Striking fear into the hearts of the vulnerable has long been an effective device for motivating political movement, if rarely in the best interests of the vulnerable. Cable imitation news programming enhances it through interviews and commentary making fools out of the opposition. Fools, having been dehumanized, are only good for ridicule and abuse, but they can fight back. It means important issues are ignored when character assassination takes precedent. Unattended but important issues become elephants that must be shoved under already over crowded rugs. Elephants entice fearful people to obsess about them to the exclusion of needed conversation about issues that only sometimes include elephants. Excluding needed conversation creates more fear, which is useful in motivating more political movement.
Playing on the fears of rural and working class Americans, political operatives helped create conditions favorable to the election of Trump, who, had he been reasonably competent, would have been successful in replacing representative democracy with something more like fascism. It hasn’t worked out well for several reasons. Trump’s incompetency is one. Another is the strange alliance of billionaire barons and convicted libertarians that had put its faith in lower taxes and deregulation as first steps in getting government out of the way of free enterprise. Their tax legislation and forceful moves to deregulate have not worked as planned.
Lower taxes were a gift to the very wealthy, but offered only a pittance to ordinary people, and did nothing to encourage a stronger domestic economy. It was a classic supply side sham. Throw in Trump’s trade wars, and what a mess.
The demand for deregulation was constructed on the widely held assumption that Americans are over regulated. Trumps energetic deregulation efforts have done nothing to relieve bureaucratic burdens, but much to endanger the health and safety of the environment and public. That’s because most regulations turn out to be needed protections. More important would be a transformation of the regulatory bureaucracy from enforcement cultures to customer service cultures. It would relieve irritating bureaucratic burdens. Deregulation per se has turned out to be a smoke screen for certain corporate interests to invade lands and ways of doing business most agree are unethical, harmful to the environment, destructive of human well being, but very profitable in the short run.
It adds up to multiplying fear and anxieties across a broad political spectrum, creating conditions ripe for finger pointing, scapegoating, and various forms of political fratricide. What fun for talk radio and cable news networks, and how profitable to boot. They can pick a side, disregard all contrary evidence, and resolve cognitive dissonance by ridiculing the opposition, making them appear to be nothing but fools. No one enjoys being made the fool, especially on national media. The obvious response is to fight back –– I’m not a fool, you are! Issues become little more than badminton shuttlecocks in a game of fool making.
It means important issues get shoved under the rug where they become elephants joining others already there. And as we all know, because the experts have told us so, if you don’t deal with the elephants you can never make any real progress. It brings out elephant hunters obsessed with hauling out their favorites. No matter what else might be on an agenda, they demand their elephant be dealt with first and only. In other words, elephant hunters and their elephants hijack agendas intended to be solving other matters. It seldom works. The elephant goes back under the rug, the elephant hunters are irate, and other matters are ignored. It’s fertile ground for growing more fear and anxiety laced with anger.
It’s a perpetual motion machine guaranteeing long term employment for political consultants, cable news hosts, and political commentators. In the middle of the mess Trumpian incompetents rejoice in the attention they’re getting as they issue orders this way and that thinking they’re actually doing something. Nearby skilled inside political operatives such as McConnell and Pelosi strategically move pieces around in a game Trump doesn’t even know they’re playing. Hovering around, outside political operatives and lobbyists work to pull strings behind the scenes, manipulating outcomes to their satisfaction. Wealthy Koch type networks have contempt for all of them, and are certain they’re all for sale at the right price. The whole miserable machine is kept going by assuring high levels of public fear and anxiety are maintained.
Who will relieve us of these troublesome oafs? I suggest an unlikely crowd of humbled liberals, chastened rural activists, and an awakened working class. Humbled liberals will stop marginalizing the working class and rural rubes. Chastened rural leaders will stop their coastal elite nonsense. An awakened working class will take two huge steps. They’ll recognize that many liberal policies are not the dreaded socialism they were led to believe, but the life savers they need. They’ll accept a more racially and culturally diverse America as the new norm, one in which they have a respected but not dominant place. If it happens, fear and anxiety will not disappear, but they will be greatly eased and much less useful to political operatives trying to manipulate electoral outcomes.