ARE POLITICANS TODAY IN TOUCH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
The question: Do our current leaders and candidates for either political party understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today?
Keep in mind the old saying: You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time – John Lydgate (poet)
First, there are the party line voters who will only vote for their party-of-choice candidates. With Republicans, this is because their party represents their values regarding a number of things, but primarily concerns over limited taxation, smaller, less restrictive government, religious/family values, second amendment (gun) rights, and anti-abortion stances. With Democrats, it’s because they value individual rights and freedoms, progressive actions to aid those less fortunate, climate and ecological concerns, and separation of church and state. Most of the people in the party line voting groups see no acceptable alternative path to the protection of their values and beliefs than the offerings of their party. Unless the candidates check the boxes of these talking points, party liners rarely consider anyone else.
This article is about the other voters who will look at the candidates and decide how to vote on an individual basis. I don’t want to single out Donald Trump here. These descriptions also fit supporters of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, etc. I start with Mr. Trump because he currently bears the title of President.
Here’s the deal with Donald Trump. He’s not in touch with the American people; he’s in touch with a segment of the American people… or possibly two segments. Let me make this clear: Everyone who supported Donald Trump is not bad, evil, racist, unschooled, or otherwise lacking in character. . Although Mr. Trump had no political experience whatsoever, his promises excited the people most hurt by the Recession and slow recovery because he promised JOBS and a WALL to keep the immigrants out.
Unfortunately, he’s in touch with the bigots, haters, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists because he recognizes them and plays to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean he adheres to their beliefs, or that he’s being honest with them. He tells them what they want to hear because they are the easiest groups to rally. They will generally get behind anyone who appears to support their cause(s). Most of the people in this culture group have been raised since babies to believe the things they stand for today. You’re not likely to be able to change their minds; they must look for someone who agrees with (or appears to agree with) what they see as the ultimate truth.
There’s a second group that are not necessarily biased or hateful, but are more susceptible to a type of conditioning, or brainwashing. They have legitimate gripes with the system as it affects them today, and they WANT to believe there is a simple solution, if only someone can come up with it. These are the people with the moral fiber to recognize Mr. Trump’s flaws, but still they excuse him, or ignore what they see because they want something –anything- different, that promises to make their lives better. Not coincidentally, these are often the same people who get caught up in pyramid schemes and fall for phone scams, and in worse cases, get involved with cults. (Remember Jonestown? Over 900 people “drank the kool-aid.”) To understand Mr. Trump’s strategy, you don’t need to take my word for it. You can read his book, ‘The Art of the Deal’. He explains in detail how he works his investors to get what he wants.
Psychiatrists and psychologists say that there are also certain personalities that, once they have reached a conclusion about something, are beyond stubborn. They may think things over and analyze it to the best of their ability, but when they feel they have determined the correct answer, no amount of cajoling or persuasive argument will change their minds, including pictures, video, audio statements, or being present as events unfold. Instead, they make excuses for what they saw/heard. One explanation of this phenomena is called the Dunning-Kruger effect which is discussed in the magazine, Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201609/the-psychology-behind-donald-trumps-unwavering-support . Basically, the premise is that some people are not able to consciously realize whether they are good at something or not. (In this case, reasoning.) They feel they have done their best, and that justifies whatever conclusion they reach. The next natural step is to conclude that other arguments are wrong.
Bernie Sanders had a grip on a large portion of the democratic voters as well as independents, but he was most beloved by college students and millennials in general. His main pitch was free college for everyone, and reduced payments or forgiven debt for college tuition of graduates. He also espoused single-payer medical insurance for all, and pronounced himself a “social democrat”. (Single payer insurance would be like Medicare – everyone having the same coverage, as it would be financed by a tax like Medicare.) He was in touch with the “flower children” of the 21st century. He was also critical of Wall Street, although his thoughts on that were a bit shaky. He wanted to break up the big banks, deemed “too big to fail” but didn’t really have a plan to do that.
Foreign policy was not his strong suit. Being of Jewish faith, he was current on issues involving Palestine and Israel, but less involved with the rest of the middle-east, or China, or foreign trade with anyone. He promised to pull out of the TPP agreement, but was not alone on that issue, as Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton also agreed to abandon the TPP.
Mr. Sanders ran on the democratic ticket, but has been an independent in his career with the Senate. His passion and sincerity drew large, enthusiastic crowds. He was the opposite of Trump as the other candidate for change. There have been allegations to the effect that the Democratic National Committee undermined his campaign because they preferred Hillary Clinton. Eventually, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, was forced to resign as a result of emails leaked that showed intent on the part of the DNC to smear Bernie Sanders’ name. In the end, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary with 16.8 million votes to 13.2 million votes for Bernie Sanders. Many people thought Sanders would have beaten Trump, and that debate still goes on today. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/was-the-democratic-primary-a-close-call-or-a-landslide/
Hillary Clinton had strong support from the establishment democrats. Ironically, this may have been her biggest downfall. A lot of people blamed the establishment for the lack of accomplishments to help the little guy. It was well-known that congress had been largely ineffective for a decade or more. But instead of cleaning house there (pardon the pun), they looked to the presidential candidates for the answer.
She also had two other major hurdles to overcome. For years the Clinton name had been dogged by conspiracy theories. There were questions regarding her involvement with the Whitewater scandal, involving real estate and banking dealings with the Clintons back in the 1990s. The Clintons were never prosecuted, but others were. Some felt that justice was never served. Then there were those who went further than insinuating the Clintons may have paid off people to “take the fall.” Getting away with murder became a literal accusation as unfounded conspiracy theories erupted that people who crossed the Clintons wound up dead. Other theories through the years would constitute a full article by themselves. Suffice to say, the Clinton Haters worked overtime. She was also investigated 9 times regarding the horrible terrorist attack against the U.S. staff in Benghazi. Nothing was ever found that indicated Secretary of State Clinton was at fault. Then there was the “email scandal.” This is where she had a private email server installed at her residence that she used to conduct state department business on. Actually, when she installed it, there was no regulation not to do so. Her intent was to avoid hacks into the government servers by foreign countries, which were already happening. The investigation into that was ongoing throughout her whole campaign, with no prosecutable evidence found.
