Trump chooses fear mongering over economic promise

July 22, 2016

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Donald Trump’s fear mongering could strike a chord with American voters. The White House hopeful was officially anointed at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Thursday night. He and other speakers, like technology investor Peter Thiel, presented a dire picture of the world. At a moment when the public is focused on violence at home and abroad, the strong appeal of law and order may overshadow all else.

The New York businessman’s gloomy portrait of the U.S. economy depends on a selective use of the facts. The recovery since the 2008 financial crisis has been slow but sustained, and the unemployment rate has been cut in half since the 10 percent peak in late 2009. Trump said 58 percent of African-American youth are jobless. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate for blacks ages 16 to 19 is 31 percent. Nonetheless, Trump’s message has resonated with blue-collar workers who feel they have not benefited from globalization.

Perhaps because of this mixed economic picture, Trump focused on security. In June, 49 people were killed in a shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida – a massacre that evinced a rare shout-out from a Republican candidate for the LGBTQ community. Seventy-one percent of Americans think a terrorist attack could take place in the near future, the highest level since 2003, according to a June CNN-ORC poll.

Trump vigorously played on those fears. He talked about the recent murders of police officers and described “men, women and children” being “viciously mowed down” by a truck in Nice. “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end,” he promised. “Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.” According to the FBI, violent crime was up 1.7 percent in 2015 compared to 2014.

Thiel provided a warm-up for Trump’s vision, calling the government “broken.” The early investor in Facebook and billionaire founder of PayPal said: “Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.”

Trump trails only slightly behind his Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton in key swing states like Ohio, despite her backers spending more than $20 million on television ads in June. Trump has already made headway with his populism. If his message polls strongly, any chances of an election based on recharging economic growth will be greatly diminished.

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Trump’s gloomy and paranoid speech will provide Clinton with the chance to present a sunnier outlook.

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive

The topic of this article is ironic, given the media coverage of the man. For example, the Washington Post today features an article titled “Trump: Candidate of the Apocalypse”.

Yeah, someone is engaging in fear mongering. . . but I’m far from convinced that the worst offender is Trump at this point.

Posted by maddog2 | Report as abusive

“Trump said 58 percent of African-American youth are jobless. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate for blacks ages 16 to 19 is 31 percent. ”

The author does know the difference between unemployment rate and jobless rate, right?

Posted by Lackadaisical | Report as abusive