Opinion | Donald Trump Is Running Against Dystopian Fantasies

First, there’s a striking double standard in the ways politicians are allowed to talk about different regions of America. Voters from rural states often complain about not getting enough respect, but can you imagine the reaction if, say, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, were to describe Alabama — which in 2021 had an extraordinarily high rate of firearm mortality — as a place where everyone runs around shooting one another and themselves?

Second, and more important, I’m always struck by the extent to which today’s right-wing politics is driven by a grim, dystopian image of America, especially American cities, that just isn’t grounded in reality.

A lot of this seems to reflect perceptions that congealed long ago and haven’t been updated to reflect the ways in which urban America has changed for the better. New York really was a dangerous place a few decades back: There were 2,262 murders in 1990. Last year, however, with the pandemic-era bump in crime rapidly receding, there were only 391 — still too many — and early indications are that violent crime is continuing to fall.

Nationally, violent crime, at least according to the F.B.I., is approaching a 50-year low.

Those are official statistics, but what about personal experience? I remember New York in the bad old days, and it’s nothing like that now. Polling on crime is remarkable, especially when broken down by partisan affiliation: According to Gallup, 78 percent of Republicans say that crime is an extremely or very serious problem for the nation, but only 16 percent say it’s a serious problem where they live. That’s not because Republicans live in safer places: Only 15 percent of Democrats say that local crime is a serious problem.

Crime isn’t the only subject where Republicans seem to be living in the past. In another recent speech, Trump declared: “We’re like a third world nation. Look at our airports. … I mean, how bad are the airports?” He may have been thinking of La Guardia in the 1970s. I recently landed at Newark’s new Terminal A, and it was a striking reminder of just how gentrified America’s major airports have become.

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