Be Afraid, America

Are you scared, America? I mean, really, really pants-shitting terrified? Donald Trump thinks you are, and if you’re not, well, you should be! You should be in fear for your lives, America. Scared of immigrants, and black people and Muslims and ISIS and crime and all that stuff.

It’s like Trump is stuck in the ’70s. And even David Brooks isn’t buying it:

[…] A law-and-order campaign doesn’t ask voters to like Trump and the Republicans any more than they liked Richard Nixon in 1968.

On the other hand, there are good reasons to think that this law-and-order focus is a significant mistake, that it over-reads the current moment of Baton Rouge, Dallas and Nice and will not be the right focus for the fall.

In the first place, it’s based on a falsehood. Crime rates have been falling almost without fail for 25 years. Murder rates have been rising just recently among gangs in certain cities, but America is much safer than it was a decade ago. In the first half of 2015, for example, the number of shootings in New York and Washington hit historic lows.

Trump dwells on illegal aliens killing our children. Between 2010 and 2014, only 121 people released from immigration custody later committed murder; that’s about 25 a year. Every death is a horror, but the number of police officers killed each year as a result of a crime is about 55, in a nation of over 320 million people. The number of police deaths decreased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2015.

The main anxieties in this country are economic and social, not about crime. Trump surged to the nomination on the back of his supposed business acumen, not because he’s a sheriff. By focusing so much on law and order, he leaves a hole a mile wide for Hillary Clinton. She’ll undoubtedly fixate at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on economic pain. Trump could end up seeming strangely detached.

David Brooks is someone I’ve spent most of my life mocking but even he gets the problem here. I mean gosh, I’m so old, I remember when fear and negativity were considered bad things in a presidential campaign. Specifically, I remember being lectured about that back in 2004: Democrats were “too angry, too bitter,” also “angry,” especially Howard Dean, whose “angry veneer” damaged him. And yes, I get that anger and fear aren’t exactly the same thing, but they fall under the same umbrella: pessimism. John Kerry was too pessimistic, “a little rain-cloud follows John Kerry wherever he goes,” editorialized one outfit.

Remember “Pessimism never created a job”?

Conventional wisdom has always been that optimism beats pessimism, even Rush Limbaugh said it back at a time when people actually gave a shit about what he had to say.

So who is buying this “be afraid, America” message Trump is sending, especially in light of the cooked -up, cherry-picked factoids?

I honestly cannot wait for the Democratic convention and I sure as hell hope that it paints a vivid contrast to Trump’s doom-and-gloom picture of a scared America.

13 Comments

Filed under 2016 Presidential Election

13 responses to “Be Afraid, America

  1. Joe

    The place where I experience fear is knowing that as the nominee for the Republican Party, he has some chance of winning. That terrifies me. I’m dumbfounded by the people who have fallen for this huckster, this fraud. A cousin posted on Facebook this morning, “I think he did well!!” and I know my Democratic grandparents just turned over in their graves (my Grandma greeted Richard Nixon at a Cincinnati airport to harangue him).

    As a Christian, I continue to be dismayed by how many other Christians don’t pay attention to the constant words Jesus said to his followers, “Do not be afraid” – and yes I know I need to remember those words too. But how conservative Christians find anything in this immoral man is beyond belief. And they don’t buy “Do not be afraid” one bit. Very sad.

    • First class analysis! I would only add that Trump has become a personality cult leader/ brand merchandiser who has his eye on making profit out of every situation. Should he lose in November you can bet that a newly minted “Trump cable news channel” will arise via which he can capitalise on his extended fame, especially against a vulnerable post-Ailes Fox. But what really terrifies me is how he has managed to distill and use the white anger against a black “Pretender”, and how this inevitably will increase the violence both individual and institutional employed against minorities of every kind, but especially against Blacks who are already being killed by Police for traffic misdemeanours, or simply for “Black while driving”. This is a foretaste of the dystopian Midnight in America that Trump revels in!

      • Very interesting ideas. Launching a new cable channel requires an extraordinary capital outlay, as Al Jazeera and Oprah Winfrey have learned. I don’t think he has that much money, or can even access that much money. But I can see him doing a show or maybe a YouTube channel or something.

        The thing about Trump is that he doesn’t like to actually do any work. He likes to be in the spotlight and he likes to pursue deals but he doesn’t actually want to do the work that’s involved in running anything. Most developers are that way. They like to pursue deals, they negotiate prices, they wheel and deal on stuff, but the actual work of building something? That they pawn off to someone else.

  2. Jill Meyer

    Excellent analysis.

  3. Kathleen

    Hell, Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into the Night” paints a cheerier picture of reality than Trump and his merry band of Rethuglicans.

  4. Democommie

    “Trump”, my new 4 letter word. An elderly friend told me that her VNA physical therapist said Melanoma, Trump’s current (and future ex) wife was, “so pretty!”. I told her that she should tell that person and her other low wage care givers that if Teh Donald gets elected that she will be getting less work after he privatize humanity.

  5. Like Joe, the only thing that scares the heck outta me is the possibility of Trump winning the election. We don’t need attention grabbing naysayers such as long time has been Michael Moore predicting a victory for Trump.

    We need to defeat him. And we need to carry some right-leaning states, such as Texas, Alaska, Ohio and Iowa. We don’t need a lot of pussies gushing on NPR about how sweet and wonderful Donald is to his daughter Ivanka. We don’t need any weakness or acquiescence whatsoever.

    We need to kick some serious ass and defeat the dumbasses that would allow this fascist to be elected POTUS.

  6. Randy

    @John. I’m down with the T.V. idea too. Beale makes a good point about the cost but he’s cleaved off the paranoid right quite well from Fox, et al. I’m suspecting he’s quite jealous of Bloomberg’s success in media.

    To assuage the legitimate fear that he might actually win allow me to share a personal anecdote. I work in a medical clinic catering to large numbers of conservative caucasian males in Middle, TN. I understand caucasians make up about 72% of registered voters and given Trumps polling with minority groups he needs to carry about 66% of the caucasians-pretty much all the males.(Wish I could credit a source but can’t but it was a mainstream publication) Anyway…Based on my unscientific observations of the clinic clientele there are more than a few of that demographic that are as dumbfounded as the rest of us about Trumps nomination. Anything can happen, of course, but I just don’t think he can get the numbers. Sleep well.
    GOTV.

  7. I remember when it being revealed or at least strongly suspected that a Russian strongman favored an American candidate it was presented as being something to be afraid of. Not to mention Russian gangsters (hackers) or the increasingly irresponsible folks at Wikileaks.

    I don’t think the Trump voters are as angry as they are cowards who blame the wrong people, the ones without the power to really screw them. They are scared but that’s also largely because they are cowards. Republicans and Republican favoring media have been pushing those buttons for decades. When they are allowed to do that with impunity, fascism is a good bet to be the result.

  8. Kosh III

    I found this quote from 1950 by Sen. Margaret Chase Smith R-ME. Sadly it’s more true today than ever before:

    “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to a political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.”

    Full text of her statement is here and is also quite pertinent to today.
    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/margaretchasesmithconscience.html

    • Wow. What a find! Definitely going to share this!

      • Jim "Prup" Benton

        Remember, before Chisolm, Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman t make a serious run for the Presidential nomination of a major party, and is someone who should be much better remembered. The speech you quote was made against McCarthy and she was one of the seven Republican signers of the Declaration of Conscience against the Unshaven Ghost.