Campaign 2016: Panel Says Lack of Wide Economic Benefits From Recovery, Politicians’ Tilt to Elite Leader to Anger, Mistrust in Society – And In This Year’s Political Campaign

The lack of wide economic benefits of the recovery from the Great Recession, politicians’ tilt to the elite and voters’ current realization – which wasn’t there before — that Washington governmental gridlock really does hurt them at home have led to anger and mistrust in society and in this year’s political campaign, a panel of political analysts says.

As a result, hatred of politicians, presidential candidates, Congress and other institutions is so widespread that many voters simply “want to blow it up,” when talking of the political system, adds one of the speakers, Melinda Henneberger.

Henneberger and the others discussed “Faith, Anger and Trust in Campaign 2016” at a Sept. 13 symposium at Georgetown University. Henneberger, a veteran print journalist and visiting fellow at a Catholic University policy research center, joined longtime commentator Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Gerald Seib and Emma Green, senior associate editor for The Atlantic, in analysis. All four have been on the campaign trail.

The four agreed this year’s presidential campaign upended standard political wisdom, especially but not totally, on the Republican side of the ballot. But the rises of Donald Trump, now the GOP nominee, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who finished second to nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Democratic side, point to something more, they said.

The “something more” is a basic change in attitudes, to anger and fear. One big reason for voter anger, they said, is that voters believe they have not benefited from the recovery from the Great Recession, while the elite – including financiers who caused it – have.

Further, voters now have come to the conclusion that Washington dysfunction, and specifically the gridlock of the last several decades, aided and abetted by recent dominance of the Tea Party, benefits the rich and harms the rest of us. As a result, they’re mad.

“As the economic statistics have gotten better, people feel they haven’t gotten better for them, personally,” Seib said. Even the data released that morning, showing record growth in median personal income in 2015, does not help that much, Seib noted. That’s because the recession was so deep that even with that hike – and the resulting drop in poverty – median income still is slightly below the pre-crash high it hit in 2007.

And D.C. politicians, over-influenced by the elite, don’t do anything about that mis-distribution of income and wealth, the panelists said.

As a result, “I talk to many people” out on the hustings “who are quite well-educated and doing economically fine, but they feel – like Bernie, Trump and now Hillary are saying – that the system is rigged. They want to blow it up,” Henneberger explained.

Shields said that view is particularly prevalent among blue-collar white men, especially in industrial states around the Great Lakes. They were the backbone of the old Democratic coalition, he noted, but they’re defecting to Trump in droves.

The Democrats, catering to other groups, have shunted those voters’ worries aside, Shields stated. Plus, both parties protect the elite, and voters resent that, he pointed out.

“If you lived through the savings and loan scandal” in 1989, “It lost people $150 billion and 1,100 executives went to jail. The 2008” Great Recession “cost people $13 trillion (his emphasis) – and not a single three-piece-suit-wearing, Gucci-loafer-clad executive has done a perp walk!”

Those same elites also supported the war in Iraq, Shields said. They agreed with then-President George W. Bush “that Saddam Hussein was an existential threat” to the U.S. But the elites didn’t send their kids off to the war. Blue-collar voters did, and “their sons, daughters, wives, fathers” came back injured or dead. “They were abandoned” by the elites, Shields said.

Union leaders find the same resentment as they and their members go door-to-door. Recent AFL-CIO polls show 36 percent of union voters in key swing states plan to back Trump, despite his anti-worker stands, his support for right-to-work and other anti-labor laws and his misogynist and racist rhetoric. That’s down from 41 percent in June.

The Georgetown analysts saw several reasons for Trump support. One is resignation: Voters believe no matter what they do, nothing will change. The other is many Trump backers discount his hyperbole. “They don’t hold Trump to the truth,” Henneberger commented.

Trump’s statements about women, Mexicans, Muslims, minorities and others make voters feel he’s talking straight – an attitude he exploits on social media. “Identity-based hatred has been amplified” there, Green said. “Hillary talked about the ‘alt-right,’ which is ultra-nationalist, pro-white and somewhat neo-Nazi. All that plays out on the Internet.”

But Trump wasn’t the only “talking straight” candidate in this year’s campaign. While the other Republicans and Clinton are viewed as part of the “establishment” and distrusted, Sanders was not. That was his appeal, particularly to younger voters, the panelists said.

“There’s a heartening lack of cynicism in the Sanders phenomenon,” Henneberger said. “I have two 20-year-old adult children who were really all-in for Sanders” because they felt he spoke the truth even when it was uncomfortable. When the Vermonter lost the Democratic nod to Clinton, Henneberger added, her kids read one of Clinton’s books, plus Trump’s The Art Of The Deal. They came away disillusioned by both nominees. “They can’t vote for either.”

That’s a problem for Clinton, and not just among younger voters, panelists noted. Voters in general are so disillusioned, Seib noted, that his paper’s pollsters had to add a fourth option to “Clinton” “Trump” and “I don’t know.” That new option, Seib said, is “neither.”

Source: PAI