Count de Monet: “It is said that the people are revolting.”
King Louis XVI: “You said it. They stink on ice.”
– “History of the World: Part I”
Out of the mouths of babes … and B-movie comedies come our words of wisdom. The people are indeed revolting. It makes sense. Americans have found their politicians revolting for decades. Now the tables are turned.
Politicians don’t just find citizens revolting. They actually fear their constituents. Liberal congressmen and senators are avoiding their voters out of a sense of impending doom. Fears of angry town hallers were fanned by MSNBC hosts like Rachel Maddow, but are overblown. If you want to find protest, look for conservatives. If you want violence, look for the union label.
Ordinary voters have been angry since the early 1990s and maybe as far back as the 1970s – often at one or even both political parties. Call it a mixture of populism, distrust in government and economic anxiety. All three are present today.
In the post-Vietnam/post-Watergate era, Jimmy Carter’s one-term disaster of a presidency brought Americans a second oil crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis and stratospheric interest rates. That anger subsided a bit during the Reagan presidency even as unemployment hit 10.8 percent before dropping and crack and AIDS terrified ordinary citizens. The first George Bush followed and lost the 1992 election after breaking a promise not to raise taxes. He excelled internationally but was perceived as ignoring economic problems at home. “It’s the economy stupid,” lives in infamy.
The Clinton years weren’t especially free of unrest either. The anti-government tide brought wacky businessman/reformer Ross Perot 20 million votes in 1992 and another 8 million in 1996. Those disaffected millions denied Clinton a majority in either victory. They also swept in Republicans in ’94. More and more voters demanded term limits on their elected officials, but were disappointed.
Ultimately, each of those problems – large and small – died down. None had the power to be self-sustaining. As soon as the media sensed the public was losing interest, those topics disappeared from the news just like Iran did this summer. The issues disappeared; the unrest did not.
The Bush years were something completely different. Out of power and angry over the war, the left latched onto new technology as a way to bash the GOP and rise to power.
It worked better than they could have ever envisioned. Bush was unprepared to fight both the mainstream media and the new alternative media at the same time. Crazy conspiracy theories, rumors and protests grew in cyberspace unchecked by the White House and often unremarked by the media.