The Democrat National Convention starts today and it will be telling to compare the image of America that it will project versus the nightmarish image that was painted in Cleveland by Donald Trump and his sycophants. While America has many problems, the reality is far different from what Trump and company describe as near chaos and danger in the streets, an irony since it is the Republicans' refusal to enact sane gun laws that has facilitated the mass shootings that have rocked the nation. A column in the New York Times makes the case that crime, especially the murder rate, has gone down significantly and then looks at the psychosis that seems to drive conservative fears that simply are not supported by statistics. Here are highlights:
Yet there’s no question that many voters — including, almost surely, a majority of white men — will indeed buy into that vision. Why?
Well, I do have a hypothesis, namely, that Trump supporters really do feel, with some reason, that the social order they knew is coming apart. It’s not just race, where the country has become both more diverse and less racist (even if it still has a long way to go). It’s also about gender roles — when Mr. Trump talks about making America great again, you can be sure that many of his supporters are imagining a return to the (partly imagined) days of male breadwinners and stay-at-home wives.
Not incidentally, Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, used to fulminate about the damage done by working mothers, not to mention penning an outraged attack on Disney in 1999 for featuring a martially-minded heroine in its movie Mulan.
But what are the consequences of these changes in the social order? Back when crime was rising, conservatives insistently drew a connection to social change — that was what the whole early ’90s fuss over “family values” was about. Loose the bonds of traditional society, and chaos would follow.
Then a funny thing happened: Crime plunged instead of continuing to rise. Other indicators also improved dramatically — for example, the teen birthrate has fallen 60 percent since 1991. Instead of societal collapse, we’ve seen what amounts to a mass outbreak of societal health. The truth is that we don’t know exactly why. Hypotheses range from the changing age distribution of the population to reduced lead poisoning; but in any case, the predicted apocalypse notably failed to arrive.
The point, however, is that in the minds of those disturbed by social change, chaos in the streets was supposed to follow, and they are all too willing to believe that it did, in the teeth of the evidence.
The question now is how many such people, people determined to live in a nightmare of their own imagining, there really are.