Politicians have a long history of throwing mud at each other. However, over the past ten years, our elected officials have turned from attacking each other, to attacking sectors of Americans. It has divided our nation.
When Barack Obama ran for office, he took aim at the top 1% of wage earners in the country. He blamed “fat cat” bankers for making too much money and further blamed them for pushing the country into financial ruin (“you guys caused the problem,“) conveniently ignoring the government failings for pushing banks to lend to credit-challenged people to buy homes. Obama continued to attack wealthy Americans as people that did not pay their “fair share” of taxes. His attacks appealed to the masses – the 99% of Americans – that would be the beneficiaries of his wealth redistribution. He bought votes by dividing a slice of Americans.
Obama’s class warfare was enhanced by far-left wing politicians like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders claimed that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud,” attacking the entire financial sector, not just some “fat cats.” Warren wouldn’t even allow a banker, Antonio Weiss, to leave his position at an investment bank to help fix the economy of Puerto Rico which was in crisis, because she viewed him as part of the evil Wall Street, even though Weiss had nothing to do with the financial meltdown.
The radical socialists in Congress were no longer satisfied only picking the pockets of “fat cats,” they wanted them either in jail or unemployed.
What these left-wing politicians failed to appreciate, was that there were professions more reviled by Americans than bankers. Specifically, politicians and the news media.
According to polls – both by Pew and Gallup – politicians were ranked as the least trust-worthy group by Americans. The October 2016 Pew poll ranked the military, scientists, school principals, religious leaders, the news media, business leaders and then elected leaders in order of highest to lowest in regards to confidence. A total of 73% of Americans had little or no confidence in their elected officials.
The December 2016 Gallup poll had similar results, with people in the medical profession scoring as the most honest and ethical, with the least trust-worthy professions being state senators, business executives, stock brokers, HMO managers, Senators, advertising people, insurance salespeople, car salespeople and members of Congress. A total of 59% and 50% of Americans had either low or very low views of members of Congress and Senators, respectively. That compared to 30% for bankers and 41% for journalists.
Donald Trump understood this. He rode Americans distaste for their elected officials, and became the first non-public official in the White House.
Rather than attack bankers, Trump has taken aim at the media, another industry that is not trusted by Americans. He called out “fake news” which the public has long believed. One of his advisors sited “alternative facts” in an interview with the press in an ongoing debate with the media.
Donald Trump in first news conference as President-elect labeled CNN as “fake news”
January 11, 2017
The press, which has long enjoyed crafting a narrative to fit the political agenda of their editorial boards, are appalled. Already under threat from changes in technology that is making their work uneconomic, they are attacking every move being made by Trump, in sharp contrast to the gentle treatment of Obama for eight years.
It would be nice to have politicians debate issues rather than resort to personal attacks. Unfortunately, that has never been proven effective in political campaigns.
But politicians have moved passed throwing mud at a single opponent to attacking the American people they are meant to serve.
Obama decided to splinter off only a small number of Americans – the “fat cats.” He made fun of Americans that “cling to guns or religion,” but he didn’t vilify them as bringing down the country. We are past that now.
For his part, Trump narrowed his attacks on those that were unpopular in America. When Americans said that they were more scared of terrorism than mass shootings, he attacked radical Islamic terrorism and went light on gun control. When Americans showed their hatred for politicians and the news media, he berated them to their faces, to the cheers of many.
It is ugly. It is popular. It is the voice of protestors and people angry with the state of our world.
It is us.
Our leaders contributed to our division. Do we rely on them to fix it?
We are all media pundits in a world of social media. We celebrate and castigate politicians with whom we agree and disagree. But we are also doing so with friends and colleagues.
That splinter that Obama opened with the top 1% has opened a chasm in our country and our relationships.
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