The world according to Donald Trump is very dark indeed. The American economy has tanked. Mexico has sent a horde of criminals over the border to steal jobs and rape women. The Islamic State, cofounded by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is taking over the globe. “Our country’s going to hell,” he declared during the Republican primaries. It’s “like medieval times,” he suggested during the second presidential debate. “We haven’t seen anything like this, the carnage all over the world.”
For Trump, it’s not morning in America, it’s just a few seconds before midnight on the doomsday clock. Although his campaign doggedly continues to promise a new beginning for the country, the candidate and his advisers are sending out a very different message: the end is nigh. These Cassandras all agree that, although Obama’s two terms were no walk in the park, the stakes in 2016 are world-destroyingly higher. If Clinton is elected, the future could be, as conservative political operatives Dick Morris and Eileen McGann titled their recent book, Armageddon.
Presidential challengers often paint a grim picture of the world of the incumbent, overstating the case for dramatic effect. Ever the showman, Trump has no compunction about repeatedly going way over the top, calling the US military a “disaster” because it’s supposedly underfunded and the United States a “Third World country” thanks to its precipitous economic decline. Trump talks as if he were the hybrid offspring of Karl Marx and Ann Coulter.
Trumpworld, however, is a photographic negative of statistical reality. The US economy has been on an upswing for the last several years (though its benefits have been anything but evenly distributed). Nationally, violent crime is on the decline (though murder rates are soaring in some cities like Chicago). The Obama administration averted war with Iran and negotiated a détente with Cuba (though it continues to wage war in other parts of the world and has maintained sky-high Pentagon spending). If the Obama years are hardly beyond criticism, they are hardly beneath contempt either.
In dispensing with what one of his senior aides called the “reality-based community,” George W. Bush’s administration attempted to create an alternative, on-the-ground reality, particularly through the direct exercise of American military power—and we know how well that turned out. Trump seems to have even less interest in the “reality-based community.” He’s evidently convinced that the sheer power of his own bluster, even without the firepower of that military, should be sufficient to alter our world. After all, didn’t it win him a loyal following on TV and—to the disbelief of politicians and media commentators everywhere—the Republican presidential nomination?