Her other big problem was her inability to connect with the average citizen. Hillary labored for children’s causes, but couldn’t seem to attract the college-aged crowds or the working poor. Her demeanor was more business-like, and constituents didn’t warm to her easily. She tried town halls and meetings with some success, but the media only followed a few, and then latched onto the blustery Trump, so the impact of her attempts to reach out to everyday people got lost in the race for television ratings. The middle class felt abandoned, and struggled with the dilemma, Trump vs. Clinton. Neither seemed satisfactory to them, and many either opted for third parties, or ended up not voting at all. Although they may have liked President Obama, and Clinton promised to carry on his legacy, they didn’t trust her to do that.
Third party candidates did not have a clear enough message, or strong enough platforms to sway many voters. For the most part, their voter turnouts were in the single digits, but taking away from the other candidates.
All candidates had to address the need for more jobs. The subject swirled around the ideas that trade was the cause of job losses, or that immigrants had stolen all the jobs, or that large companies have moved their bases of production to countries like Thailand, China, Mexico, Indonesia and India because the labor there is much cheaper.
No one can argue that last fact. There is, however, a humanitarian aspect to consider. A few companies have berated the low pay and long hours, not to mention lack of child labor laws in foreign countries, as being inhumane and have refused to go in that direction.
It remains to be seen how much the immigration policies affect jobs. A few years ago, when there was a crack-down on migrant workers in the south, farmers ended up losing large amounts of their crops because with the workers carted off, no one else would do the hard work of harvesting the fruits and vegetables, and other commodities (cotton, tobacco, and so on) raised by the farmers. This will be retested now, as the deportation of immigrants has ramped up again, under Trump.
Trade is a much trickier issue: It reaches into the category of economics, and there are arguments galore, on the benefits of tariffs, taxes, penalties and so forth that come up when trade is discussed. This is one of the most contentious topics our politicians have to face. Something that looks good on paper may not work in practice. Our trading partners throughout the world are invaluable in many ways, including sales we make to them, as well as jobs provided in the United States when they do manufacturing here.
It’s important to note here that the president does not control any of these factors. He or she may negotiate deals with foreign countries, but those deals still have to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The president cannot pass laws on his own. He can only make certain changes, via Executive Orders, to existing laws. The president can have some influence over the congress, and can present bills for review that may then be considered adopted, but he alone cannot make a new law or repeal an existing law. THIS is where the voters generally go wrong. When they are unhappy with jobs, the economy, civil rights, or any number of things, they should be listening to their Senators’ and Representatives’ positions. Voters should ask questions – lots of questions!
More often than not, it is these members of congress who are not in touch with ordinary Americans. Some of them are not even forthright with the information they give their constituents. But even the ones who are honestly trying to give fair representation frequently have a skewed vision regarding the lives of the people they represent. They live a different lifestyle, and run in different circles. They aren’t out and about in the neighborhoods of the average working man or woman and their families. They make enough money that they don’t have to worry about getting good child-care while they work. If they are unfortunate enough to have someone in their family with a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, they have good insurance, paid for in large part by our tax dollars. They live in nice neighborhoods that don’t have high crime rates, and their children go to the best school districts, or to private schools. None of these things, in themselves, are bad. The problem comes as our representatives forget that we don’t all live like that. We can’t all live like that. Most middle-class and lower working-class people are teachers, nurses, technicians, truck drivers, construction workers, store clerks, waiters or waitresses, sales reps, or run a small business.
The national average wage in the United States in 2015 was $48,098.63. https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html That amounts to $924.97 a week, before taxes. Taxes vary a great deal, especially state taxes, but a fair average for the middle class is currently at around 20%, so that means their take-home averages around $740 a week. That works out to around $3206 a month. Sounds okay, right? Well, let’s use round conservative numbers and see: $1400 rent or mortgage, $700 health insurance, $500 utilities, and that leaves $600 for:
- clothes and shoes
- medical co-pays
- medical expenses not covered by insurance (glasses, braces, etc.)
- car payments/repairs
- car insurance and tags
- renters/homeowner’s insurance
- child care
- school supplies
- birthday and holiday gifts
We haven’t even touched upon household repairs, like a new hot water heater, or roof repair or a broken window. What if you need to hire an attorney for some reason, or make an emergency trip because of an illness or death in the family? And vacation – forget that! Savings – not likely! Hopefully no one in the family gets a terrible disease requiring medication in the thousands of dollars.
Now, consider that since we used an average, some people make more and are better off, but the majority make less and are worse off. We say that because to get an average, you also factor in the wealthy. If you factored out the wealthy, the national average would drop significantly. The costs wouldn’t drop. Just the wages.
This is what our representatives in Washington don’t see. Even our state legislatures don’t always see it. How can we get their attention? By not being complacent. Make our voices heard at town halls, write letters to the editor of our newspapers, write our reps and senators, and most of all – vote them out if they don’t do their jobs!
Invite candidates to a mixed venue of voters with liberal and conservative needs. See if they can find compromise. Social media is also a good outlet as long as we remember to fact-check the articles we read, and do not post anything that is doubtful or known to be incorrect. That just does more harm because people learn not to trust us.
I think the answer to the original question is “No, our current leaders and candidates for either political party do not understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today.”
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