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.