As voters sit in front of the TVs, phones, and tablets to watch the drama unfold this election cycle, the question that continually pops up, is “Why?” Why are voters so angry, and so willing to vent that anger on one another?
Near-riots at political rallies, name-calling and fighting on social media, party debates that are little more than playground fights with bullies, news channels taking obvious sides and looking for ratings by encouraging on-air squabbles, and more define the 2016 presidential election.
Forget civility, decorum, and manners; it’s been replaced with disgust of every imaginable flavor, starting with some of the candidates themselves. We’re not talking about the typical family or work squabbles that occur every four years as disagreements about political allegiances.
No, we’re talking about wholesale nastiness that stems from a lot of unhappy and disenfranchised voters, people who feel that the American dream is no longer possible for them or their children, and they are looking for someone to blame.
And many of our candidates are more than happy to guide the voters’ fingers of blame. Muslims, Mexicans, the one-percenters, the poor, the lazy, the liberals, the conservatives, Wall Street, ISIS, the Middle East, China, the Fed, Janet Yellen, Alan Greenspan, Hillary, Obama, Bernie, Donald, Ted, Marco, etc.
There is seemingly no shortage of things and people to blame for the circumstances in which some of us find ourselves. But what has taken a lot of us by surprise this election cycle is the bare-knuckles, brawling, obscene, and vulgar style of disagreement.
If you could distill most of this country’s anger into separate categories, you would have four:
Income and wealth inequality is the greatest ever in the history of the United States, and is affecting the velocity of money and the economy to the detriment of a growing number of middle and working class Americans.
High school graduates are being left further and further behind. When you consider that the suicide rate for those without even a high school diploma has more than doubled since 1995, you begin to understand the concern and anger this subgroup has.
Wages, measured against inflation, have remained stagnant for most of us since 1995, with one notable exception – the top 5% of wage earners.
The number of white men in the job force is shrinking rapidly, which explains in part why Trump is so popular. His core group of supporters seems to be white men earning less than $50,000, without a college degree.
And the political rhetoric this time around is particularly focused, and resonates well with many voters. Trump’s declaration that America is no longer great is met with agreement by many of his supporters, as do those who side with Sanders’ assertion that the middle class is collapsing because of Wall Street rigging the system against them.
To be honest, there is probably a kernel of truth to both of their claims, but even so, there is a growing belief among some that the revolt that has been fomenting for years is here, that more and more Americans are simply fed up with the status quo.
And like all revolts, no matter what the trigger, once all that pent-up frustration and anger is unleashed, it will not be contained until the wrongs have been righted.
And until that time, expect more and more, increasingly vitriolic attacks by both candidates and supporters alike, at this summer’s conventions AND the polls in November.
And in the final analysis, one of the greatest things about our Constitution is our First Amendment right of free speech; America, for better or for worse, airs her dirty laundry in public for all to see.
And there is a lot to air this time around.