Perhaps you have seen those video compilations of people doing “crazy things“. It can be incredibly painful to watch. I have to confess that I did not watch that video link to the end. I just can’t bear it.
It’s amazing to watch what some human beings will do – or attempt to do. It’s just as amazing what human beings will watch or listen to. Some Muslim leaders believe the Republican debates have crossed a line such that they don’t want their children to watch or listen to them. “I don’t want my children to be subjected to racism and the vilification of their faith. I will not allow Donald Trump to tell my kids how they should feel about being Muslim,” says Linda Sarsour.
These leaders are getting push back. The conservative website – Townhall.com – stated in a December article: “The issue here is the fact that debates, and the American electoral process, are somehow psychologically damaging is absurd.” I respectfully disagree.
The words we use and the tone we take are powerful. And it is reported by liberal and conservative outlets alike that many of the candidates – in both parties – are tapping into the energies of an angry electorate (Townhall.com and NPR, to name a couple). But are politicians tapping into the energies of an angry electorate, or are they creating an angry electorate?
Last September the Washington Monthly posted an article which drew from another article written by Steven Holmes. Holmes reported that, prior to the presidential campaign ratcheting up, the nation was starting to feel pretty good about things.
In September of 2014, “50% of people responding to a CNN/ORC International poll said they believed that things are going either ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ in the country. It was the first time that at least half of the poll respondents felt that good about the state of the nation since April, 2013, and only the sixth time that measure, which is asked every few months, cracked the 50% mark since August, 2006.”
“It was not a fluke,” continues the article. “Two months later, 52% of people said things were going ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ in the country. And in March of this year, 53% of people polled said they felt that way.” But then, as the campaign gathered steam last summer, suddenly the national mood went south. The sense of well-being dropped by 6 points. With unemployment and gas prices continuing to fall, no terrorist attack, house prices on the rise and inflation very low, people like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders began telling us over and over again how bad things are. Mr. Trump is trying to convince us that we need to build walls and that pretty much everything is broken. At a news conference he said:
“We have deficits that are enormous. We have all bad trade agreements. We have an army that the head says is not prepared. We have a military that needs help, especially in these times. We have nuclear weapons that — you look at ’60 Minutes’ — that don’t even work; if anybody saw that report. The phones don’t work. They’re 40-years-old. They have wires that don’t work. Nothing works. Our country doesn’t work. Everybody wins except us.”
And Senator Sanders is telling us over and over again that the middle class is getting screwed. These are the extremes; but even if muted, the message we hear from other candidates repeats the same bad news in a tone only slightly less angry and abbrassive.
Senator Maro Rubio delivered his maiden floor speech on the senate floor on June 14, 2011. Quoting President John Kennedy, Senator Rubio said: ““We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than by choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’. That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”
President Kennedy was elected with the Cold War in full swing, with Viet Nam looming on the horizon, with Civil Rights marches happening amidst bombings and beatings. There was plenty to be afraid of and angry about; but when I compare his words and his tone to that of those who would be our president now, I can’t help but wonder … Are people in this country angry because we are constantly being told by those who want to lead us that we are? I think we are experiencing something more akin to “Campaign Rage” than popular angst. There is a lot that is right about our country. With regard to what is wrong, I don’t want – nor does the nation need – a leader who is able to convince us we are angry. We need a leader who can inspire us with vision, and then has the humility, management skill and political savvy to support that vision with policies that work.