Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

Cleveland wrap up

Good morning.

Donald Trump gave a 73 minute address last night to accept the Republican nomination for president, in which he sketched out a dark vision for what America has become -- ravaged by crime on the streets, threats abroad and elites who have sold out the nation’s people.

A CNN instant poll of people who watched showed nearly three quarters had a positive reaction. We will have to see more and better data to know if America shares Trump’s dystopian vision of a country gone awry.

The Economist called it a “dangerously good speech” and summed it up: He presents himself as a strongman saviour, with the unique combination of wealth, insider knowledge, adamantine toughness and compassion for the common man to sweep aside the rotten status quo, and stop the mighty from oppressing those who cannot defend themselves.

Many traditional Republicans mourned the death of their party. Nicole Wallace, a former aide to President George W. Bush and John McCain, said the Republican Party she worked for for 20 years “died in that room tonight.”

These final holdouts, now few in number, contrasted Trump’s approach with decades of support for free trade, free markets, and the relative freedom of movement and ideas. David Brooks said it was as if Pat Buchanan had won the nomination. David Frum, a former speechwriter for Republican presidents, said even as it was modeled after Richard Nixon in 1968, it lacked a sense of optimism and hope that have been central to the Republican message, even in that harrowing year 1968, when Nixon said, “We extend the hand of friendship to all people, to the Russian people, to the Chinese people, to all people in the world. And we shall work toward the goal of an open world—open skies, open cities, open hearts, open minds.”

Much of what Trump said was arguable. Despite recent events, for instance, and his depiction of police being gunned down in the streets, fewer police have been murdered under Obama than in all recent presidencies, even though federal policy has nothing to do with it in any case.

It’s true the homicide rate has risen in some cities, but it has been flat or declined in others. Overall, crime rates have collapsed from their highs in the early 1990s.

The problem for anyone pointing this out, however, is that Americans have long had the perception that crime is on the rise, even in years when it was clearly falling. It’s hard to know who to blame. Ultimately citizens are responsible for educating themselves about salient facts in a democracy, but surely Hollywood and the mass media fuel the perception of a dangerous world.

The point is that even if crime or illegal immigration or terrorism is far less a threat to people than, say, Type 2 diabetes, it’s easy to persuade the fearful otherwise. Fear is a powerful emotion. And Donald Trump has shown an ability to powerfully stoke it. 

But that’s not his only appeal. Although American manufacturing output is second in the world only to China, we’re doing it with fewer people. Whole regions of the country have been economically devastated, hollowed out, leading, some social scientists argue, to social dysfunction, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, divorce and lower life expectancies. Trump said he would end the kinds of trade agreements that sent American companies overseas.

The Democrats could hardly have nominated a more perfect candidate for Trump to rip into, in many respects. A member of the political elite for decades, Hillary Clinton left government service only to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeches from outfits like Goldman Sachs, while escaping prosecution from the private email matter after entering an interview with the FBI with a whole gaggle of high priced lawyers.

A key achievement of her husband’s presidency, in which Wall Street banker Robert Rubin ran economic policy, was NAFTA, a free trade agreement that many Americans blame for taking their jobs and shipping them to Mexico.

On the other hand….The reaction of people of color in my Twitter feed was also fear...of Donald Trump. Trump will be hugely motivating for the Obama coalition.

We shall see how the numbers move over the weekend. If I had to predict, I would say Trump will get some sort of polling bounce. Here’s political scientist John Sides on everything you need to know about the convention bounce. The bounce is usually about firming up support from your own party. The bounce has been declining in recent cycles, but could be larger (on both sides) because neither candidate has totally locked down their own party.

A cataclysmic day for the conservative movement: Roger Ailes is out at Fox. Wonder if he starts advising Trump. Remember, as a young TV producer he got his start building the “New Nixon” in 1968.

Patrick Condon and Ricardo Lopez on the shaky alliance between Minnesota Republicans and Donald Trump. Chairman Keith Downey seems excited. Others, less so. House Speaker Kurt Daudt aide Ben Golnik said Trump is so much his own brand that other GOP candidates will be able to separate themselves from him, if need be. Don’t expect much of a presidential race here in Minnesota. The real question will be down-ballot effects.

And here’s a dispatch from our guys on the ground:

Hey hey, convention's over and Condon here filing a short dispatch on behalf of myself and Ricardo Lopez who is driving us back to the hotel after a long and tiring week.

We'll let others decode the meaning and the ramifications of this unusual convention, although we get into that some in today's story. I just want to say a few nice words about the city of Cleveland, which I'd never before visited. I didn't quite know what to expect from this week given the news recently. But I never felt unsafe in the least, was charmed by the city and thoroughly enjoyed my limited interactions with locals, mostly from the service industry. I will come back.

Next week: Philly!

Great work guys!

Indeed, next week I’ll be filing from Philadelphia. Be sure to tune it.

Thoughts on the Trump acceptance speech? and Twitter: @jpcoolican

Have a great weekend everyone!

-- J. Patrick Coolican



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