01 February 2016
Where Does Your Anger Go?
A common theme among prospective voters in this year's presidential primary season is that the supporters of Donald Trump, Ted Cruze and Barney Sanders are angry persons. Most often, these supporters feel betrayed by their in-office representatives, senators and the president (for whom they may not have voted). Social and economic conservatives are angry that government spending seems to go on without any real attention paid to the desires of the religious right, and those who want to shrink the size of government and reduce the government's interference with their personal and business decisions. Social liberals and economic conservatives are angry because the Republican Congress continues to attack Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, yet also feel that the government spending is out of control and has been since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars overtook our foreign military engagements.
Progressive voters are angry because there were no criminal charges brought against the Wall Street hedge fund managers and giant bank executives for the Great Recession they caused. "Too big to fail"
has become the mantra of those targeting big banking institutions and insurers who failed to manage their investment risks sufficiently to prevent the nation-wide mortgage crisis and subsequent credit crisis of the Middle Class.
Each political party has a new force coming into the presidential election season that is populist at its base and fueled by the anger of those who feel they have been disenfranchised politically and financially. The makeup of this base comes from persons who have lost their social standing as part of the Middle Class and those persons who aspire to the American Dream from lower income classes.
One policy target for expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo is immigration. Donald Trump said he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border and get Mexico to pay for it. He then characterized the illegal Mexican immigrants as rapists and opportunists to get anchor-babies with US citizenship. The anti-immigrant stance has since been extended to Muslims, including American citizens who are muslims. Clearly, this racist, chauvinistic and religiously prejudiced policy position by Mr. Trump feeds into a sense that immigrants have taken away jobs from American citizens and are trying to establish an anti-Christian country in the US. His campaign rallies draw thousands. He offers no details, except that he would expel all of the estimated 11-million undocumented immigrants to their countries of origin "in a very humane way." How he would accomplish this way of tears remains unclear, except that he would begin with all incarcerated persons.
Observing the popularity of Mr. Trump's immigration policy, all of the other Republican candidates have taken strong positions demanding a wall on the border and some espouse deportation extremes as well. Trump even called for the State Department to suspend all visa privileges for Muslims --both foreign and US citizens-- seeking entry or re-entry into the US following the Paris terrorist massacre last Fall. We have seen such demonization of races before in this country and in Europe during the last century. The most poignant example was Hitler's extreme anti-Semitism that began in Germany to remove all traces of Jewish life from Europe as a means of purifying the culture. Hitler was fond of large, spectacular rallies of the Nazi and other sympathisers during which he would speak his venumous ideas. After being defeated in World War I, Germany was experiencing runaway inflation and political instability that left many Germans ripe for a charasmatic, authoritarian leader who promised to make Germany great again. Are we seeing a similar phenomenon in Donald Trump 90 years later? As the Greatest Generation dies off, are there sufficient number of thinking people in the US who recall the social and economic forces that resulted in World War II?
What is the angry American supposed to do with his or her anger today? Is voting sufficient? There doesn't appear to be any compromise in the policy statements being made by the Republican candidates this year. Senator Bernie Sanders draws large crowds with his progressive, democratic socialist economic policy war against Wall Street. Running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, he calls for "an economic revolution" in this country. His following includes many disillusioned Progressive democrats, young people who are just beginning to make their political statements in their communities, and many liberals who want to punish Wall Street executives for the Great Recession of 2008-2010.
The anger expressed by Sanders' followers is different from Trump's followers. The anger of Sanders' followers is at its base populist, with feelings of disenfranchisement due to the lack of economic growth in their futures and real animosity toward the Republican Congress' efforts to obstruct any and all policies of the Obama Administration. Further, there is real anger against Republicans for failing to acknowledge the results of the Bush-Cheney Administration's leading America into an unnecessary and very costly war in Iraq and the concomitant hiding of the war's cost from the federal budget discipline. Those costs gave President Obama a deficit of $1.7 trillion at the beginning of his presidency. In addition, the Republicans' antipathy toward financial regulation is seen by Progressives as the fault that created the Great Recession.
The inability of any constructive Congressional-Presidental discourse during the entire Obama presidency remains at the heart of the anger one sees in Bernie Sanders' followers. Since Sanders is the underdog in the minds of most Democratic Party potential voters, there is worry in the Hillary Clinton camp that her more centrist policies may not be sufficient to attract Sanders' followers to her campaign. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton's bona fides as a senator, social liberal policy advocate for women, and as a Secretary of State offer a hopeful, not angry base to the Party.
The question is: can Hillary get more done with a Republican Congress than Bernie can? More and more people are concluding that she can. Instead of sowing gloom and doom, Hillary at least represents hope for some positive change in the coming years.