An Attempt to Explain the Current Madness

As I mentioned previously, I’m trying to stay away from politics for the sake of my mental and intestinal health. I’m having limited success, because it’s not like trying to keep from rubbernecking at a car crash; it’s like trying to keep from rubbernecking as the Hindenburg plows into a football stadium full of Elvis impersonators driving monster trucks through live electrical wires.

From what I’m seeing, people are having a hard time finding an explanation for the mess we’re in. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of explanations, but they all seem like darts thrown at the Big Board of Standard Political Explanations — “the voters are angry”; “rejecting business-as-usual”; “celebrity candidate”; blah, blah, blah.

As depressing as the whole phenomenon is, I think it’s pretty easy to explain if you understand what American politics really looks like. And that’s the problem; most people don’t. So I think it’s worth revisiting a couple of posts I previously wrote about this.

In those posts, I noted that most people think that the political landscape in America looks like this:

We talk about Democrats, Republicans, and independents (or “undecideds”) and just assume that everyone fits into one of those categories. I made this diagram one election ago, but you can replace “Mitt Romney” with “Jeb Bush” and keep the same flavor.

The conventional wisdom is that if you win your party and win 50% + 1 of the independents, then you win the presidency. I can’t think of a presidential election in my lifetime that wasn’t run based on that strategy.

But these assumptions are wrong, because this is what the political landscape in America really looks like:

The people who care enough to label themselves “Democrat” or “Republican” (or even “undecided,” people whom, as you might guess from the label, I don’t have a ton of respect for) make up only a small subset of the general population, over there on the left.

Now, see that big oval area that says “Everybody Else”? Those are the people who don’t care about politics. They don’t vote. They don’t work for or give money to political campaigns. When a pollster calls, they hang up on him. They couldn’t name their congressman or either of their senators. They couldn’t pick the vice president out of a line-up. They think that “separation of powers” means the Wonder Twins are locked in different rooms so they can’t touch their rings together.

And you know what I say about those people? God bless them. They are the glue that holds the country together. They do their jobs, raise their kids, volunteer at their churches and in their communities. In short, they have better things to do with their time than mess around with politics. And considering the people who are most involved in politics, their avoidance of it does nothing but speak well of them.

As long as everything seems to be clicking along ok, those people will continue to live their lives and let politics take care of itself. But when they start to notice things going wrong, then they start to get involved. And lately, they’re starting to notice some things.

They’re noticing things like the fact that their health insurance payment has tripled over the last couple of years. Or that it’s a lot harder to find work lately. Or that it seems like there are a lot more riots than there used to be. And when America spoke, didn’t other countries used to, y’know, listen and respect it? It seems like they did, but they don’t now.

So these people say, “What gives?” and they flip on the news looking for an explanation. But all they see is a steady stream of people telling them that they should be grateful for the swell new health insurance system, and what we need is a whole bunch more immigration, and everything is just hunky-dory in the Middle East and Europe, and when there are riots, it’s your fault because you’re a horrible bigot.

Knowing that this is a presidential election year, Everyone Else then looks to the candidates to see if anyone is saying anything that bears the vaguest resemblance to reality. What they find is a bunch of people looking and acting like politicians and saying all the things that politicians normally say. Except for one guy.

Out of the eight dozen people who started out running for president, there was one guy who was treating their concerns like they were legitimate and saying things that they thought needed to be said.

Sure, that one guy is a notorious self-promoter, blowhard, and scumbag, but you could say that about most politicians. At least this scumbag wasn’t just ignoring them.

Those people in the Everyone Else part of the diagram don’t get involved very much, but they smell smoke, and they see Donald Trump as the first person to break the “In case of emergency break glass” glass. So they’re turning out in droves to vote for him; they’re setting voter turnout records in every Republican primary, and not by a little, either. Everyone Else is showing up en masse.

Even people who are complacent don’t like to be ignored. It’s a shame that The Hairpiece is the only candidate who’s figured that out.

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