The week of the Republican convention brought a rage-fest of anger, whether it’s wrapped “in pretty colors” or not, explained Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.
In his recent column, the commentator summed up the Republican Convention as an attempt to reassure voters that their leadership is calm and steady, but at the center is still a “bright orange ball of fury.”
They can’t hide from a “wounded and angry” president who is “promising White men in his trademark, code-worded slogan that he’s going to ‘Make America Great Again,’” wrote Ignatius.
While both parties are trying to say that it’s the most important election in our lifetimes, Ignatius noted that the reason for that is being ignored by the GOP.
“It’s such an admission of national failure,” he wrote. “America is coming apart in the summer of 2020. The bonds of social cohesion have frayed to the point that armed gangs, from left and right, have taken the streets.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) actively want to restore the peace and stability of the United States, but they’re not explaining the source of the disorder.
“That means condemning the police violence that provoked the Black Lives Matter demonstrations,” wrote Ignatius. “But it also means denouncing the violent protesters who support the cause with rocks and arson — and the armed right-wing groups who claim to be backing the police.”
When Biden spoke to the family of Jacob Blake he got it right. Later, telling protesters on Twitter: “Burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence. . . . That’s wrong.”
Ignatius went on to cite a new documentary, Stars and Strife, which explores the changes the U.S. has seen in the past four years. Historians explain what will be studied in the future and what “spawned the Trump spasm of rage.”
Trump has blamed his rise to power on former President Barack Obama, but he neglects to explain that color was a huge piece of that.
“Perhaps the most striking demographic change in the years preceding his election was the catastrophic decline in the health, income and cohesion of White men without college educations,” said Ignatius. “That group voted 64 percent for Trump in 2016, making it one of his largest voting blocs,” he said, citing the Pew Research Center.
The so-called White Collapse is the subject of the book by economists, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.
“Deaths from drug overdoses and other poisonings, suicide and alcohol-related diseases (which they grouped together as ‘deaths of despair’) among White people aged 45 to 54 ‘tripled from 1990 and 2017,'” he explained. “White men, in particular, were dying earlier; they were getting married less; they lost jobs and dignity.”
While Trump has built “task forces” and pledged to fix problems, it’s been four years and nothing has changed for many of those in the demographic. In fact, the coronavirus has made things worse, putting Americans steps from eviction and struggling to make it. Forcing people to go back to work, risking their lives and their financial future with hefty medical bills isn’t the way to make people feel safer.
“The suicide numbers for White men are especially shocking,” said Ignatius. “They are more than twice as likely to kill themselves than every other racial group except Native Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They accounted for nearly 70 percent of all suicide deaths in 2018.”
Some of it is drugs-related, but there are also the working-class men who haven’t improved in Trump’s America.
“Median earnings lost 13 percent of their purchasing power between 1979 and 2017,” even as per capita national income rose 85 percent, says Stars and Strife.
In J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, the feeling is “that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.”
In the 19th century, sociologist Émile Durkheim thought that the increase in suicides was from a sense of disconnectedness and despair. The reality is that “this kind of self-harm is less frequent during periods of national unity and becomes more common when rapid change rips apart society.” So, Trump’s increase of strife while urging on another Civil War is only going to spell disaster for his own voters.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “America’s cult of individualism was perilously close to raw selfishness — the ‘me first’ instinct we often see today.”
“Individualism, at first, only saps the virtue of public life, but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness,” he wrote, warning that it “blights the germ of all virtue.”
A country that prizes individualism may be a gift to Americans, but Ignatius explained it’s the reason why good leaders are so desperately needed, “to hold together and avoid the abyss of social disintegration.”