Wednesday, April 20, 2016
We love to hate
It's happened so often in my life, I can't even remember a particular time. It's a given almost. In any of a wide array of small groups we're part of--a church congregation maybe, a social organization of any kind, a faculty meeting--people run and hide when nominations for office are made because nobody really wants to be honcho.
In fact, in those situations, generally the few who actually seek office don't get there. It can be embarrassing. In some churches I've been in, some who really wanted to be elders would come up every other year in nomination, only to fail once again. Why?--because in those situations projecting an I'd-like-to-lead demeanor can seem annoying and therefore unbecoming.
There is such a thing as false modesty, but that's often not at play in our small-game politics. What's at work is the plain and simple fact that if you're an office-holder you've got more work and more responsibility and more commitment in a life that probably already holds quite enough of those burdens. We don't need more to do. You know--nominate some one else, please. Not me.
To run for President of these United States requires wealth, strength, and self-regard in infinite quantities. You believe beyond reasonable doubt that no one on the face of the earth will better steer the ship of state. You must put yourself out there day after day after day, moment after moment, advancing your own blessed cause. It would be one thing to have to kiss babies, but in Iowa you have to kiss pigs, do anything, anywhere, any time to get votes.
In Presidential politics we only elect people who will do nothing but run. In small groups, we elect only those who won't. Talk among yourselves.
No one knows how to explain what's going on in this endless Presidential campaign. People don't like the candidates. It's an amazing phenomenon. Trump's "net negative" figures are off the charts, but they'd be even more shocking if Hillary's weren't so close behind. Yet, the two of them won yesterday's big sweepstakes primary, going away.
That's new, folks. It's brand new. In the last several elections, the electorate (that's us) held much higher regard for all the candidates--even Obama, if you can believe it. In fact, when Obama ran against McCain, both candidates had "net positive" ratings. This year, they're all "net negative." Not even close. Every one of them.
Both Trump (-33) and Hillary (-21) have net-negative views--the difference between their favorable and unfavorable views--than anyone since 1984, when CNN began asking the question.
Yet, American politics have never been hotter. We've rarely been more interested. People stand in line, sometimes for hours, to vote. That's unheard of. Both parties have drawnin scores of new voters in amazing numbers. There may well be hidden places in America where people wouldn't recognize the word Trump or Hillary, but to get at them you'd have to do rent an earth mover.
Clearly, something approaching hatred is generating much of that emotion. People love to hate, and do so with such vigor that this year ton of voters will enter booths and cast votes the way they will because they hate the opposition more than they love the rival. It's virtually guaranteed.
Trump's got his finger in the air all right, and what he's saying isn't wrong--something's foul in the U. S. of A. But it seems to me that in the dark depths of the cave we now find ourselves in, he's far less our savior than he is our canary.
Something's foul in our politics. Something's foul in us. And it doesn't take a Calvinist to smell it.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:43 AM