd feeling here, that there is a god to be universally worshipped: and it is called America.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000