Instead of reasons for hope, the Democrats offered ... voters bromides about optimism: America’s best days are always ahead of it, etc., etc. These bromides came with a liberal spin, the genius of America being defined as its closer and closer approximation of egalitarian ideals. The idea that American patriotism consists of loyalty to a future country clearly speaks to many of our citizens. Will it be enough in an anxious era, when Americans are deeply dissatisfied with their politicians? And when Mr. Trump is offering a more pointed explanation of that dissatisfaction than the Democrats are?
The Democrats’ optimism about the country is tightly related to their optimism about their own political fortunes, which is based on demography. They represent growing demographic groups — including nonwhites and the unchurched — rather than shrinking groups like the white working class. But that optimism is unlikely to prove contagious among that group.
And the Democrats’ rhetorical optimism is vulnerable to events in a way Mr. Trump’s is not. Terrorist attacks and high-profile crimes may not make Americans find new virtues in Mr. Trump, but they will validate his campaign message and make the Democrats’ look naïve or worse.
Trump seized on her convention-speech optimism and used it against her in a series of tweets on Thursday night and Friday morning, complaining that she forgot “to mention the many problems of our country” and refused “to mention Radical Islam.”
He also tweeted this bulletin: “Two policemen just shot in San Diego, one dead. It is only getting worse. People want LAW AND ORDER!”
I’m doubtful that a majority of them want it in all capital letters, followed by an exclamation point, from an egomaniac with as little intellectual as typographical subtlety.
But to guarantee his defeat, Clinton needs to calibrate her voice more deftly than she typically does.
She’s right that we’re “stronger together.” But she can’t forget how weak many Americans feel right now.
Yes, “love trumps hate.” But the hateful currents running through America are powerful ones, and they’re born of a disillusionment that she minimizes at her peril.