Monday, July 25, 2016

Everyone looks good compared to someone

Rick Perlstein has an exceptional piece of historical analysis up at the New Republic comparing and contrasting (mainly contrasting) the acceptance speeches of Nixon in 1968 and Trump last week. Trump does not fare well.

The whole thing is well worth your time, but  there is one point I'd like to single out. First is the odd disconnect between the often apocalyptic rhetoric of the convention and the actual conditions in the country.

The crux of the similarity between Trump’s speech and Nixon’s was supposed to be its grand law-and-order theme. But in 1968, Nixon could reasonably speak of “unprecedented lawlessness” and “unprecedented racial violence” because these things were unprecedented. Nixon spoke four months after the riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, including one in Chicago that burned two straight miles of Madison Street to the ground. Compare that to Trump followers cowering in terror at violence like last March’s in Baltimore, which left a single burned CVS in its wake. The number of violent crimes in the U.S. in 1960, according to the FBI, was 288,460. In 1968, it had exploded to more than twice that, 595,010. Now? The murder rate is down from eight homicides per 100,000 people in 1995, to under six in 2006, to four-and-a-half now.
You can argue that the voters of 1968 were over reacting to crime, social unrest, and political violence, but there actually was a significant amount of crime and social unrest and political violence to react to.

Even in the small chunks of the Republican national convention that I listen to, there were numerous doomsday images and references to the "dark times" the country was facing. The people in the stadium found these statements credible because that's what they had been told on Fox and on the other right wing media sources they got their news from. Once you factor in the state of conservative media, the rise of Trump is neither that surprising nor that interesting.

That's a perfect segue to this excellent piece on the prehistory of Fox News by Gawker (thanks again, Peter Thiel), but we'll save that discussion for another post.

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