by Emrys Westacott
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
I suspect there are many who feel that this Dickensian paradox applies to their own life and times. I certainly do. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sufficient income, a comfortable home, loving family and friends, decent physical and mental health, and plenty of interests to pursue, then life is good. But then a lying, narcissistic, cynical, conman like Boris Johnson is ensconced in power in the UK for five years, and things are not good. One dwells in the Slough of Despond.
This odd disconnect between the relative pleasantness of one’s own circumstances and an appalled sense that, on so many counts (poverty, inequality, political corruption, news media, environmental damage…..), the world is heading in the wrong direction, has become a familiar, ever-present condition for many of us.
Interestingly, the disconnect seems to be not only experienced by people on the left. The median household income of Trump supporters during the 2016 Republican primaries was $72,000 (compared to a national median household income figure of $56,000). Historically and geographically speaking, $72K is a decent chunk of change which for most people should make possible a fairly comfortable lifestyle. And in fact, a 2017 PRRI study concluded that Trump supporters were not so much motivated by dissatisfaction with their own economic circumstances as by fears about cultural displacement (of whites by minorities and immigrants). For most of them, too, their fear, anger, and dissatisfaction concerned the state of the nation rather than their personal circumstances. Read more »
by Akim Reinhardt
Much has been made of the fact that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most loathed presidential candidates since the birth of polling. Each of them has managed to alienate roughly half the country. About a quarter of Americans despise both of them. They make Barry Goldwater, Michael Dukakis, and Mitt Romney look beloved.
There has been a lot of focus on why these two candidates are so widely reviled. Simple partisanship doesn't seem to adequately explain it; fewer than a third of American view either of them favorably.
The Washington Post and ABC News tell us that Clinton-haters typically see her as a corrupt, untrustworthy flip-flopper, while Trump-haters hate too many things about him to list here, but it largely boils down to him being perceived as an inexperienced hatemonger.
Fortune magazine dispenses with the specifics and instead points to Clinton's and Trump's long and choppy resumés as repulsing the masses. Despite whatever accomplishments they may have racked up over the years, the thinking goes, voters simply can't get past the many “bad” things each candidate has done.
However, I'm less concerned with why exactly these two candidates are so widely detested. On some level, the why doesn't really matter; what's more pressing, I believe, is the how. In terms of American political mechanics, how could this happen and what does it mean? How did it get here, and what can we learn from it?
The one common mechanical process in almost every aspect of American politics is the two-party system: an extra-constitutional artifice that long ago hijacked government. And it is through those double swinging doors that we have stumbled into our current political purgatory.
This bi-polar orgy of villainy signifies that America's two-party system itself is badly broken; indeed, odds are that such a scenario would not have emerged if there were additional healthy political parties.
Let's start with Donald Trump.
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