America must not succumb to anger, hatred, division

Updated 1:43 PM EDT, Sun July 24, 2016
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Donald Trump delivered his convention speech in Cleveland on Thursday

Fareed Zakaria: America can be greater still, but not if it succumbs to anger, hatred, division and despair

Editor’s Note: Fareed Zakaria is host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” which airs Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN. This article is adapted from his Take. The views expressed are his own.

CNN —  

Donald Trump set a record on Thursday for the longest speech delivered by the nominee at a convention in decades. If one were able to go back and measure the decibel levels from the past, I’m sure he would win that prize as well. The speech was screamed more than spoken, but the medium matched the message. Trump painted a picture of America that was darker and more dystopian than any candidate in modern memory.

Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Zakaria

There have been parallels drawn to Richard Nixon’s speech at the 1968 Republican convention. But that was positively sunny by comparison. Can you imagine Donald Trump saying, as Nixon did, “We shall work toward the goal of an open world, open skies, open cities, open hearts, open minds.” Or, “Let us increase the wealth of America so that we can provide more generously for the aged and for the needy and for all those who cannot help themselves.”

And of course, 1968 was a time of genuine international and national crisis. The Soviet Union and America were locked in a nuclear arms race, producing ever more dangerous weapons. Proxy wars between the two superpowers’ clients were ongoing around the world. The United States had half a million troops in Vietnam, with more than 300 dying every week on average, in a war that was going badly. Just two months apart in 1968, two of the country’s most respected leaders, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, the latter’s death producing race riots in more than 100 American cities. Crime was rising dramatically.

The reality of America today is, to put it mildly, very different. The United States has emerged from the great recession of 2009 better than any of the world’s major economies. It has produced more than 14 million jobs since 2010, more than the 35 other advanced economies combined, as Politifact has noted. For example, auto sales when Barack Obama took office were 9.6 million on an annualized basis. Last month, they reached 16.6 million. Over the last eight years, America has become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, overtaking Russia and Saudi Arabia. Unemployment is now below 5%.

Let me try to present the broader trends to you in a series of graphs produced by Harvard’s Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack, published in Slate. If you are terrified by the massive rise in terrorism, here is the chart, detailing mass killings and genocide, which includes all Islamic terror. Since 1945, as you can see, it is a stunning decline – with a small uptick, which is almost entirely countries like Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.

We have data on civilians killed since 1988, and here is what that chart looks like:

Here are some other charts worth looking at, on the decline in homicides in America and the world:

On the victimization of children, a huge drop:

On the decline of rape in America:

And one more chart, this time from Pew. The net migration from Mexico to America since the great recession has been zero. Yes, zero:

I know that, fed on a diet of hype, hysteria and relentless attacks, people don’t feel this way. But it’s time to point out that this doesn’t make it true. Facts are facts.

There is no golden age to go back to. What America do we want to return to? The 1950s, when marginal tax rates were 91% and in many states women couldn’t easily become doctors and lawyers and African-Americans couldn’t sit at the same lunch counters as whites? The 1960s, when the country was consumed by war and crises? The 1970s, when stagflation robbed the ordinary American of income and opportunity?

America IS great, a country of openness, diversity, tolerance and innovation. Of course it has problems, as do all countries. Of course it can be greater still, but not if it succumbs to anger, hatred, division and despair.