During the opening day of the Republican National Convention on Monday, speakers went to great pains to paint a narrative of a violent and unsafe country. With the evening’s theme being “Make America Safe Again,” multiple speakers falsely made it seem as if the country was on the verge of collapse because of violent crime and Islamic terrorism.
Foremost among the fearmongers was former New York City mayor and perpetual Fox News talking head Rudy Giuliani. In a speech in which he threw his full weight behind the candidacy of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Giuliani declared war on Islamic extremism, which he said has made Americans fear for their lives.
“To defeat Islamic extremist terrorists, we must put them on the defense,” he said. “If they are at war against us, which they have declared, we must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them.”
But Giuliani misdiagnoses the problem by blaming Islamic terrorists for violence in the United States. While Islamic terrorism draws more media attention, people in the U.S. are seven times more likely to be killed by right-wing terrorism than radical Islamists.
Giuliani also repeatedly said that it was time to “make America safe again,” claiming that the way to do this is to follow the policies he pursued in New York City to minimize violent crime.
“I know we can do it because I did by changing New York City from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in the United States,” he said. “What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America.”
Trump’s Rhetoric About Crime In ‘Inner Cities’ Is All Bait And No DataPolitics by CREDIT: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky In the wake of a historically violent week in America last week…thinkprogress.orgBut, as Politifact pointed out, Giuliani may be overstating his role in the drop in New York City’s crime, as violent crime in the city had been dropping for three years before he took office.
And the policies Giuliani pursued as mayor haven’t been shown to be effective in reducing crime either. There’s little evidence to suggest Giuliani’s “broken windows policing” theory — the idea that enforcing minor laws will lead to a reduction in large crimes — achieved its goal. In addition to not being effective, the tactic has been shown to concentrate police presence in neighborhoods where minorities live.
However, the larger problem with the sentiment behind Giuliani’s speech is that violent crime rates in the country aren’t going up in the first place. The U.S. has been getting safer for over a decade now. As the Washington Post reported, violent crime has dipped dramatically since it spiked in the early part of the 1990s, which calls into question the necessity of having a night of speeches about making America safe again.
But Giuliani wasn’t the only one trying to stoke the fears of Americans. Colorado Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn, who has called for neighbors to spy on each other to root out potential terrorists, claimed during his speech at the RNC that violence has increased under President Obama. “Neighborhoods have become more violent under your watch,” Glenn said.
However, Glenn’s claim is unequivocally false. As CNN reported, FBI data shows that the violent crime rate has dropped by 20 percent between 2008 (when Obama was elected) and 2014.
What Happens When People Panic About Crime RatesIf you’ve read a newspaper or watched cable news recently, you might have heard that crime is exploding in many U.S…thinkprogress.orgOther convention speakers were more subtle in attempting to invoke an America where violence is out of control. One such speaker, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, alluded to an undoing of society because of groups like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.
“What we witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order,” he said. “So many of the actions of the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protests and violated the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.”
While each of the RNC speeches featured plenty of Obama bashing, in their efforts to make themselves the law and order party and focus on making America safe again, the GOP has zeroed in on an issue that has actually improved under Obama’s presidency, invoking a specter of violence that — despite a number of high profile instances in the past few weeks — is actually less threatening right now than it was at the end of George H.W. Bush’s term as president.
Evan Popp is an intern at ThinkProgress.