You might say that I’m an idealistic romantic, tempered by time and experience into a somewhat cynical pragmatist, who’s been caught more times than I can count between extremists on both sides who insist that their view is the only “true” one, and that their interpretation of events and facts is the only accurate one. I’ve also self-classified myself as a moderate, dangerous as that has become in a culture that has become more and more self-oriented and more and more polarized. Why do I say dangerous? Because attempting to point out that there are truths and lies on both sides can subject one to attacks from the true believers on each side. And, unhappily, there are “sides,” whether they’re called that or not, because people do have differing beliefs, based on their environment and their heritage, and, yes, even their genetics. I’ve seen this in my own extended family where, at times, siblings of the same parents have very different views of fundamental issues.
I’ve also observed that today there are fewer and fewer people who want to steer a middle course, and more and more who believe that moderation, or an understanding that one can’t remedy evils just with the enactment of a law or a proclamation, is a sin of the first order and who believe that a simple and extreme “solution” is the answer, ignoring the fact that virtually all such extreme solutions can’t be implemented, either practically or legally.
Both the extreme “Trumpists” and the extreme “Sandernistas” also seem to have the feeling that, if they don’t get all of what they want immediately, the system is rigged. And, in a way, they’re right. The Founding Fathers designed our government so that immediate and radical change in government was close to impossible. That doesn’t mean change can’t occur; it just means that you have to work at it for much longer. But some of these people turn their backs on what has been accomplished because they didn’t get everything they wanted immediately, which is another expression of the current situation, because not only is the electorate polarized, but the extremes on both ends want their polarized goals and ideology implemented instantly.
The current presidential election highlights this cultural disaster, because surveys indicate that the factor motivating most voters is not support FOR a candidate, but opposition to that candidate’s opponent. And how did this all come about?
In a single word – dissatisfaction.
Despite the fact that the United States and a number of other industrialized nations enjoy historically the highest standard of living overall, and certainly the best level of health, all too many people are unhappy. The have-nots are unhappy because they feel that too much of the recent economic gains go to the top one tenth of one percent, a feeling not unjustified by the fact that over eighty percent of American families have seen either flat or falling incomes (in real dollars) over the last ten years and that in the recovery since 2008, 85% of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. Add to that the fact that somewhere between sixty and eighty percent (depending on the study) of new jobs have wages that pay less than $17.00 per hour, and roughly half pay below $13.50 [which amounts to annual wages barely above the poverty line for a family of four.
Much of the middle class and former middle class is unhappy, simply because, at best, their incomes have remained flat while costs of everything, especially education and medical care, have climbed.
Those who make more aren’t exactly happy either, because they’re working longer hours for minimal increases in income, at a time when U.S. non-hourly employees and professionals already work the longest hours in the world.
Only the top one tenth of one percent are doing really well income-wise, and they’re spending billions on the elections because there’s really only one place that there’s a large pool of taxable income necessary to cut the federal deficit or to pay for new programs – and that’s in their bank accounts and securities portfolios.
And that’s just the income dissatisfaction, without getting into education, the struggle over environmental issues, crumbling infrastructure, foreign trade, and a host of other problems.
But the bottom line is, no matter which side you’re on, or even if you have no side, problems that have been building for a generation can’t be solved as the result of one election, or simple one-time solutions, particularly if no one wants to recognize the problems that others have.