After this week’s Republican convention, Democrats face a risky choice: Do they dare to play it safe?

The nomination of Donald J. Trump did not go smoothly. The candidate’s wife read a plagiarized speech. Sen. Ted Cruz told Republicans from the rostrum that they did not need to vote for Trump, and was booed off the stage. Electronics malfunctioned, major figures in the party stayed away and most nights the delegates left early.

But when it came to stirring up anger and fear, everything worked fine.

Trump yelled from the rostrum for 75 minutes, booming out phony statistics and half-baked policy ideas, blaming scapegoats for all the country’s ills, which in his telling are huge.

For four days they attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton, and now millions of Americans believe that she is one step away from the jailhouse, not the White House.

Trump was especially effective making her look like a tool of big business and media elites – quite a trick, considering what he does for a living.

Most of the charges were exaggerated or outright lies, but the blows landed, and Clinton goes into her convention with millions of Americans convinced that she is a criminal.

The premise of Trump’s convention was that the country is being torn apart by enemies that only he can destroy.

He might be wrong on the facts but he’s hitting an emotional truth.

If the Democrats counter with programs and proposals for incremental change, they could lose this election. The anxiety people feel about the future in places like rural Maine is real and it demands a response that speaks to the desire for fundamental change.

The kind of enthusiasm that propelled the Bernie Sanders campaign should show Clinton where the voters want to go.

This election will be won by the most motivated party, and judging from Thursday night, that party is the Republicans.

Clinton does not seem like the natural candidate to deliver that kind of message. She has been cautious her entire career, and caution has made her very successful.

But in this cycle, caution is risky. Democrats underestimate the people’s impatience with the pace of progress at their peril.