As some of my readers might recall, way back last August, I made the observation that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would do far better than people realized, although at that time, I did express doubt that Trump would be able to capture the Republican nomination. While I had a better feel than most for the depth of anger, what I didn’t realize was how many Republicans would become literally too angry to think and how much they wanted to lash out at all politicians, regardless of what it might do to the country. The attitude of these voters is literally that they don’t care, that the country and the rich have screwed them, and that they’ll be damned if they’re going to vote for any “professional” politician.
I spent close to twenty years in politics, largely in Washington, D.C., and I loathe the “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” myth, the idea that all politicians are either up to something illegal or incompetent. In fact, most politicians are very good at voting what their constituents want. What almost no one wants to think about is that such lock-step voting is exactly what’s caused the current gridlock in Washington. Politicians who want to keep their jobs are well aware that voting against their constituency is likely to cost them their job. So they don’t. And no one can afford to compromise. And political views are polarized with enough strength on either side that not much can get done without compromise. The less that gets done, the angrier people are and the more likely they are to punish politicians who show the slightest hint of moderation. Yet with all the anger, a huge number of people react by becoming more extreme, totally failing to recognize that they – not the politicians – are the cause of the problem. In general, the politicians fall into one of two categories, those who are ambitious and unscrupulous in exploiting that extremism, or those who are true-believing extremists who glory in that extremism.
Along with this failure of recognition is that too many of these angry voters also fail to realize Donald Trump is in fact a consummate politician who has read the public mood far better than any of the “professional” Republican politicians and who is exploiting the wide-spread anger by appealing blatantly to those angry people and promising to do things that are either physically or financially impossible, unconstitutional or illegal, or just plain stupid – and the anger of those supporting Trump is so strong that his supporters either just don’t care, are truly ignorant of the impossibility of any of Trump’s promises being enacted, or believe that what Trump says is merely rhetoric to get him elected.
But then, being angry and venting makes so many of us feel better. The difficulty is that all that venting doesn’t solve the underlying problems, and, in this case, will only make them worse.