NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed their political correspondent Mara Liasson for a segment called Anti-Establishment Candidates Trump, Sanders Continue Rise In The Polls. Seigel started by admitting that Liasson was wrong when she reported the day Trump announced for president that this would probably be his best day. Presumably a whole lot of NPR listeners have been writing in this summer objecting to the network’s conventional political wisdom or it would not have taken four minutes on air to issue an elaborate retraction.
They chatted for four minutes. At the end of her “retraction,” after offering a number of opinions, Liasson said that Hillary “has been having trouble connecting, otherwise Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be surging like he is.”
Really? Is it that people who might support Hillary but aren’t too sure think Bernie is OK, albeit not a woman, or is it that people who support Bernie only do so because they’re not sure Hillary is viable? Or both?
It’s actually neither, of course. People are drawn to Bernie because he’s telling the kind of truth about economic injustice that The Donald tells about political corruption. They already have eschewed Hillary. Liasson seems to believe that Hillary’s gain is Bernie’s loss in a zero-sum game. But given how much of the electorate remains in play, this is crazy talk.
What has made Donald Trump so successful, in my opinion, is anger. His tough talk and put-downs of the establishment is a magnet for all kinds of anger against immigrants and minorities, politicians and the stench of corruption. Cruz comes close, but he’s an insider, hard to trust. If this weren’t true, why would that angry nut job Ben Carson be polling so well? Apparently, all you need to do is to fervently scapegoat some unpopular minority to coax haters out of the woodwork. Trump knows that and has been doing that. It’s a tried and true tactic, but candidates who have no political fingerprints can get away with it better than others who do.
There’s anger among undecided independent and Democratic constituencies too, and Bernie is tapping some of it. The angrier he gets in public, the more disaffected voters will cleave to him, I believe. So how about he give some firebrand speeches denouncing the NRA, assaults against women and their bodies, the superrich for imposing and standing in the way of economic justice, or current and past administrations for creating conditions of poverty and oppression wherever in the world they decided to meddle? There’s plenty of anger to go around and it would if the Democratic establishment and the media didn’t keep muting it.
The Left (whatever that means to you) has a problem with anger. When it surfaces, leftists’ first response is to find root causes so they can propose public policies to address them. They tend not to milk the anger to build a winning coalition; the very idea is anathema. But playing a happy warrior is not the royal road to political power. It’s not even a dirt path. You have to raise ire.
No candidate, left or right, who doesn’t project anger will succeed in 2016, no matter how he or she comes down on particular issues. And there’s no reason not to. The degree to which social, economic, environmental, and political affairs are being mishandled angers nearly every potential voter. Any political party that fails to respond to their rage will lose.