The Politics of Selfishness: How Pundits and Politicians Created The Angry Voter
Much has been made of the current level of anxiety in the electorate. This campaign season has developed a theme and that theme is Anger, or at least that is what we are all being told. I would argue that this feeling that people claim is anger is really just selfishness. People keep saying that Donald Trump tapped into an anger that many in the country are feeling. Is it possible that this is Faux Anger; manufactured anger; a feeling implanted through the power of suggestion and repetition? How is there an anger so strong today as to be palpable yet it wasn’t even talked about 9 months ago? Less than a year ago the political discussion was about a Hillary Clinton vs Jeb Bush Presidential Election and no one was discussing an angry electorate that was going to alter the election and possibly the Republican and Democratic Parties? How could this feeling of anger that currently is in the forefront of the national consciousness have been missed by everyone except for one person, Donald Trump? How is he the only insightful person to run for the GOP nomination to understand this anger? I would submit that this feeling is less about anger and more about selfishness. Have we become so intolerant that we are angry at our fellow citizens because they have a different view? Anger is simply the term being used because it sounds better and it is much more marketable than saying we are selfish.
By Donald Trump’s own admission, many people who are voting for him have never voted for a Republican and in some instances, this is there first time voting at all. Donald Trump proudly states that he is growing the Republican Party. If a person has never voted before or if they voted for the opposition Party in the past, shouldn’t this anger be directed inward? Their frustration in the current state of the country should be at themselves for not participating prior or voting for the people currently in power. Who else should they be blaming, and if they never voted before some would argue; do they even have a right to complain about the political direction of the country if they continually sat out previous elections? To blame others when you have not been engaged to this point sounds and is selfish.
“Anger would mean you would want to limit the behavior regardless, but selfishness is that you are just annoyed that you are not the one enjoying the power.”
In 2008 the nation voted in a Democratic President along with a Democratic controlled Senate and House of Representatives. Whether you agree with the results or not of this election, the mandate was pretty clear and if the Democrats have control of the Executive and Legislative Branches; policies akin to the Democratic Party would soon be implemented. This is the basis of a free and democratic society, elections and the consequences thereof. Fast Forward to Healthcare Reform; tensions are running high and due to the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy and perhaps a little buyer’s remorse on the part of the electorate, Massachusetts’ voters filled Senator Kennedy’s seat with Republican Scott Brown. Following Scott Brown’s win Senator Reid pulls a little procedural magic and the Affordable Care Act is past, undermining what Republicans thought would give them leverage in this debate. Okay, I understand people being annoyed with the maneuver, but there was nothing in the Senate Rules or in the law that prohibited this procedural move. Furthermore, if this political gamesmanship created such anger, how was this anger directed? Was the anger directed at the procedure or that one Political Party outplayed another Political Party? It was the latter because when the subsequent, so called referendum Congressional elections took place, did anyone run on a platform that they were going to pass rules to limit this and possibly other procedural parlor tricks from being used? Of course not, because now that you saw how it could be used, no one really wanted to close the loophole? As a matter of fact, there were many that wanted to see the repeal of the Affordable Care Act by using the same procedural move that got it past in the first place.
The same Faux Anger exists when it comes to Executive Orders instituted by a President. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, Executive Orders seem to be scrutinized by the other side for their blatant disregard of the process. However, for all those that critique the use of Executive Orders, do we really hear many people talk about how to reign in their use, especially when they are the Party in power? Do we insist that our Presidential candidates seek a change through more stringent rules surrounding Executive Orders? No, because this is the Politics of Selfishness not Anger. Anger would mean you would want to limit the behavior regardless, but selfishness is that you are just annoyed that you are not the one enjoying the power. So to say you are angry would be that you angry at the legal authority given to the Executive and Legislative bodies. This is Faux Anger because people are not looking at changing the process, just who can profit from it. If the roles were reversed, would these same people still be angry at the use of these procedures? The answer is a resounding and selfish, NO!
“The Politics of Selfishness is evident when you care more about hanging onto an engineered sentiment of anger than about the truthfulness of a candidate’s words and actions.”
