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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

 

Experience: 0 percent

by Tom Sullivan


By Michael Vadon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President George W. Bush was not a mistake. The conservative movement worked for decades to put him there, or someone else just like him. That movement conservatives didn't like it when they got what they wanted seems not to have sunk in.

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," Ronald Reagan declared in his first inaugural address. The movement had its marching orders and set off double time. By the end of the Reagan years, Rush Limbaugh had arrived to bring the message daily into millions of households across the country. It was a Two Minutes Hate that lasted for hours. By the mid-nineties it was, "America Held Hostage: Day (Number of days in Clinton's term)." Government is the problem. Government cannot be trusted. Put us Republicans in charge and we'll prove it. They did.

Even after the September 11 attacks, it persisted. Only now we were a country with a case of collective PTSD (that has yet to subside). Bush was president when the towers fell, but somehow it was not "on his watch." Then he and Dick Cheney lied the country into invading Iraq where the promised WMDs never appeared. They proved the case that government is the problem. Despite the fact that many a good conservative will never admit error — Conservatism never fails; it can only be failed — conservatives knew they'd been had. The sense that the government cannot do anything right (except kick other country's asses) deepened.

Then a frustrated but hopeful American public elected a black president. The economy collapsed from financial fraud of biblical proportions and Wall Street got a bailout, yet the “malefactors of great wealth” never faced justice. They showered in gold while turning families out into the street and the only trickle down was to grasping politicians. Mission accomplished. Reagan's case was made. The nativists grew restless.

And here we are. One of their kind, Donald Trump, has won the Republican primary in New Hampshire and appears on track to win the Republican nomination for president in 2016. With zero percent experience as a legislator or in government service.

"When Americans have more faith in the military than the political class, democracy is in trouble," read the subhead on Glenn Reynolds' piece last month in USA Today. A longtime purveyor of "government is the problem," Reynolds is now worried by his own partisans, and with reason. Reynolds knows his readers:

If this were just one-sided anger at the Obama Administration, then it would be troubling, but not dangerous. But if, as seems plausible, a majority of Americans don’t think a Republican administration would represent a substantial improvement, then we’ve got a bigger problem. If voters think that they can’t vote their way out of a problem, then they may look to other solutions.

A much-hyped YouGov poll from last fall found that 29% of Americans could imagine supporting a military coup. That poll probably overstated popular support — it didn’t ask if people favored a coup right now, just whether they could imagine supporting one, including in the instance of the government violating the Constitution — but there was also this, as Newser reported: “Some 71% said military officers put the interests of the country ahead of their own interests, while just 12% thought the same about members of Congress.“

NBC News examined a Pew poll back in November. It revealed the lowest levels of confidence in government in a half century:

Just one month after 9/11, 60 percent of Americans said they could trust the government. But confronted with the Iraq War and economic uncertainty, trust began to decline. By July 2007, it had fallen to 24 percent. Since then, the survey found that public trust remains at historically low levels.

Distrust of government also varies along party lines. Twenty-six percent of Democrats say they can trust the federal government nearly always or most of the time, compared with just 11 percent of Republicans. Since President Obama took office in 2009, Democrats have expressed greater trust in government than Republicans.

Pessimism over politics has pervaded the public's perceptions in a number of ways. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that on issues that matter to them, their side loses more often than it wins. Even for millennials, the future seems bleak: only about four-in-ten adults younger than 30 say they have "quite a lot" of confidence in the nation's future.

The poll results are here.

On the Democratic side last night, millennials in New Hampshire chose an anti-establishment candidate, Bernie Sander, by over 3 to 2.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from December yielded similar results:

Perhaps most vexing for the dozen or so candidates vying to succeed President Barack Obama, the poll indicates widespread skepticism about the government's ability to solve problems, with no significant difference in the outlook between Republicans and Democrats.

"They can't even seem to get together and pass anything that's of any importance," said Doris Wagner, an 81-year-old Republican from Alabama who said she's "not at all confident" about seeing solutions in 2016. "It's so self-serving what they do," said Wagner, who called herself a small-government conservative.

In Texas, Democrat Lee Cato comes from a different political perspective but reached a similar conclusion. She allowed for "slight" confidence, but no more. The 71-year-old bemoaned a system of "lobbyists paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to get Congress to do what they want" for favored industry. "They aren't doing anything for you and me," she said.

In Donald Trump, Republicans have reaped what they've sown. After 25 years of Clinton smears, Hillary Clinton has gotten caught in the fallout. Plus, whatever her lefty bona fides, if transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street groups come out, she's toast with Millennials who came of age during the Great Recession and face life in an unforgiving, metastasized capitalism.

It's an anti-establishment electorate out there. Buckle up.