Understanding voter anger

Earlier this week, Matt Bai, a political reporter for the New York Times, tackled the issue of voter anger, its causes and consequences. Bai pointed out that should the Democrats lose control of Congress this November, President Obama will be the third consecutive president to have his party tossed out of legislative power in the very next election, something that’s never before happened in our country’s history. The rising number of unenrolled voters are primarily responsible for this turbulence – the 13% lead among independents now held by Republicans in the polls is the very same percentage by which Obama beat McCain among those same independents.

Bai concludes that independent voters “have tended to side with whichever party can legitimately claim not to be in charge at the moment, and ideology doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it.” For evidence of this, he trailed some Madison Avenue researchers, unaffiliated with any campaign or party, to suburban New Jersey to quiz groups of independent voters in the same way they’d quiz people on how they buy groceries. What became apparent from these focus groups was that government spending and unemployment, two of the most talked-about issues in this campaign, meant little to the voters. They were mostly concerned with and frustrated by an apparent breakdown of civil society as a whole – aggressive drivers, unruly kids, an intrusive internet. To these voters, “both parties, along with the news media and big business [are] symptoms of the larger societal ailment.”

People don’t dislike politicians, but once politicians get to Washington they become the adult equivalent of kids in a cafeteria food fight, something that frustrates the voters who take out that frustration by voting against whoever is in power. Bai concludes by saying that Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barrack Obama were all elected by pledging to “return civility to Washington” or to “transcend partisan politics”, but that as soon as each arrived in Washington, he was sucked into the partisan vortex and the voters rebelled.

Bai’s column is well worth reading. In my historical studies, I’ve seen that in the past, widespread anger and frustration are often the reaction to the speed of change in society. I suspect that’s exactly what’s going on now.

6 Responses to Understanding voter anger

  1. Righty Bulger says:

    One of the biggest pieces of hogwash I’ve read in ages. Clinton, and soon Obama, lost control of Congress in the first election after their innauguration. Republicans GAINED seats in Bush’s first term, one of the few times that’s happened this century.

    I find it amusing how Democrats are already scrambling to explain their November losses, before they even occur. Any excuse, any justification they can find except the truth. Obama, Pelosi and Reid were given the keys to the car because of Bush and “Gingrich” fatigue after 14 years in power. They mistakenly thought they’d been given a mandate to force their extreme liberal ideaology on a relatively conservative nation. They went too far and will have lost it all within two years, or four years in Pelosi’s case.

    Please don’t try to feed people the bull about voter anger against all establishment. The Republicans had 12 years of TOTAL congressional control. The donkeys had two. If that doesn’t tell you where America stands ideologically, you’re doomed to another decade of elephant dominance.

  2. JoeS says:

    “The Republicans had 12 years of TOTAL congressional control. The donkeys had two.”

    Good explanation of why the country has had such an economic decline.

  3. Righty Bulger says:

    You missed those years of amazing prosperity in there Joe. The ones dems like to attribute to Clinton and Clinton alone.

    If we’re going to be simplistic here, let’s follow your logic and blame all of this on Pelosi, who took over as Speaker in 2007, the same year our financial world collapsed.

  4. Renee Aste says:

    Dean, People maybe working, but at the point when wages were decreased for my husband the cost of heating oil was at its highest. Oil company refuse to budge on the contract, and we’re sleeping on the lower level of the house and closed off the upstairs. We feel poorer, because the lack of discretionary income. I know I’m fortunate my bills are paid, but my husband and I expected a better lifestyle and economic security considering his education and position in his field.

  5. Righty Bulger says:

    But Renee, you forget about all those great private sector jobs Gov. Patrick has brought to the Bay State. You know, the ones in the hospitality and service sector. I’m sure you and your husband can get jobs cleaning hotel rooms or serviing cocktails to augment your income.

    Economic recovery my a$$!