If there is true anger that exists it is being inflated and misdirected. The anger that is being referred to in media and campaign events is largely factory-made. It is overly broad and it is blind. The common rant is that people are angry at the establishment or corporations or trade deals. These seem like very broad categories that encapsulate anything and everything without looking more closely into the facts. Even when the truth is revealed, the voters are told to ignore it and amazingly, many people do because it undermines what we are told we should be feeling. This Faux Anger is viewed as a power, but it will lead to an empty, unfulfilling and disappointing end. When we systematically and continually ignore the truth of a candidate’s statements, overlooking a candidate’s unwillingness to provide details or just disregarding the erroneous financials of a candidate’s plan, it is a dangerous path to start hewing, but that path is being cut far and wide. The Politics of Selfishness is evident when you care more about hanging onto an engineered sentiment of anger than about the truthfulness of a candidate’s words and actions. The old adage of Seeing is Believing seems to not apply to this election. We are now telling future politicians, just tells us what we want to hear because we are too selfish to care about truth.
Compromise is to be avoided at all costs. This by far is the biggest Faux Anger construct and it is here that the talk show pundits truly lead people astray and has contributed greatly to our current election cycle. People complain constantly that Washington doesn’t work. They are tired of the Gridlock in D.C., however, should one member of a Political Party seek to complete major legislation with a member or members of the opposite Political Party, the talking heads go crazy and they ramp up the anger and before you know it, our Representatives and Senators do not seek compromise. The American electorate is like a toddler at dinner time — they ask for one thing and when you put that one thing on the table, the toddler pushes the dish away. It is the same with voters and our elected officials — “Get Something Done, but Don’t Compromise on Anything!!!” We ask for something and when they give it to us, we push it away. So to the elected official they hold the line for fear of losing their seat. This is one area you have to give credit to Senator Marco Rubio. In running for President, he is not seeking reelection to the Senate; and when asked should he lose, his response was, “then I will be a private citizen.” This a very healthy attitude, but one that is lost because being a member of Congress creates a feeling similar to that of prisoners, legislators become institutionalized. Perhaps, Congress needs to take a page out of the NFL and develop a “Life After Congress” program. I digress and the issue still remains, that our elected officials are frozen to seek compromise because the Politics of Selfishness masquerades as Anger. True anger on the part of the electorate would want solve problems, but today this is arduous because our elected officials are not seeking nor are encouraged to seek common ground. And here is the real kicker, many in the media and in politics talk about the greatness of our Founding Fathers, which is of course true; but their greatness is solidified in our history because of their ability to resolve differences, not because they stuck to their ideologies.
“Anger used to be viewed in terms of a temporary state of mind, but today anger is viewed as a virtue.”
So what is the big deal with all this Faux Anger and hasn’t Selfishness always been a part of politics? Anger used to be viewed in terms of a temporary state of mind, but today anger is viewed as a virtue. I can’t recall ever being taught that the best time to make a decision is when you are angry, but that is what we are being told and what is being promoted. Anger is being seen as a sign of strength; which is sad. And here is where the real danger with Faux Anger is no longer an academic exercise because the result could end in Real Hate. Hate as defined by Merriam-Webster is “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or a sense of injury.” Voters are being motivated by fear, anger and this sense that they have been wronged without taking into account how justified is that fear, who or what they are truly angry at and who is actually responsible for their sense of injury?
As for selfishness, it was once a trait to be chided and now it seems to have elevated as valuable asset of our culture, but that is only because we are not keeping this trait hidden in the shadows. Selfishness is exhibited as righteous anger instead of what it really is. For those who believe that this has always been the foundation of American politics, consider that in the 20th Century our leaders attempted to elevate the public discourse. Those seeking elective office, especially the Presidency, would not structure their public addresses and written word to appeal to the dark recesses of our mind, but would rather seek to motivate us through the goodness of our hearts. We used to be encouraged by our leaders, educators and religious to be selfless and not selfish.
Some will say that I have overstated my concerns about the Faux Anger and the Politics of Selfishness, but if I were to ruminate on leaders of the past, they sought out expressions and words that would make us want to grow both personally and as a nation; words that our minds would automatically reflect on upon hearing them. Speeches with such inspiration as, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” and “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…” and “a shining city upon a hill.” Now, just 16 years into the 21st Century a crowd of people cheer and applaud as they are told from a leading Presidential candidate to “…punch him in the face.”
I want to stress I am not discounting individuals that are frustrated with the current state of employment or with healthcare or with the education system. However before we exalt Anger from an emotion that should be controlled and approach carefully to one that needs to be continually stoked and revered, I ask that you truly reflect on why are you angry? Is the anger genuine or is it simply a suggestive technique used by pundits and politicians for their own gain. If we do not control this aspect it will have consequences for us and for the generations to follow.