In “More Damned Emails” Mr. Blow moans that while the Republicans have a horrible candidate, many Democrats have little faith in their own. Prof. Krugman, in “Delusions of Chaos,” says some are seeing America through blood-colored glasses, despite the evidence all around us. Here’s Mr. Blow:
Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.
Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.
Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.
These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.
There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.
But, all is not roses for the Democrats.
The presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has a battered image — partly due to a concerted effort by Republicans to batter it, and partly the result of her own poor choices. Two-thirds of registered voters don’t believe that she’s honest and trustworthy, and trustworthiness is one of those attributes that tends to be difficult to quickly and easily alter.
Clinton’s honesty numbers are even worse than Trump’s, but not by much. They both have some unbelievable negatives. As The New York Times reported earlier this month:
“In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy. Only half of voters say Mrs. Clinton is prepared to be president, while an astonishing two-thirds say that Mr. Trump is not ready for the job — including four in 10 Republicans.”
But, being about as bad as Trump is hardly a good thing. Trump is a horrible candidate who shouldn’t have a shot, but in this race he does. Although Clinton remains the favorite to win in November, the race is too close for comfort. There are paths to victory — uphill though they may be — for Trump to win.
(Just typing that sent shivers down my spine. The idea that a man who used a racist attack on a judge in one of his own cases might get to pick the next one — or even two or three — Supreme Court justices is in itself unfathomable. The fact that he’s even competitive makes me question the electoral competency of America.)
Too many voters find themselves in the worst possible position: They have a choice between a Republican of whom they are frightened and disgusted and a Democrat of whom they are leery and unenthused.
Last week Clinton had a chance to shake up the race with her vice-presidential pick, but instead she chose the safer route, choosing the Democratic centrist Tim Kaine.
Kaine has his virtues — he is solid and affable, a solid liberal from the crucial state of Virginia — but this is not the sort of pick that taps into the progressive populism sweeping the party or the expansive diversity that constitutes the party.
Kaine reinforces Clinton’s “steady hand” message, but that is a message, however valid and necessary, that’s completely devoid of sizzle.
Trump is campaigning on fear, change and winning, all intense and even seductive ideas, even though his proposals are insular, unrealistic or hollow. “Steady” just doesn’t have the same emotional appeal. And although I hate to boil a historic election, and monumental policy challenges, down to emotions, I’ve been around long enough to know that this sort of visceral sensibility can swing elections.
The Democrats also have to deal with the resurgent idea of a primary process and party apparatus that favored Clinton and wasn’t completely fair to Sanders.
This was reignited in the conversation last week when WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee in which some officers expressed antipathy and outright hostility to Sanders and his candidacy.
No matter whom one supported during the primaries, or even what party one aligns with, this should turn the stomach. This kind of collusion is precisely what is poisoning faith in our politics.
This reinforced the feeling of many that the system was rigged from the beginning.
CNN reported on Sunday that in the wake of the scandal, the tainted party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, agreed to step down from her role at the conclusion of the convention.
But the injury is already inflicted.
These leaks further damage an already damaged faith in the Democratic nominating process. In March, thePew Research Center found:
“Forty two percent of Republican voters have a positive view of the primary process, compared with 30 percent of Democrats. The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points (from 52 percent) in February 2008. Republicans views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”
What are those Democratic voters supposed to do who don’t trust the candidate, the party or the process, even if they view The Donald as the Devil? This is one of the convention’s conundrums.
Now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.
National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.
How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?
Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time — and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world’s most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).
But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can’t check against their own experience. Most people don’t have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it’s hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out.
Yet there’s no question that many voters — including, almost surely, a majority of white men — will indeed buy into that vision. Why?
One answer is that, according to Gallup, Americans always seem to believe that crime is increasing, even when it is in fact dropping rapidly. Part of this may be the wording of the question: People may have a vague, headline-fueled sense that crime is up this year even while being aware that it’s much lower than it used to be. There may also be some version of the “bad things are happening somewhere else” syndrome we see in consumer surveys, where people are far more positive about their personal situation than they are about the economy as a whole.
Again, however, it’s one thing to have a shaky grasp on crime statistics, but something quite different to accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience. So what’s going on?
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. I guess we’ll find out in November.