Too Angry to Think?

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.

6 thoughts on “Too Angry to Think?”

  1. R. Hamilton. says:

    We need someone that will sell the idea that they want to take away everyone else’s special breaks and benefits, but to do that, they have to take away ours too.

    And we need an electorate that would rather do honest work than be given the fruits of stealing from others.

  2. Andy Finkel says:

    I believe tactics such as “Operation Redstate”, and other efforts to generate as many safe Republican districts as possible have greatly contributed to the gridlock. I agree with you that most politicians vote as their districts want…but the efforts to pick and choose the members of those districts can made a great difference. Such districts can make compromise very dangerous….much safer to play to the constituents if the politician wants to keep his/her job.

  3. Kyle R. says:

    I told this to someone just around Thanksgiving – that Donald Trump had tapped a flow of anger that wouldn’t be drying up anytime soon. Interesting point about our representatives enacting gridlock on account of what is, in fact, a good understanding of the electorate’s views. The self-interest you mention, with respect to keeping their jobs, is troubling though.

    Aren’t our public officials supposed to be doing more than giving us what we ask for? Isn’t that part of the whole representative system, that our officials exercise discernment and seek to promote the actual needs of the public, not just the list of demands a district presents? Maybe this is not something widely enough understood by our electorate to be potent in congress?

    1. I’ve always felt that elected officials should look out for the greater common good, but the problem is twofold. First, there’s a polarization about what that greater good is. Second, anyone who compromises between his/her district’s version of the common good and the alternative version loses their seat.

      1. Daze says:

        So maybe there is a visible/plausible path for getting to the Hunger Games scenario after all. Certainly, a candidate who thinks that it might be a good idea to claim an island in the South China Sea for the USA at the same time as closing the bases in Japan and Korea could morph into President Snow fairly easily.

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