Hope Trumps Fear

Hope Trumps Fear July 25, 2016

Illustration of terror in Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

The above illustration of terror is a fair approximation of what I felt watching Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday evening. It also gives a sense of how the American people were supposed to feel about the state of their country. Let’s just say it was a far cry from Ronald Reagan’s iconic “Morning in America” speech.

Illegal aliens running amok and killing people right and left–run for your lives! Crime is out of control–Katy bar the door! Nevermind that the FBI’s most recent statistics show that from 2010-2014 violent crime was reduced by 7 percent. Trump’s campaign chairman later claimed that the FBI couldn’t be trusted because it was obviously in Hillary’s pocket, even though the other statistics Trump cited also came from the FBI.

And let’s not forget that there’s a Muslim terrorist under every woodpile (taking the spot vacated by those Commie infiltrators).

Fear is the banner emotion for 2016. I’m starting to see my liberal friends posting scary post-RNC convention polls showing Trump pulling ahead. I’m not going to pretend that reading that doesn’t leave a pit in my stomach…or a yawning chasm. But I’m a political junkie, so I’ve been following presidential politics for a very long time. Pollsters in the know always caution people not to put too much stock in polls until after both conventions have concluded. Compare the 538 Now-cast to the Poll-only and Polls-plus data. Get back to me after the Dem’s convention.

I’ll admit that I’m more than a little shocked that Trump got any bump at all from his spectacularly ill-planned convention. I mean, it started from his wife Melania’s purloined speech–and the shifting lies explanations for it–and continued into the farcical spectacle of Ted Cruz being booed for exhorting voters to vote their conscience as Trump theatrically entered the arena as if he got confused and thought he was hosting another WWE WrestleMania event. The grand finale was the first presidential acceptance speech that filled me with the kind of dread usually reserved for slasher films. Look behind you!

It was amusing to watch David Brooks’ incredulity at each incompetent absurdity, though I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry him, with his obvious heartbreak at what was happening to his beloved party. George Will has left the not-so-Grand Old Party entirely. And Michael Bloomberg, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, is going to be speaking at the Democratic Convention.

In times like this, it’s important to remember that fear works both ways. You’re not the only one in whom Trump strikes terror. For starters, women–more than half the population. And let’s not forget Hispanics, Muslims, and people with working brains.

This week, the Dems will present a more hopeful vision of America–the very thing Reagan milked so effectively. I’m betting Michelle Obama will not crib parts of Melania Trump’s speech. You can quote me on that.

The DNC will also remind voters why they were scared of Trump in the first place, correcting the RNC’s distortions along the way.

Fear is a powerful motivator, no doubt about it. But human beings–especially Americans–are instinctively hopeful. Hope was the one emotion the RNC completely locked out of the convention hall, along with the nightly protestors. Instead, it was Midnight in America. Where did I put that flashlight?

The only problem is, when people take a step out of their homes and look around, they’ll start to realize that we don’t really live in the bleak dystopia Trump painted.

Trump will do his part to help. The day after his triumph, the Donald spent almost an entire press conference lambasting Ted Cruz for his failure to endorse him. You know, the guy who attacked Heidi Cruz and implied his father was responsible for the assassination of JFK. Would you have?

I was hardly the first to predict that Trump would attempt a Back to the Future acceptance speech harkening to Richard Nixon’s infamous speech at the 1968 convention. But as everyone has pointed out, our world is far from that of year of assassination, war, and crisis.

I still contend that if any fear prevails this November, it will be of an inexperienced showman/rabble-rouser who embraces anger instead of love and promises to abandon our allies if they don’t pay their NATO dues, like a gangster’s protection racket. Is any wonder Vladimir Putin is trying help to get his man-crush elected?

But remember–okay, most of you aren’t old enough to remember–even Nixon knew enough to couch his grimness in a veneer of hope.

Photo next to an apt graffiti, taken on a rehab walk almost a year to the day after my awakening.
Photo next to an apt graffiti, taken on a rehab walk almost a year to the day after my awakening.

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