“Nothing ventured; nothing gained” is perhaps the most clichéd of all personal advice. Whether it involves life or love, the notion that some level of risk is necessary is baked into our brainsfrom birth. Our DNA demands that we climb that tree, jump from that height, and race to that finish line.
It is also the case that a good deal of the work of government today involves reining in our specie’s rambunctiousness. What we can eat, what we can drink, what we can smoke, what we can drive, what we can build, and what we can say is often circumscribed by a vast administrative state that finds our free spirits to be dangerous, destructive, or disturbing—and wants to rein us in for both our own good and (we presume) for the good of others.
The net result has been an astonishing degree of conformity in a great many human endeavors. Most new automobiles today look very much alike. The architecture around us is increasingly born of banal groupthink. Much of our current movie and television entertainment shares a dreary sameness—or is a sequel of a sequel. Today’s popular music is now processed and auto–tuned into dull homogeneity. Thankfully, we still enjoy a rich and varied culinary heritage, but the food scolds are still hard at work trying to convince us to put down our steak knives and subsist on boiled turnips.
Perhaps we are just weary from trying to swim against the tide, but our pioneer verve sometimes seems in short supply today. We now stay put to a degree the restlessly roaming Americans of a bygone age would have found astounding; we now decide to load a truck and move to a different town or city less often than any generation since the end of World War II. We drive less, we go out less, and we mingle less than we once did—our personal lives many times begin and end with our cell phones. Perhaps this is all an understandable blowback of many decades of broken homes, a changing economy, and a contemporary elite culture that insists we are all doomed no matter what we do, but there seem to be a lot of Americans today who are just looking for a comfortable chair, a bowl of popcorn, and a good show to watch on their ginormous flat screen televisions—nesting is the new normal.
Although we still have our fair share hang gliders and cave divers, it could be reasonably argued that, taken as a whole, our nation is both sedate and sedated. Although we can still be moved to type out a peevish posts on social media and thrill in occasionally protesting that which we find unjust, our emotions tend to flare and fade with astonishing speed. Our brief spasms of outrage are typically quite situational, and only the truly committed few are in any battle for the long term.
The resulting fragmentation of our politics and culture is antithetical to creating enduring coalitions, so we see Obama voters readily transform into Trump voters because short term rage begets short term thinking and short term commitment. Today’s Trump voter could easily be tomorrow’s Bernie Sanders voter, and the 2020 Presidential election outcome will be driven entirely by self-interest and unfocused anger at a “system” we deem unfair and corrupt.
American voters are, more and more, a conundrum wrapped up in a contradiction: Even as we crave peace and calm in our personal and political lives, our broad dissatisfaction with our government has turned us into riverboat gamblers when it comes to national elections, which turns all Presidential election predictions based on historical trends onto their heads.
Although we still tend to choose more moderate candidates when voting in local and state elections, we were amazingly willing to roll the dice on a pair of political neophytes in Obama and Trump—each of whom was perceived as a reformer or disruptor—and we might very well elect an avowed socialist this next time around. Our voting decisions for President are predictably unpredictable these days, and this is not likely to change any time soon.
The current tumult in our nation’s politics is, therefore, weirdly bifurcated—and wildly at odds with itself. Donald Trump was lifted into office by an angry revolutionary spirit, but what the revolutionaries actually want is the comfort and safety they feel has been unjustly taken away from them by misguided experiments in globalism and governmental oversight that conspired to shift our jobs overseas, rob us of our national sovereignty, and interfere with our personal choices.
Although a few want to burn down the our nation’s capital—and some others might consider doing so if it drove away the snakes and charlatans that too often run and ruin our lives—today’s typical American firebrand is more interested in maintaining and strengthening those parts of our current system they perceive as essential to their safety and security while simultaneouslyinsisting they be left alone by busybody bureaucrats. The “revolutionaries” are now wearing mom jeans, buying Tempur-Pedic pillows, monitoring their blood pressure, and driving minivans to their children’s soccer games—go figure.
However, this does not mean the revolution lacks all passion or purpose. The waste of tax dollars, the passage of onerous regulations, the imposition of pie-in-the-sky social engineering—and, in particular, the existence of corrupt and incompetent officials, contractors, appointees, and their minions—are what sets the blood of Americans to a brisk and vengeful boil. This is the animating force that drives so much rage among American voters today, a plain fact which seems to escape the notice of the entrenched political class that still somehow thinks they are doing a fantastic job.
The biggest disappointment many felt with the presidency of Barack Obama was that he cozied up to the swampiest aspects of The Swamp in D.C., abandoning needed governmental reforms that many had expected him to support. To this point even those who find President Trump abrasive and unnecessarily combative still perceive him as the enemy of Washington’s power brokers and insiders—which provides him with a reliable reservoir of support that baffles his implacable political opponents. As long as Donald Trump continues to annoy all the right people, focus on the needs of America first, and punch his political opponents in the nose each day, his tenure in The White House will likely continue.
In addition, if Democrats continue their mad gallop to the far left, press on with yet more pointless political stunts like the impeachment circus now coming to its crashing conclusion, and persist in acting like over-caffeinated adolescents when sober thought is required, they will be both assuring President Trump’s re-election and making life more difficult for state and local candidates who are desperately trying to present themselves as reasonable moderates to voters.
It might already be impossible for Democrats to change gears quickly enough to avoid an electoral calamity come November, but it might be still worth downshifting to a less shrill tone in order to avoid looking like a bunch of hopeless loonies during the remainder of 2020—and beyond.