For the Punditocracy, the takeaway from the 2016 Primaries so far has been the inexplicable rise of the “outsider” or “insurgent” candidates. Over the past months they’ve all sung the same song… voters are angry, upset, and furious; they’re ready to blow up the system and don’t care who gets hurt. The Talking Heads and the Establishment they represent just can’t seem to understand how normally docile Commoners can be dissatisfied with everything The Man has so generously allowed them. How dare they refuse the officially approved candidates?
Perhaps the answer lies with people like Jeneyah McDonald of Flint, Michigan. Her family is one of the thousands shattered by the criminal negligence of an appointed “City Manager” scrimping dimes at the cost of other people’s lives. Though she still pays for the toxic sludge in her water pipes, Jeneyah must pay for bottled water for drinking, cooking, even bathing. The city gave her a free lead filter but she doesn’t use it. Why? “Even after the filter, I’ve continued to purchase water for lack of trust in what the City of Flint deems as ‘safe’ for residents.”
There, Pundits, is the root of the problem… no trust in a failing Government. Worse, a reason not to trust government. After WWII people broadly and strongly believed the government had their best interests at heart, or at least deserved the benefit of the doubt. From the 60’s on that confidence eroded through decades of war, scandal, lies, corruption, and malfeasance at every level of government. Maybe it was always like this and the people just didn’t have enough information to realize it, but the shades have certainly been lifted from their eyes. Now, in the Information Age, it is tougher to sell the story of “of, by, and for the people”.
It’s irrational to think that the government is “against” us; that their every action is intended to rob our freedoms or herd us bleating into a New World Order. But it would be equally irrational to think that Democracy is working as intended. In today’s America, government responds almost exclusively to the priorities of the powerbrokers and the money they bring with them. Damage to Poor or Middle Class people may be just unintentional collateral damage, but benefits, if there are any, are tepid at best. Voters are angry not just because they may be feeling the ill effects themselves but because they see the damage around them.
With the exceptions of the well-insulated true believers, people in America know the Emperor has no clothes. They laugh at the Establishment candidates and their pitch and seem eager to listen to a candidate who embraces the premise “Government is failing us”. Anger, disillusionment, cynicism, desperation… these aren’t inexplicable and unreasoning reactions of a non-thinking electorate, they’re possibly the most rational responses to a failing political system.