Historians will spend countless years examining why too many white Americans were so bent out of shape in 2016. If we look to past eras in which rage was the order of the day, what exactly instigated it? Is it the economy? Probably not this time, given how most economic indicators look prosperous -- the deficit dropped by more than a trillion dollars, the stock market is at record highs and gas prices are relatively low. Is it a costly, frivolous war? Not at all. In fact, many of the angriest white people seem to be pro-war.
It's a bit early to know for sure, but I have a reasonably strong pair of guesses.
The first and most obvious instigating factor is the existence of an African-American president. Subsequent to this explanation is the reality that his presidency wasn't nearly as horrendous as the angry white people thought it'd be, defying their worst predictions and damaging their credibility. Indeed, President Obama's approval ratings are higher today than any recent Republican president, including Reagan. This has to be infuriating to the angry white mob who did their very best to make Obama a one-term president.
The other explanation is this: the angry white people are deeply, deeply confused. This confusion is amplified by embarrassment over being forced to carry the GOP message to family, friends and co-workers who are easily able to slice and dice that message using -- not Democratic, but formerly GOP policies and talking points. Specifically, the Republican message is so utterly contradictory, it's short-circuiting their teeny-tiny lizard brains, and everyone can plainly see it.
We discussed this earlier in the week in the context of the inconsistent messaging of the Trump campaign on this issue of Iraq and Trump's Muslim ban. Trump, himself, was opposed to the Iraq War, while Mike Pence and, yes, Hillary Clinton voted in support of invasion. Meanwhile, Pence lashed out against Trump's Muslim ban proposal back in December when Pence supported Trump enemy Ted Cruz in the primaries.
But the examples from this week alone should be sufficient proof that the GOP has stopped thinking. At all. That's not to say there was a lot of rational thought occurring on the Republican side recently, but whatever was once there has to have been dashed as the party's big convention winds to a close.
Here's a massive example of what I'm talking about. Check out this line from Mike Pence's acceptance speech from Wednesday night:
“As this election approaches, every American should know that while we are filling the presidency for the next four years, this election will define the Supreme Court for the next 40. We all had better think very, very carefully about what this means for our Constitution and limited government. Elect Hillary Clinton, and you better get used to being subject to unelected judges, using unaccountable power to take unconstitutional actions.”
See the problem? Pence called for a Trump victory so they can stack the Court with conservative justices who, by the way, are unelected and who enjoy unaccountable power. Put another way, Pence supports and opposes unelected judges. Actually, what he really supports are conservative unelected judges, while liberal unelected judges are illegal and unconstitutional. But taking him at his word, Pence is telling his people that the Supreme Court shouldn't be making laws and that Trump would appoint Supreme Court justices who'd make laws.
Again, no wonder they're so indignant.
Later in his speech, Pence said:
"Now, Hillary Clinton essentially offers a third Obama term. And the role is perfect for her. She championed “Obamacare” because years earlier she had all but invented it. The national debt has nearly doubled in these eight years and her only answer is to keep borrowing and spending."
Okay, a few things here. First, Mike Pence expanded Medicaid in Indiana, per Obamacare. So, Pence actually supports one of the major line-items in the law. And it's no wonder since, admittedly, Obamacare was basically invented by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the middle 1990s as a direct counterpoint to Hillarycare. The Heritage plan, which included the individual mandate, subsidies and healthcare exchanges, was supported at this time by Bob Dole, Chuck Grassley and eventually a Massachusetts governor named Mitt Romney.
Oh, and as I mentioned before, notice how Pence failed to mention the budget deficit, which has declined by more than a trillion dollars since Obama took office. Also, the Democrats can't possibly continue to "keep...borrowing and spending" because the Paygo law, which was signed by Obama, by the way, mandates that all spending should be deficit neutral -- in other words, all spending has to be paid-for by law.
Along those lines, my favorite political cartoonist, Ed Hall, posted the following status update early Thursday:
"Just heard a small business owner (and RNC delegate) from Florida, bash president Obama for destroying the economy, and then, in the next breath, say 2016 has been the best year she has ever had financially. What the ever-livin' eff is that all about?"
Do they hear themselves? Or has Mark Levin's shrill voice shredded their inner ears?
Mike Pence, for his part, went on and on during his acceptance speech about the booming Indiana economy. Unless Indiana is an outlier and somehow defied an allegedly failing national economy, then Pence is being deliberately misleading. Indiana, like Florida, is enjoying the rising-tide of a steady improvement in the economic climate overall. It's also worth noting that Indiana is ranked 18th among states that receive the highest influx of federal funding. If Pence is truly annoyed by all that "spending" by Hillary and the Democrats -- can we have it back, please? (Via The West Wing.)
Now, it's entirely possible they're all butthurt and pissed because Fox News and AM talk radio has fed them enough misinformation as to convince them that the world is a burned out hellscape, thanks to Obama and Clinton -- and they desperately want to believe it's true. This'd have to be a subset of the anti-Obama aspect of the phenomenon. It's also possible that they're not self-aware enough to even hear or know how contradictory they sound. It's the bubble, after all. But I have to believe they're, on some level, hearing their own nonsense and it hurts there heads. Anything's possible.