Why are so many of us so damn angry?
Signs of fury are everywhere. The national mood has darkened and it’s doing nothing to improve our democracy.
From chaotic scenes last weekend in Las Vegas when Bernie Sanders’ supporters threw a hissy fit at the Nevada’s Democratic Convention, to Donald Trump’s string of outrageous insults, it seems perfectly acceptable to claim that those who we disagree with are evil.
Yet these eruptions come at a time of modest improvement in many aspects of American life. President Obama has been a disappointment, even to many supporters, but his approval rating – 51% says Gallup – is pretty decent for a President close to the end of his second term.
The jobs and housing markets are far from great, but they’re in much better shape today than when Obama first took office after the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years.
The Affordable Care Act, while flawed, has not been the utter disaster claimed by many critics. Many more people are signing up and the U.S. uninsured rate is at a record low.
The “flood” of Mexicans surging across our southern border is a myth. Since 2009, more Mexicans left the U.S. than entered the country.
Terrorism is always a threat, but the worst attack on U.S. soil happened nearly 15 years ago.
And he many of us are gripped by a deep sense of malaise and insecurity. More than 7 in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country. Cultural divisions, income inequality and a decline in living standards for non-college educated Americans threaten to pull is further apart.
All are reasons why Trump and Sanders have attracted huge crowds and surprising levels of support. But their policy prescriptions are simplistic. We have very little idea of what they would do, if elected.
Who would pay for Sanders’s sweeping pledges of free health care and college education? How would Trump deal with China, The Middle East, immigration, job creation or the details of tax policy?
After his recent meeting with Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Going forward, we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds.” Too bad that hasn’t happened already.
Perhaps, Yuval Levin is right. In his new book, “The Fractured Republic,” he argues that our politics have been paralyzed by nostalgia for the 1950’s and 60’s. Liberals hanker for a time of greater income equality, before “the rise of the rest” meant that our workers had to compete in the resurgent global marketplace. The right is nostalgic for cultural cohesion and “traditional values”.
But those days of post-World War 2 U.S. dominance will not return. Our politics must address the technological and global challenges of today, instead of wallowing in the past. We need to move beyond the primal screams of anger and work together, across party lines for a better future.