Fury fuels the modern political climate in US
Americans are angry about everything.
That’s what Rep. Steve Israel thought just months before the 2014 midterm elections. During that cycle, Israel poured over reams of data and watched hours of focus groups with voters across the country. The New York Democrat, who had been tasked with coordinating his party’s messaging strategy, saw voters deeply antipathetic about more than just the partisan political process.
“We saw an historic breakdown of faith in institutions across the board, not just government,” said Israel, who has since left Congress.
People were angry about religious institutions riven by scandal and a financial system that led to the worst recession in modern history. They saw disruption taking place across the economy in deeply personal terms, like the local bookstore that had closed because of online competition or the taxi cab that had been replaced by ride-hailing services. And they saw a political system entirely unable — or unwilling — to offer a response that addressed their growing anxieties.
There have been plenty of times in the nation’s 240-year history in which an evolving economy has produced anxiety. But this time was different.
“The bookstore, the local small business, the taxi, those are proxies for people’s own economic security. And when they disappear, people think they’re next. There’s an existential fear for their economic survival,” Israel said. “Even when our politics and government failed us in the past, people have had safe havens to go to, whether it was sports or the church. Without a safe place to go to, that amplifies anxiety.”