Friday, March 4, 2016

Rioting at the polls

   “We’re voting with our middle finger.”
   It certainly looks like that’s what’s happening in the primary elections, with Donald Trump piling up win after win.  As the blowhard, bullying, ignorant billionaire, who everyone in polite company says they hate, appears to have nearly a insurmountable lead in the Republican presidential nomination race after this week’s Super Tuesday elections and caucuses, it looks like there’s a lot to this quote from a retired truck driver before voting in the South Carolina Republican primary last month. 
   No matter how much the Republican party itself says that this would be a disaster, with Mitt Romney joining in in a big way yesterday, Trump for president seems to be what folks want. The people voting for Trump have one thing in common: they’re angry, angry at how government operates, and they like it that Trump “tells it like it is” and expresses this anger. 
   The Trump voters, many but notably not all of whom are white, blue-collar, non-college-educated workers, don’t care about the usual conservative values.  They don’t want big military spending, and I read that many don’t mind large government programs, as long as they benefit (they don’t like others getting welfare). They want an outsider, someone angry like them, to go in and take charge. 
   Some commentators argue that this same anger fuels the same passion behind Bernie Sanders, with his anti-big money platform.  This may sound like an unfair and nonsensical comparison (after all, isn’t Trump big money?), but, in what is a truly alarming development, I have read about Sanders voters saying that, if he doesn’t get the nomination, they’ll vote for Trump if he’s on the November ballot rather than Hilary Clinton, who they see as slick politics as usual. 
   All this is fascinating, and it’s great theater.  It is fascinating to see what happens when people say what they want, when things are not going the usual way – so much for Jeb and for Hilary’s glide to the nomination (although that now be more likely) – and, for a Democrat, it’s fun to see the Republican party coming apart at the seams.  This is all quite heady stuff. 
   The trouble is that this is not theater.  This is our society, our life, and it may be how we live in this country, and how others see us in this country, for the next four years.  The people voting for Trump are certainly giving the finger – to themselves.  In voting with their middle finger, they are like rioters, burning and looting their own neighborhood.  Sticking it may feel good now, but it will cause great destruction and may well destroy their life. 
   It is not unlike poor people who agree that Obamacare is bad, even as it is making or can make their lives easier and better.  Except, in that case, it’s more rhetoric, and they are the only one getting hurt.

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