Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky foreshadowed the 2016 Presidential election 40 years ago when writing the script for the movie “Network.” In the film, deranged anchorman Howard Beale gains great popularity by screaming, “I’m mad as well, and I’m not going to take it anymore” to the TV cameras.
Change the “I’m” to “we’re,” and you have a 12-word summation of the Donald Trump campaign.
By any assessment, America’s middle class is shrinking and in worse shape in 2016 than it was in 2012, 2008, or 2004 or even in 2000. One powerful question which propelled Ronald Reagan to the White House was this: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” It helped him win in 1980, and then the Reagan Revolution led to a 49-state landslide for the Great Communicator in 1984.
The answer from Trump supporters and opponents alike to Reagan’s 1980 question is a resounding NO. According to the Pew Research Center on social and demographic trends, the share of national income for the middle class fell from 62 percent in 1970 to 43 percent today.
Rasmussen Reports regularly asks this poll question: Is America headed on the right track or the wrong track? In the most recent poll, only 30% of respondents said it is on the right track. Over the past four months, 63% to 67% have said our nation is on the wrong track.
The middle class saw as much as $4.6 trillion awarded to banks and financial institutions “too big to fail” in the 2008 Wall Street bailout, while the unemployment rate soared to 10 percent in Fall 2009. Next, the Obama Administration’s $800 million stimulus plan in 2009 did very little to stimulate the economy. The promised “shovel ready” jobs rarely existed.
Younger boomers have suffered through the loss of careers and well-paying positions. Millions liquidated IRAs just to stay afloat, and are now working at lower-wage jobs and are woefully underprepared for retirement
Military veterans and those in uniform still serving our country feel betrayed, not unlike their Vietnam predecessors. Iraq is far from secure, and there’s a feeling that the sacrifices which nearly 7,000 dead and 52,000 wounded Americans made in Afghanistan and Iraq have little value.
Gen Yers and older Millennials are saddled with nearly $1.4 trillion in college loan debt. Many of these younger adult members of our society are feeling scant hope for their future. They are settling for jobs they had as high school graduates or students. Higher-paying jobs and careers concomitant with the college diploma are rare or non-existent.
Additionally, many voters helped elect Barack Obama president believing that it would help improve racial relations in the country. Just the opposite has happened. A PBS NewsHour/Marist College survey this past fall confirms what many of us suspect: 58 percent of Americans say race relations were worse than just one year prior. Significantly, 76 percent of African Americans stated they and whites do NOT have equal opportunity in getting a job, and 87 percent of African Americans believe they do not have the same opportunity in equal justice.
Voters on both ends of the political spectrum feel betrayed and fooled. More than anything, “I’m mad as hell …” explains the popularity of Bernie Sanders as well. Look at the candidates who’ve dropped from the presidential campaign. With one exception (Carly Fiorina), all are long-time elected office holders.
So – why are we so surprised when a candidate whose slogan is “Make America Great Again” does this well in the primary campaign? Trump has already inoculated himself against the Political Media Complex, and the more they attack him, the more his popularity is destined to grow. (If you don’t know what the Political Media Complex is, refer to a column I wrote on in in September by linking here:)
What is really telling is a comparison of turnout in these primary elections so far. On average, Republican primary elections are drawing an average of 24% MORE voters than they did in 2012. The New York Post attributes this to Trump. I’d rather call it the Howard Beale effect, which Trump has masterfully tapped into so far in the campaign.
LIAR, BUFFOON and FIEND: One or two?
One newspaper account called the candidate a “horrid-looking wretch” who was unfit for office. Other media accounts described him as filthy, a story teller, a despot, a liar, a thief, a braggart and a butcher, as well a liar, buffoon and fiend.
The candidate? Abraham Lincoln.
Hurling powerful personal attacks against political candidates is nothing new, and it’s been happening since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson opposed each other for the presidency more than 200 years ago.
Those who think Trump winning the Republican nomination for president would destroy the party just don’t understand how the two-party system works in this nation. Sadly, this same system is also advancing a Democratic party candidate whom many voters don’t trust. In January, an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that four out of every 10 DEMOCRATS or voters leaning Democrat say they do not trust Hillary Clinton, who will soon be the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. The actual number according to the poll is just 36 percent.
And remember – this is a poll of leaning Democratic voters.
So we are in real danger of the word “liar” becoming one of the most-used words in the 2016 presidential campaign. In light of the realities of raising huge amounts of campaign dollars (something at which Hillary Clinton excels) or spending huge amounts of campaign dollars (something Trump will continue to do), it is a tragic commentary on our two-party system if, in a nation of more than 320 million Americans, the “final two” candidates for President of the United States in 2016 are named Clinton and Trump.
As to the growing negativism on the campaign trail, look no further than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Every day there are millions of posts from our fellow everyday citizens, saying the most evil and vile things imaginable about various candidates. What’s especially disturbing is the growing number of times when journalists have joined the fray, posting despicable comments about various candidates (most frequently Donald Trump). Every time, within hours the journalist is “forced” to take down the offending post and to apologize. We are rapidly losing civility in our society.
In her terrific 2011 book “The Influencing Machine,” National Public Radio On the Media managing editor Brooke Gladstone simply and eloquently details how the media impacts us. This is her concluding line: We get the media we deserve. Sadly, in 2016 it seems that we are getting the candidates we deserve as well.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DECENCY?
Max Lucado is an author and pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. His blog, reprinted last week in The Washington Post, points out what many in our nation are now saying: A U.S. President should have much better deportment than what Donald Trump is showing on the campaign trail.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
He (Trump) routinely calls people “stupid” and “dummy.” One writer catalogued 64 occasions that he called someone “loser.” These were not off-line, backstage, overheard, not-to-be-repeated comments. They were publicly and intentionally tweeted, recorded and presented.
Lucado is right. He writes that Trump would not pass the “decency interview” he established for his three daughters when guys came calling to date them. He’s not fit to govern, in this pastor’s eyes.
Of course tens of millions of people are disagreeing with Lucado, as expressed in public opinion polls and at the ballot box. Personally, the only solace I’m seeing so far in the 2016 presidential campaign is that I have a still higher calling than that of a U.S. citizen/voter. I belong to a heavenly kingdom, and when I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior it means that his place as Lord is far more important than the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Romans 13 calls on believers of Christ to be obedient to government authority. If those “final two” candidates for president in 2016 end up being Trump and Clinton, then God is planning for some pruning of our nation. That’s not a pretty thought, but it is about the only explanation that makes sense.