The Anger Vote

Despite predictions that his support will fade, polls show Donald Trump well ahead of all other contenders among Republican voters, despite his boorish and brusque ways. More than a few political pundits have asked how that can possibly be. To me, the answer seems obvious, despite my personal uneasiness with simple or obvious answers [which so often turn out to be neither].

Trump is articulating all the concerns that millions of Americans have – that the political system is broken, that career politicians are only interested in themselves, that excessive concern for those at the very bottom and very top of the economic ladder has resulted in screwing the middle class, especially the working middle class, and that corporate leaders and politicians have conspired to destroy millions of American jobs by allowing those jobs to be outsourced overseas while allowing millions of illegal immigrants to flood into the United States to get both welfare and take jobs from Americans by being willing to work for less under miserable conditions.

The people to whom Trump is appealing aren’t just angry, they’re furious, and they feel no one is listening to them.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is appealing to similar concerns, except his platform also includes appeals to minimum age workers and to minorities by doubling the minimum wage and taking on the economic structure that creates barriers for the financially disenfranchised. Over the past two decades, minimum wage workers have seen their purchasing power decline more than any other economic class in the United States, which has resulted in some cities and states increasing state and local minimum wages, but those increases have had a limited effect so far. Sanders is also talking about reforming Wall Street, making the very wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes, universal affordable health care, and affordable college.

The political pundits thought Sanders didn’t have a ghost of a chance – except he’s already raised more than $15 million exclusively from small donations, is drawing crowds in excess of 10,000 people, has enlisted more than 100,000 in support efforts, and is within ten points of Hillary Clinton in early primary states.

If these two very different campaigns don’t tell you that there are a lot of angry Americans out there who want change… you’re not seeing what’s really there.

While I still doubt that either Trump or Sanders can capture a nomination, history shows that angry and unhappy voters can totally change the political calculus. There was this mountebank candidate, a racist anti-Semite that no one took seriously in a faraway time and place… Germany, I think it was…

7 thoughts on “The Anger Vote”

  1. Bob Vowell says:

    Do you think that either party can actually see and understand that the average person is reaching the breaking point and change course. One of my fears is that other candidates will see Trump’s behavior as a formula to succeed in the polls.

  2. Joe says:

    In some ways it’s worse. It took time for the Fuhrer to set up the Gestapo. Whoever gets in next has an ready-made turn-key solution.

    It’s not like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush will change the status quo. So I’m glad for Trump and his breath of fresh (?) air. And for Bernie Sanders And for Lawrence Lessig.

    There is a problem, and it needs to be fixed before Democracy, I mean Oligarchy, turns into Tyranny, to misquote Plato.

  3. D Archerd says:

    You’re right that both Trump and Sanders have tapped into a vein of voter anger that populist politicians have been fond of mining from the founding of politics. On the one hand it’s disturbing that so many people are ready to listen to simple solutions. While there is no argument that American companies have been moving jobs to cheaper locations and that immigrants, legal and otherwise, continue to come to the U.S. seeking work. But the forces of the global economy and global mobility of the workforce are going to continue and both corporations and immigrants are responding to those forces.

    But the flip side of that voter anger is a heartening faith in government to actually be able to effect change. I suspect many of those who are angriest are angry because they expect government to DO SOMETHING and feel aggrieved that what seems obvious to them isn’t being followed by those in power.

    My study of history tells me that governmental power is much more constrained than most people realize. Government has a great deal of power to screw things up, usually by implementing knee-jerk, “simple” solutions, but much less power to enhance progress.

    But LEM is right that in times of great public anger, there is a temptation to yield to demagogues who tell them that all their problems will be solved if only they will give them the power to do so.

    We are faced with extremely complex problems, from global climate change to worsening social and economic inequality. To address these issues will require carefully thought-out and consistently implemented programs and policies that will take time and are unlikely to yield easy or rapid results.

    Keep that in mind the next time a politician starts out a sentence with, “All we have to do is…”

  4. Jeff says:

    I have wondered, too, about the dangers that you allude to at the end of your post.

  5. Plovdiv says:

    The economic and social problems will only worsen as the result of ever increasing automation in the workplace. When automation really bites into white collar jobs, which it will in the next 20-30 years, leaving millions more unemployed, then there will be real anger and the conditions for civil violence and revolution will be made even stronger.

  6. christoph says:

    Thank you for this. You touch on what is worrisome to me as a trend out of both sides of the current (idiotic) cultural divide, which is a tendency toward totalitarianism.

    Am reminded of a meme I saw recently, which offered two choices: advocate economic freedom and be called a right wing nut by liberals, or advocate civil freedom and be called a left wing nut by conservatives.

    I must admit, though, that the horrid history of race-based anti-privilege movements has me a bit more worried about the Sanders type.

  7. Tom says:

    “Anger” seems hardly adequate as an excuse for having Trump or Sanders as the next US President. The vaunted ‘checks and balances’ of our political system may not be sufficient to save us from the resultant chaos if indeed they succeed in doing all that they promise.

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