Sunday, March 6, 2016 - DrSunshine.org - by Dr. Artemis Pinot, a friend of Dr Sunshine
Anger Distorts Republican Politics: Origins, Manifestations, Asymmetry, What to Do?
Anger is the dominant feature of the far-right wing of the Republican Party. It skews what otherwise sensible conservatives think and believe, and contributes to poll results that do not reflect any reality. What’s going on deserves exploration.
Where does this anger come from?
Change, and the fear of it. No one can ever live in the world into which he or she was born, because everything always changes. The anger is not limited to white males, but they populate a lot of that space (I write this as an old white man). The roots of the Angries are easy to parse: Age, Culture, Economics, Science, Religion, and Race.
* Older Angries used to be young and strong, now many are old and feeble. People used to listen respectfully to what they said, but now they are patronized or ignored. Being kicked to the curb is a solid foundation for anger.
* The country used to be comfortably homogeneous, but it’s become much more diverse. People from non-dominant classes have gained more legal protections and stature. Culture is changing nationally in ways undesirable to them and much too quickly for them to absorb. The heteromale-dominant, heterofemale-submissive sexual model has been joined by a variety of widely accepted alternatives, to their horror.
* Many are used to a world in which long-term work for a single employer was rewarded with success (partly owing to collective bargaining by unions), but economic inequality has robbed them and their kids of that, and their blame is not yet correctly focused on their own political leaders. Even basic economics (spend to support people in times of recession, recoup that in taxes when times are good) is too difficult for them to understand within their worldview.
* Advancing scientific knowledge has, for quite a while, been assaulting what many Angries think they know: Evolution never happened; Climate change is a hoax; Sexual orientation is a choice; Renewable energy doesn’t work. It’s all too frustrating to be consistently wrong, so they’re opposed to all of science.
In a related vein, political leaders and talking heads have fed them thoroughly discredited “facts” about societal subjects: Capital punishment deters crime; Voter and welfare fraud are widespread; Abortion and teen birth rates are increasing; Economic austerity fosters growth; ACA is a failure; The US budget should work like a household; “Trickle-down” economics works; Obama is a Kenyan; Planned Parenthood sells body parts. More confusion results.
* Religion also plays a role in the views of Angries, while religious affiliation is waning in the US. Few Angries agree with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but some more line up with the genocide-promoting Swanson, and even more are allied with other repressive groups mentioned in the article describing him (including some elected Republicans). Aggressive evangelical Christian proselytizing throughout the US military has resulted in the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to protect soldiers from coercion and discrimination.
The inordinate influence of religion results in notions that damage the Angries’ credibility because they are so easily refuted by science and other scholarship: The earth is 6,000 years old; The US Founding Fathers were Christians; Creationism is an alternative scientific theory to evolution; Christianity is superior to other religions; Muslims are mostly out to kill others.
* Many Angries are racists, and they hate The Black Man in The White House. “Dog whistle” signaling by politicians from George Wallace (states’ rights) through Ronald Reagan (welfare queens) to today (birthers) has reassured them. A cop who beat or killed a black man used to be an automatic hero. They have no sympathy for young Hispanics—neither “Dreamers” nor US citizens born here—whose uncertain family status is not their fault. The inevitability that, by about 2045, white non-Hispanic Americans will cease to be a US majority spooks them to irrationality.
How does this anger manifest itself?
Beginning with Nixon’s 1968 “Southern Strategy,” the Republican Party gave lip service to this segment of the population in exchange for their votes, and then ignored their gripes once elections were over. But the Angries are not settling for that anymore, and have demanded attention offering alternate primary candidates to incumbent Republicans who don’t cater to them sufficiently. They have had some successes, so many politicians in the GOP are sprinting right as fast as they can, shedding mainstream voters as they go. Frankenstein has escaped the castle.
After losing the 2012 presidential election, the GOP launched the “Growth and Opportunity Project” to understand what went wrong. The report, published in March, 2014 identified ways for the party to regain its connection to mainstream Republican, Independent, and minority voters. It has been ignored ever since.
In this election cycle, Republican presidential hopefuls are happy to represent the Angries in exchange for their campaign contributions and poll responses. Their pandering falsehoods have been tracked. With a large majority of preference poll votes, these candidates distort the polling overall, and so the results are unreliable.
Don’t the Democrats have their own Angries?
No, except for a few inconsequential loons. In 2012, Thomas Mann of the progressive Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute co-authored “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. Both authors are fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They argue that Republicans and Democrats have become more adversarial than ever, but they blame the GOP for moving right much farther than the Democrats have moved left. Their accounts of the deliberate campaigns of deception from 1978 forward are still seen in current events today.
The Democrats’ “Sanders-Warren wing” is concerned with substantive, mainstream issues: consumer protection, minimum wage, equal pay for women, affordable college education, background checks for gun purchases. Not even the self-professed socialist Sanders is promoting nationalizing industries or financial institutions.
What to do?
Now that Super Tuesday is past, both parties have, with high probability, chosen their presidential candidates. While they are very different from each other, the parties share two goals. First, they need to educate the electorate. Too many US voters enter the booth undecided, and afterward cannot remember for whom they voted. The only antidote is accurate, verifiable information about candidates’ positions in the hands of voters. Second, they need to get out the vote. Encourage supporters and help them to actually go to the polls.
What’s a Democrat to do?
In all likelihood Secretary Clinton will clinch the nomination. On the upside, she has the most governmental experience of any candidate in either party. On the downside, experience is, mysteriously, less esteemed in 2016 than ever before. She carries some baggage from the past, partly self-inflicted (from a long time in public life) and partly invented by the GOP. The idealistic campaign of Senator Sanders has enriched discussions, and has also brought many young people into the political milieu.
It is important for Democrats to unite around their candidate or risk turning what is very likely to be a victorious campaign into a losing one.
What’s a Republican to do?
Republicans have a different set of problems. Mr. Trump, the presumed nominee, has no public experience at all, and it shows in his unrealistic, contradictory, and often insulting or dangerous pronouncements. He has the highest disapproval percentage among all candidates in either party. His candidacy will repel many Independent voters, most women, and almost all members of minority groups. Growing numbers of elected Republicans have stated publicly that they will not vote for him. Uniting around a candidate is unlikely, so a GOP presidency in 2017 seems out of reach at this point.
Republicans need to assess what they want from the 2016 elections. Retaining Senate control is possible, but is far from a sure thing, and other down-slate contests may be affected badly for them as well. The Senate must finally, after 2014 promises, operate on “regular order” (e.g., evaluate the president’s supreme court nominee) or be slammed by Democrats in the general elections. At the same time, keeping the Angries on board is absolutely required--a third-party candidacy, by either Mr. Trump or a “centrist” Republican, would be disastrous. Especially after recent events, they have a lot of work to do, and a steep hill to climb.
What’s an Independent to do?
Study the candidates at all levels carefully, and decide which are best for the future of the country. More than ever, Independents have the presidential election outcome, and a lot more, in their hands in 2016.
© 2016 Dr. Artemis Pinot. All rights reserved.