The Corner

Politics & Policy

Sure, Trump’s Speech Was Dark. America’s in a Dark Place Right Now.

From the last Morning Jolt of convention week:

Sure, Trump’s Speech Was Dark. America’s in a Dark Place Right Now.

Yes, it was way too long. Yes, he shouted almost the entire speech. Yes, it was almost entirely devoid of Trump’s usual humor. But the dark portrait of America in Trump’s speech was an argument: an argument that the state of the country has gone terribly wrong, and that the status quo must change. It is simple and largely accurate; soon we’ll see if the public agrees Trump is the man who can change the country for the better.

There has been a lot of griping that this year’s convention was way too dark and negative. I wonder if the media voices making that complaint noticed the latest numbers from Gallup:

Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. dropped 12 percentage points in the past month, amid high-profile police killings of black men and mass shootings of police. Currently, 17% of Americans are satisfied with the state of affairs in the U.S…

For the past two years, satisfaction has been in the 20s and 30s, with low points of 20% in December 2015 and November 2014.

This 12-point drop in one month is tied for the largest decrease in satisfaction since Gallup started asking satisfaction monthly in 2001. The previous largest decrease during this period was also 12 points in October 2008, as the financial crisis was taking hold.

We can argue whether this moment is as chaotic as 1968, or the days of Watergate, or the wartimes of World War Two or the Great Depression or the Civil War. But it’s pretty bad. For about a two-week span before the convention, it felt like each day’s news featured some maniac shooting at a cop or a terrible terror attack in Europe. Recall my “Feeling Yeats-y” Corner post from July 14.

Americans have good reason to feel dissatisfied with the state of the country. There are a lot of causes for the country’s problems, but a significant portion of the responsibility lands at the feet of President Barack Obama, who promised “hope and change” eight years ago and delivered the latter while stomping on the former.

Even aside from raw racial tensions, outrageous attacks on police and awful terrorism attacks, most American now know they’ve been sold a false bill of goods. The public now knows Obama’s promises, from “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” to the red line in Syria mean nothing.

President Obama has been telling the public things are getting better since “Recovery Summer” in 2010, but a lot of Americans just aren’t feeling it. It’s not surprising the president genuinely thinks America is doing pretty well; he lives a life among celebrities and big-dollar fundraisers and sees smiling faces everywhere he goes. He’ll never worry about having enough money or being a victim of a crime again. The ordinary concerns of Americans – what if the car needs major repairs, what if I get laid off, how am I going to cover this new higher monthly premium for health insurance, is that parking lot safe at night if I work late – never cross the mind of Obama, or the vast majority of political elites.

The pivotal question about Donald Trump’s speech is, do the viewers at home listen to his description of the country’s problems – lawlessness, a growing terrorism threat on our own soil, illegal immigration, a fear that their job could be outsourced overseas – and say, ‘Yes, finally, this man gets it”? Or does Trump’s style get in the way of his powerful message?

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