Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at last night’s Republican National Convention covered a fair amount of ground – there are so many things he wants Americans to be scared of – but the GOP candidate went out of his way to place a special emphasis on crime.
There is, however, a problem: crime rates are going down, not up. Though perspectives are often skewed by high-profile incidents, most Americans are safer from crime now than they’ve been in a generation.
For Trump, that makes lying necessary – if voters aren’t terrified, he’s going to lose – but for the Trump campaign, there’s another rhetorical option available. New York magazine flagged this gem:
[W]hen CNN’s Jake Tapper confronted Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort with the inconvenient facts about how historically safe most Americans are, Manafort chose to attack the messenger. Which is to say, to attack the Federal Bureau of Investigation.“Empirically, according to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper said. “How can Republicans make the argument that, somehow, it’s more dangerous today, when the facts don’t back that up?”“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. I don’t know what statistics you’re talking about,” Manafort replied. “The FBI is suspect these days, after what they just did with Hillary Clinton.”
Got that? The FBI’s facts are politically inconvenient to the Trump campaign, so as far as Paul Manafort is concerned, there’s reason to mistrust both the data and the federal law enforcement officials who compiled the data.
Of course, the FBI’s crime rates are based almost entirely on information provided by state and local law enforcement, but who knows, maybe the Trump campaign’s chairman believes they’re in on the scam, too. (If the parties were reversed, the political world would be spending today asking why a Democrat accused police officers nationwide of politically motivated corruption.)
But we can take this one step further. There’s ample reason to believe the Trump campaign is taking on Hillary Clinton and independent data with equal vigor.
Remember, as far as Trump and his allies are concerned the unemployment rate is rigged.
The uninsured rate is unreliable.
The crime statistics shouldn’t be trusted.
Public-opinion polls are skewed.
Climate science must be ignored.
By any fair measure, when a party and its presidential candidate are as hostile towards empiricism as they are towards their political rivals, it’s not a healthy sign.