Politicians are by and large disingenuous peddlers of envy, fear, and blame. Once having convinced their customer (the voter) to swallow that message they then proceed to sell them the cure: hope. And naturally they are the only ones that can turn that hope into a reality. The formula is simple: You: Things are not as I would like them to be in my life or I’m afraid of what the future will bring, Politician: This is not your fault, it is caused by [insert despised group du jour], you are not in control of your life, they are. You: Wow, I feel so much better now knowing that I’m actually a victim and bear no responsibility for my life, finally someone has given me hope that things will improve. The Politician: Yes they will improve, but I need you to help me make that happen for you, only I can save you from those that are keeping you down. If you grant me unlimited authority over your life not only will I fix your problems but I will presume such a grant of authority entitles me to force others who happen to live near you to succumb to our will.
The most successful candidate is the one who effectively deliver that formulaic message. To be clear, one can be elected without following this approach. But as soon as someone sets up this model, they are virtually guaranteed to come out on top. Witness both Trump and Sanders, two politicians who are deftly employing this message. Trump peddles fear of “aliens” coming here to steal our jobs lower our wages and put people out of work. His message is rooted in the idea that basically anyone who is not American is causing America to not be “great” anymore but he’ll fix that and make American great again. Yes, because tariffs, price controls, embargoes and all manner of trade protectionism have worked so well in the past at improving the American economy (Smoot-Hawley Tariff anyone?) Price controls do nothing but enrich the few at the expense of the many.
And Sanders – he lays the blame for every societal ill at the doorstep of the evil 1%, or 5%, or 10% who are of course causing everyone else to be poor by hoarding all the money. Even though the math doesn’t work, he continues to insist that if only we raise taxes and make them pay “their fair share” that will fix everything. He decries high tuition rates and insists “free” tuition will fix that problem – ignoring the fact that tuition rates have increased at a rate 5x the rate of inflation over a time frame exactly mirroring when the federal government increased its support of higher education through grants and loans. Colleges increased tuition in the wake of a wave of “free” government money. What do you imagine will happen to tuition when a tidal wave of money enters the system? No, I’m sure no one will raise tuition if Bernie’s plan went into effect.
In the final analysis Trump and Sanders and everyone else are all the same. Their messages may differ in substance on a few minor points, but the structure of the message is uniform. They all propose to initiate violence against those that disagree with them (since if they agreed they would of course willingly do what was asked) in order to force them to comply with their ideas. Both sides obfuscate the violence behind a curtain of euphemisms. When you see words like “should”, “impose”, “must”, and “ask” uttered by a politician simply substitute those words for the phrase “send men with guns to threaten them until [they do as we desire]”.
So here’s a Bernie quote, “We’re going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation” becomes “We’re going to send men with guns to threaten traders to hand over money if they engage in Wall Street speculation.” And Trump “[For] every car … that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35-percent tax” becomes “[For] every car… that comes across the border, we’re going to send men with guns to force you to hand over money otherwise other men with guns won’t allow the cars to cross this imaginary line in the dirt.”
They are all the same. Anyone who supports the State as a means to improving their position in society vis-a-vis politicians supports the idea that violence or the threat of violence against peaceful people who disagree with us is a legitimate way to accomplish social or political goals. Oh wait, that’s also the definition of terrorism.
Constructive comments are welcomed to this paper or at gregmorin.com. Follow me at @gregtmorin