The Politics of Feelings

Watching the political coverage lately, I feel like I’m living in a bizarro world where the laws of common sense are completely the opposite of common and things that make sense. This is true on both sides of the political spectrum. I am not going to use this blog to condemn or praise either side. I will criticize both sides, and try to work through what I think may be happening though. I chose the below examples because they are the ones in the spotlight right now. Every other Facebook post is about one of them. These are guys you either love or hate. I hate both of them. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. Having said that, I think I get both of them.

On one side you have democrats like Bernie Sanders, who want to make everything “free”. College is free. Healthcare is free. Jobs for everyone at whatever arbitrary wage he deems “livable”. You want it? He’ll give it to you. Free. Unless you are one of those evil people who actually produce what the rest of us consume. If you are one of those evil people you will pay, oooohhhh you will pay. People love them some Bernie Sanders. Especially college students who by and large have never had to pay for anything. People love him because he “says it like it is”, and is not afraid to ruffle some feathers. He is a self-described socialist and is not afraid to admit it (unless he’s running for president, then he denies it). One compliment I can give Mr. Sanders is that I get the feeling he truly believes what he advocates. Honesty is a rare commodity, especially in Washington, DC. It’s easy to see young inexperienced people and old hippies could fall for the dribble that he spews. I mean really? Free college for anyone who wants to go to a state college? I guess the professors, textbook providers, school related businesses and everyone else related to public universities will be perfectly ok with providing their goods and services at no charge. No? Well how do those people get paid if the education is free? Oh, that’s right. Those evil producers who make everything and give everyone jobs will be forced to pay for your kids’ college. Free.

On the other side you have republican superstar Donald Trump dominating the airwaves and social media. Love him or hate him, he is saying what conservatives want to hear right now. He is riding the wave caused by his remarks about Mexicans a few weeks ago. Apparently, he thinks half the people coming from Mexico illegally are rapists and felons. Of course that is wrong on a variety of levels, but it taps into the feelings of American’s towards illegal aliens in a very Trumpesque over the top way that makes people scream, “He says it like it is! You can’t handle the truth!” Trump has the appeal of not being a Washington insider. To my knowledge he has never held any kind of office. What Trump is, is an opportunist. In the past he was a huge admirer and supporter of Hillary Clinton and universal healthcare. He calls himself a “big second amendment guy” and then advocates for outlawing assault weapons, because only criminals and cops need those. Now that it’s a popular position, he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to reduce or eliminate corporate taxes, but advocates for a 14.25% one-time tax on the top 1% because they hold 99% of the wealth and can afford it (paraphrasing). He is really good at making general statements and platitudes without having an actual plan to back them up. He is the worst kind of crony capitalist in his own business pursuits. He at one time tried to take private property through eminent domain. He has strengthened the already dizzying array of necessary license agreements necessary to open a casino in Atlantic City to make competition against him harder. The one compliment I will give Donald Trump is that he is really good figuring out what people want to hear and then telling them that. In times past, I will remind everyone that “crony capitalism” went by a different, more sinister name. You can discover that name for yourself.

So what does all this mean? Why these two? My best guess is that these two guys fill a need. They are a voice that is getting overshadowed by the established leadership on both sides of the political spectrum. People are sick of hearing meaningless political talking points, stated in the same words by different politicians and pundits over and over again. They are saying new things, in a non-politically correct way that speak to the core belief systems of normal citizens everywhere. They are blunt and unapologetic in their commentary. Frankly, it’s refreshing to hear something different. Never mind what they are actually saying is nonsensical, ridiculous, without factual merit and utterly ridiculous in many cases. They make themselves seem to the average guy, with no political pull, just like them. They will work for you when they get to Washington. I would caution everyone to not only listen to what they promise, but to ask how they plan on doing it. Before you grab your pitchfork and cleverly worded poster and head out to the Mexican border or a mega-millionaire’s home, say to yourself, “I know I liked what he said, but does that make it true?” I would certainly personally benefit if all state schools were free, but can we really get enough new money from rich people to pay for it? No. Of course not. Sure, illegal immigration may be a problem in some areas, but are half of them really rapists and felons? No, of course not.

Bottom line, get past the feelings politicians give you. The worst thing anyone can do in politics is trust a politician. Americans love to cheer for their team and boo the opposition. Politics is not sports, it’s not professional wrestling with baby faces and heels. These are real people with real control over your lives, treat them as such. Like I said, I’m not condemning Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. If they weren’t in the headlines I would have used other examples. If you like them, by all means, you be you. I just think you are wrong, that’s all.

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