According to the latest Pew poll, Republicans are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. They are, as usual, deeply confused about what government does and what they want it to do, but whatever it is, they're very angry about it. Thirty-two percent of GOP voters say they are mad at the government, while only 12 percent of Democrats say the same. According to Pew, among the truly engaged (like those, say, who go to a political rally a year before an election), 42 percent of Republicans are angry compared to 11 percent of Democrats.
Both sides say you cannot trust the government, but Democrats' views don't change depending on who is in the White House while Republicans are far more trusting of government when one of their own is president:
In Barack Obama’s six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they can trust the government always or most of the time – the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush’s presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% Bush, 29% Obama).
It doesn't appear, then, that despite their constant bleating about the predations of big government, this mistrust is truly a matter of principle with Republicans. Republican voters simply believe that government is the enemy unless Republicans are in charge of every bit of it. This famous quote by Grover Norquist in the wake of the 2004 GOP victory perfectly expresses how they believe government is supposed to work:
"Once the [Democratic] minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."
And while one might think that having majorities of governors and state legislatures, running both houses of Congress and a majority on the Supreme Court would make them hate the government less, without having control of every branch, they are convinced that they are an aggrieved minority who are losing at every turn: "large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81 percent) and moderate and liberal Republicans (75 percent) say their political side loses more often than it wins." And heaven forbid they might compromise to get some of what they want. If they can't have it all, it's not worth anything.
None of this is really news to anyone who's been watching the presidential race unfold this year. The Trump phenomenon alone is enough to convince observers that while a large chunk of the Republican base is ticked off at just about everything -- especially immigrants, Muslims and President Obama. But what really makes them see red, and what Trump (and to some extent Carson) articulates the best, is the visceral loathing for what they call "political correctness." (That's what what people used to call "good manners" or "basic human decency.") The social disapprobation against being rude and demeaning completely enrages them.
Some conservatives openly defy any restriction on their God-given right to be puerile jerks:
(Helen Keller jokes were considered gross and out of bounds even when I was a kid and that was long before the term "political correctness" existed.)
Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham come to mind as similarly infantile and crude. But mostly they are screaming mad. They are the leaders of the angry right who have been stoking the discontent of their audiences for many years, creating the subculture of right wing rage that is finding its political expression in the candidacy of Donald Trump.
No less than the Wall Street Journal made note of their influence and how they've managed to turn it against the very establishment that helped create them:
Consider the folks who regularly tune in to conservative talk radio. These listeners expect a steady diet of Obama-bashing, so it’s hardly surprising that not one surveyed for a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late October approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.
That anger translates to how these Americans view the country as a whole. Some 98% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a view regularly reinforced on the airwaves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and other talk-radio hosts who don’t have much nice to say about GOP leaders in Washington, either.
A decade ago, Republicans touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters. Democrats and liberal groups tried to replicate that success by building their own left-leaning television and radio stations, with far less success.
Now, the tables have turned. Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists, in part, because conservative radio hosts are almost as likely to rail against the party brass in Congress as they are to lament Mr. Obama’s failings in the Oval Office.
This is a switch from the days when Rush would have the whole Bush family on his show in 2008 so they could kiss each other's rings:
RUSH: What are...? (interruption) Interrupting for what?
THE PRESIDENT: Hello!
RUSH: Oh, jeez. The president?
THE PRESIDENT: Rush Limbaugh?
RUSH: Yes, sir, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: President George W. Bush calling to congratulate you on 20 years of important and excellent broadcasting.
RUSH: Well, thank you, sir. You've stunned me! (laughing) I'm shocked. But thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: That's hard to do.
RUSH: (laughing) I know, it is.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm here with a room full of admirers. There are two others that would like to speak to you and congratulate you, people who consider you friends and really appreciate the contribution you've made.
RUSH: Thank you, sir, very much. Put 'em on.
THE PRESIDENT: How you doing? This is my swan song? If this is all you got for me, I'm moving on.
RUSH: (laughing) No! The show's yours; take as much time as you want.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm just calling along with President 41 and the former governor of Florida. We're fixing to have lunch here, and I said, "Listen, we ought to call our pal and let him know that we care," for you. So this is as much as anything, a nice verbal letter to a guy we really care for.
RUSH: Well, thank you, sir, very much. I'm overwhelmed. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this and how much you've surprised me.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that was the purpose of the phone call.
RUSH: You succeeded.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
There was trouble in paradise even then, however, although the Bush family may not have been aware of it. You may recall that President Bush had tried to pass immigration reform and was thwarted by one of the earliest exercises of right wing muscle in Congress. Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott left no uncertainty as to who and what was to blame:
Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”
There's nothing they can do about it. That "problem" continued on unmolested and ended up empowering the Tea Party right to create an obstructionist bloc in the House, destroyed the political career of the House Majority Leader last year and is now fueling the angry crowds who are showing up to cheer on Donald Trump as he eschews all human decency to "tell it like it is" in exactly the terms these talk radio folks are used to hearing it. And today, as then, racism and xenophobia are their main motivators.
Like Limbaugh, Levin, Savage and Ingraham, Trump channels their anger and feeds it back to them. The Pew Poll reported:
Donald Trump is viewed more favorably by the nearly one-third of Republicans and leaners who are angry at government (64% favorable) than by those who are frustrated or content with government (48%). Other GOP presidential candidates (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson) also get higher favorable ratings among Republicans who are angry at government than among non-angry Republicans, in part because they are better known among the “angry” group.
And if you want to know why establishment Republicans are so unwilling to challenge talk radio's toxic spew and the political virus that grows from it, the Journal explains:
Republican presidential contenders would be unwise to write off this bloc; roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio, about 10 percentage points higher than the share of GOP primary voters who consider themselves moderate or liberal, according to the survey conducted by the Democrats at Hart Research Associates and the Republicans at Public Opinion Research.
There are way more of these talk radio acolytes than there are any other kind of Republican. They run things now. And they are livid --- at least until the Republicans manage to control all of government and enact their agenda precisely as talk radio tells them it must be enacted. Then they might calm down. But I wouldn't count on it. Rage is their life blood now. They can't live without it.