American anger is alive, and it’s dangerous
I was motivated to write this post by Frank Luntz. Mr. Luntz is a republican pollster. He’s polled and run focus groups all over the country, dialing into the pulse of the everyday American citizen. He has surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and performed extensive research on politics and the habits of people. You can say with a good degree of certainty, that Mr. Luntz understands public opinion better than anyone else. That is why this worries me:
And then there’s the ugly detail: Luntz says he’s never seen anything like the anger he’s seeing now. It’s not only coarsening public life; it’s changing the nature of his job, too.
“It is harder for me to get control and keep control of my groups,” he laments. “People are ruder and are more insulting.”
From an analytical standpoint, the fury has been a challenge. “It makes it easier to see where they are,” he says, “but it makes it hard to find a solution. The key to being effective and successful in politics, business and culture is not just understanding emotions but being able to direct [them]. But it is really hard to direct anything when the public is so angry. If you can’t get them to trust anything or anyone, you can’t get them to move. It is paralysis, and it is unhealthy.”
Mr. Luntz disapproves of the behavior of town hall participants, who rose up in venomous indignation over the summer:
“I have become intolerant of intolerance,” he says, “and it has put me at odds on occasion with people who I believe in and work for. I don’t support the town hall behavior of those who oppose [President Barack] Obama’s health care plan. I don’t [think] yelling by a member of Congress is constructive in any way.”
Why is the country so angry? How can President Obama repair the fracture that split the electorate over the last eight years? Should we expect solutions to the myriad of problems we face if we’re intolerant of one another, and don’t trust our elected officials to take the country in the proper direction? The simple answer is no. Unless our leadership is willing to be more adept in dealing with the living, breathing anger- and the people, are willing to accept the differences in ideology and each other- than our polarization will continue. And the anger will erupt.