by Tom Sullivan
Discontent is simmering out there.Fear. Fear is simmering out there. The middle class is afraid of getting poorer. The poor are afraid of getting killed and getting poorer. The rich are afraid the poor will kill them and the middle class will make them poorer. Discontent doesn't motivate, it irritates. Fear motivates.
Americans will not accept reality unless their noses have been rubbed in it. Reality is becoming too obvious to ignore. Democrats are finally losing hope, the first step to making changes.Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times' Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters: Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.
The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes.Nobody expected Obama to nationalize banks or get national health care (not insurance). Democrats said anyone who expected these actions were glitter-shitting purity ponies. They just thought the Republicans would be infinitely worse, which of course they would. If they are saying this they are lying to themselves and everyone else. They settled for the lesser of two evils and got exactly what they wanted. Some people are very upset with Obama's actions but most think he is doing a good job, especially considering the alternative. Now that people are poorer they wish Obama had acted but at the time they shrugged.
Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.
Almost nobody asked for "an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda" and those who did were mocked by anyone who wanted to win the presidency.
Karen Bryant from New Boston, N.H. gets down to the kitchen-table aspect of the problem: “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves.”The left voted for a liberal social agenda and a conservative economic agenda. They got what they voted for.
David Atkins looks at the issue from a different angle for Political Animal. Voters once called "Middle American Radicals" are sick of the middle class "being disadvantaged by a focus on both the rich and the poor." Atkins writes:
I particularly remember a series of focus groups I conducted among undecided, infrequent minority voters who were almost universally angry with food stamp and welfare programs because they worked full-time jobs and made just a little too much to qualify for them. They were angry that friends and neighbors of theirs were able to get assistance from the government, and they themselves were being “punished” for working. These were still liberal-leaning voters who were not going to vote for Republicans anytime soon because of their racism and because they wanted those welfare programs to continue to exist in case they themselves lost their job—but it didn’t change their angry perception that American government, in their eyes, seemed to advantage both the rich and the poor at the expense of the middle class.
And, predictably, the effect tends to be even greater among more comfortable white voters, who often have an unrealistically romantic idea of what being unemployed and on welfare is really like.If white voters need any primer on that, Rolling Stone provided an invaluable look at that in 2012. But they also have an unrealistically romantic idea of how politics works.
Atkins observes:One functional party.
It’s an artifact of America’s peculiar winner-take-all political system that we only have two functional parties.
Actually, the rich do what they want and the rest of us beg for scraps. The more money you have the more scraps you get because you have more money to give to the rich.Economically, this means that the conservative party works to align the middle class with the wealthy against the poor, while the liberal party works to align the poor and the middle class against the rich. But the middle class ideally wants to promote its own interests above all, and all too often it seems to them like no one is doing that.
Dissatisfaction with the political parties and the economic system form common ground. Sanders' disaffected masses and Trump's share many of the same complaints, just different subsets of scapegoats. The problem is, both groups of voters are still shopping for a new boss that won't be the same as the old boss.Yes, authoritarianism is a major problem but not the only one. Nobody has any power but the rich. That is why it is very unwise to vote for people who are economic conservatives.
Obama was supposed to fill that role for Democrats when he took office in 2009. But when Obama effectively told supporters, "I got this," they let him. They left the political battlefield and went back to trying to get by. The lesson still hasn't sunk in. Unless it does, they'll do the same again with whomever the Democrats elect.They had no power. There was nothing they could do. They are starting to realize this now.
Sanders says we need a political revolution. He's right. It's not just an electoral revolution. It has to be a revolution in thinking about politics.NO NO NO. That is what everyone says during every election. Political and electoral revolutions get you nowhere. Thinking gets you nowhere. We have enough deep thinkers. They get nothing done.
There has to be a revolution.
Conservatives know this. The tea parties, the Brooks Brothers riot, the gun obsessions: violence and shows of force to keep the undesirables in check. The toleration for mass murder to keep guns in conservative hands. The left's attempt to have a show of force, the Occupy movement, was quickly and fiercely squashed. Why do you think conservatives keep telling liberals over and over that they are weak and effeminate? Why the concern trolling over violent rhetoric?
There has to be a revolution. And there will be. The only question is how long it will be until liberals are desperate enough to physically fight for one. We're not there yet.
This is not new. American laborers physically fought in the past for economic freedom and they can do it again. The rich know this; that is why they don't want the poor to watch their children starve. Nothing will start a revolution faster. As long as we are not starving we will not revolt and the rich can keep us dissatisfied but quiescent for a very long time. We can have a dangerous, deadly but relatively peaceful revolution now or a very bloody and deadly one later.
By the time we are ready it might be too late.