Playing Right Into The Anger

I sat down the other day to try and parse out the attraction of the Donald Trump candidacy, one which most people initially dismissed as a gimmick but that is now front and center in our presidential campaign.

As I started to write, something sounded familiar — in fact, just like something I published five years ago in a commentary entitled “Why We’re (Really) Angry.”

What I wrote back in 2010 seems prescient today:

It seems to me that what is really driving our dizzy rage is the sense that we’ve been had: by our political leaders, our financial wizards, and our own belief that hard work and honesty are inevitably rewarded in both the marketplace and our daily lives. Too many of us seem to feel like yokels who have had their pockets picked at the carnival; we were so busy watching the colorful wheel of fortune spin and listening to the beguiling call of the barker we somehow failed to notice that stealthy hand stealing both our wallets and — in too many cases — our futures. 

Does this sound about right?

Add to this another round of economic turmoil, a world that seems dangerously out of control, and a worldwide refugee crisis that has prompted both reasonable fears and unreasonable xenophobia; it is suddenly easier to understand why an outsider candidate who openly mocks the status quo has a lot of electoral juice.

Moreover, the efforts of the political, educational and entertainment elites to denigrate and marginalize Donald Trump only plays right into the anger of his core constituency, those who themselves feel denigrated and marginalized. I cannot discern any policy proposal of Mr. Trump that will improve the lives of those who feel they’ve been dumped on the roadside, but many obviously feel like Trump’s candidacy gives them a power they have lost, and many of his supporters are anxious to extend their middle fingers to those in charge and use those rude digits to press down the lever in a voting booth.

Whether you see this as democracy at work or a dose of demagoguery in American politics, at this point only the most foolhardy would dismiss Trump’s political appeal.

Taking into consideration the extraordinary number of local, state and federal elective offices that have flipped over to the Republican Party during the Obama years, it could be very possible that we are heading for a significant realignment in the next election. This just doesn’t seem like a moment in time when voters are interested in a halfway approach to anything, so I suspect November 2016 is going to usher in a sharp turn away from business as usual.

Those who take office in January 2017 will likely be handed a mandate for change that will be similar to that handed to FDR in 1932; depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, this shift will be either exhilarating or terrifying, but we can be certain that a significant shake-up will surely follow.

Also published in The News-Gazette ( February 21, 2016

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