In 2008, Barack Obama stood in front of the country and promised quite a lot after campaigning on “hope and change.”
“Care for the sick.”
“Jobs for the jobless.”
“The rise of the oceans (begin) to slow.”
“The planet (will begin) to heal.”
Eight years later, Obamacare is an unmitigated financial disaster forced down the throats of the American middle class. The labor participation rate in the jobs market is still poor. The Obama administration scolds about “climate change,” and yet Obama’s EPA walks away scot-free from responsibility after severely damaging an entire river’s ecosystem.
And eight years later, the American electorate no longer trusts the government, the media, or each other.
CBS commissioned pollster Frank Luntz to run a focus group on the mood of the electorate. It was not pretty.
Frank Luntz: I want to listen to them. I want to ask them questions, and then sit back, and let it all roll over me. And the problem is people become so angry. And they become so vicious.
Steve Kroft: This is new? You’ve been doing this a long time.
Frank Luntz: It’s never been like this. Look, I did this for you 18 years ago. We were talking about the impeachment of a president, and each person spoke their turn. No one talked over each other. Nobody yelled at each other.
Steve Kroft: One way to look at this is, OK, people are upset. And they’re just blowing off steam.
Frank Luntz: That was not blowing off steam. That got way too personal. They got way too strong with each other. And this is now my craft. This is what I’ve done for over two decades. That’s not blowing off steam. That is a deep-seated resentment.
Luntz claims that the electorate has been deeply divided ever since the 2000 election, when it was proved definitively that the American public at large really had no idea how the electoral college worked, and Al Gore contested the election results (something the Democrats nearly had kittens over this time around when Trump said he might do the same). Apparently, this means that Al Gore is the person at fault for the divided electorate.
But Obama’s election was supposed to herald a new moment of national unity. Instead, we have this.
Frank Luntz: They were betrayed by politicians who didn’t keep their promises. They were betrayed by CEOs who left them behind, who shipped jobs overseas, didn’t give them the benefits that they thought they were going to get. They were betrayed by Social Security, which they don’t believe will exist when they retire. They were betrayed by things in their day-to-day life.
That anger is the reason why Trump is the Republican nominee, and why Bernie Sanders made life so difficult for Hillary Clinton (and who knows what would have happened if the fix hadn’t been in at the DNC – which, incidentally, was another cause for anger in Luntz’s focus group). And that anger is going to continue after Election Day tomorrow, no matter who wins. A lot will hinge on how the loss is handled by one side, AND on how the win is handled on the either side. This entire campaign has been a contest between who is the least worst option.
Is there any hope for this republic? I think so. And I can point to a moment of unity in just this last week when politics did not matter at all.
That was this moment:
With no dog in the fight, I watched Game 7 of the World Series as a fan of the game, observing a contest of wills. Extra innings were just the icing on the cake. Yes, the Indians fans were sad, but no one begrudged the Cubs their victory.
Now, I’m not saying that this election can be like Game 7 of the World Series (mostly because everyone has an opinion and very few are disinterested observers, and the office of the president does have a direct impact on the lives of the American people), but if the spirit of good sportsmanship in victory as well as defeat could permeate the American electorate, I think we’d all be better off.
And maybe then, we could work on ways to come together instead of looking for ways to stay separated.
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