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Trump 74: American ignorance

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When a candidate runs for state or local office, one of the criteria often mentioned or at least reviewed is the depth of their roots in the area: How long they have lived there, or that’s their whole life, then how many forebears did. There’s at least one practical and reasonable reason for this, which is that a person who has lived in a place for many years is likely to know it better than would a newcomer.

Donald Trump is not a newcomer to the United States; he was born in this country and it has been his place of residence all of his 70 years. And while he has lived in the New York City area nearly all that time, he has done business in a number of places around the country. Statistically, based on the numbers, he should meet this criterion: He ought to know the country pretty well, well enough that an ignorance of what the United States is like should not be a disqualifier.

And yet, remarkably, it evidently is. His sense of what the United States is actually like outside of his own bubble of wealth seems stunningly thin.

Listen to his speeches and you hear the false notes repeatedly, something akin to a novelist who has written a scene in a location he hasn’t visited or researched.

One of the biggest such cases came in his Republican acceptance speech, when he spoke about the horrors on the streets of the United States – walking almost anywhere, he seemed to be saying, was worse than navigating a war zone. It’s not true. He spoke of drastically increasing crime from coast to coast; it isn’t increasing, it’s falling, and has been for decades.

On August 23, Trump said of black communities: “Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we’re fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities. . . . Look, it is a disaster the way African Americans are living . . . We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”

Trump’s perception of the community was so wildly far afield from the reality that you have to suspect he’s getting his impression of what the country is like from the movies, or maybe from local television news. It certainly doesn’t come from any actual experience visiting around the country, talking to ordinary people, getting any realistic sense – even if only by statistical research – of what America is like.

I wouldn’t vote for a city council member so poorly informed about his city. – rs

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