Barack Obama had "yes we can". Ronald Reagan spoke of the "shining city on a hill". On Thursday night in Cleveland, Donald Trump accepted his nomination as the Republican candidate for President ahead of US elections in November, with a terrifying speech that portrayed America as a dystopian nightmare that needs a great leader to restore its lost glory.

And just in case you didn't get the point, this is what it looked like.

In a speech that went over 70 minutes, the failed businessman and reality TV star-turned-politician sought to drive home the idea that his country is under siege: from immigrants, terrorists, the Chinese – and anyone else who disagrees with him.

"I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored."

That came early on, but if you thought that meant Trump would follow it up with a vision of what America might look under him, you'd be wrong. Instead, he went on to enumerate just how terrible he thinks America is right now.

Trump sought to show how awful things are both on the domestic and international fronts and how America is, in his mind, falling to bits.

"President Obama has doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion – and growing. Yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps," he said.

Political analysts could barely comprehend just how pessimistic the candidate's speech was.

Ezra Klein, editor of Vox, offered the most concise reason for why Trump chose to be so dour in his speech.

Donald Trump is not a candidate the American people would turn to in normal times. He’s too inexperienced, too eccentric, too volatile, too risky. Voting Trump is burning down the house to collect the insurance money – you don’t do it unless things are really, really bad.

Here is Trump’s problem: Things are not really, really bad. In fact, things are doing much better than when President Obama came into office.

According to this argument, Trump's only chance of winning in November will be convincing the electorate that America is a truly scary place – and he's the only person who can fix it. Literally: Trump actually said, "nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."

The fascist subtext did not go unnoticed.

Of course, anyone with experience of authoritarian leaders in the rest of the world found it hard not to notice the resemblance.

As Trump carried on, literally calling himself the "law and order candidate", Americans didn't seem quite sure how to react to the fact that this man could be President in November.

And America might not have any hope at all: Even the people you want most in your corner on a night like this posted a picture of themselves looking terrified.