Sep 21st 2010

Angry Voters Have Spoken, How Will the Rest Vote?

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

The US electorate is more volatile than ever. Many voters are angry, somewhat confused and looking for targets at which they direct their rage.

The root of this discontent is the widespread insecurity caused by the prolonged economic crisis. Accelerating its growth has been a breakdown in public confidence in institutions basic to America's governance and financial stability (Wall Street and the banks, and both the legislative and executive branches in Washington). The resultant anger and angst has been cleverly exploited by some Republican leaders and right wing talk show hosts and well-funded groups that have organized this unrest into a protest movement. And it is having an impact in this year's elections, the bumper sticker for which may as well be "we're angry and we vote".

How else to explain the victories of such strange characters from Christine O'Donnell, who won the Republican Delaware primary for US Senate boasting of a resume that included having lied about graduating from college, being in default of her student loans, home mortgage, and taxes, and never having held a job more significant than heading a Christian sex abstinence group, to Carl Paladino who won the Republican primary for Governor of New York, despite having been found to be distributing bigoted and pornographic emails and venting about the "ruling class". These two are joined by about a dozen other similar Republican senatorial and gubernatorial candidates who will now be on the ballot in November.

What has propelled this group to victory are raw voter anger and the support of national figures like former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the organized activist movement called the Tea Party.

At this point, all of this rage is on the Republican side, as, one by one, candidates favored by that party's establishment have fallen victim to this political discontent. One might say that it serves them right. Last summer, when the Tea party was first taking form and flexing its muscles, disrupting health care town halls by shouting down speakers and threatening violence, Republican leaders seemed delighted by the scenes of chaos. When the movement questioned President Obama's birth certificate, claiming that he was foreign born and therefore not entitled to be President, the GOP leaders, with a wink and a nod, gave it encouragement. When the movement turned nativist and struck out at undocumented workers, once again Republicans (who had during the Bush years supported immigration reform that would have provided the undocumented a "pathway to citizenship") encouraged voter rage. And even when the Tea Party attacked the federal government bailout of the nation's banks (an idea George W. Bush had proposed and Republicans had endorsed in late 2008), the Republican leadership feigned populis, turning against the very Wall Street and business interests they had long courted (and were still courting).

Through all of this, the GOP leadership appeared to believe that they could ride the crest of this discontent to power in November. Now after having seen their favored candidates fall victim to the very fires they stoked and on which they had poured gasoline, they are the ones who have been burned. Voter rage turned first on them and now is posed to redefine the party and go after Democrats in November.

At this point, Republican leaders are of two minds. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was defeated by a Tea Party candidate in her primary reelection bid in Alaska has refused to endorse the victor, calling the Tea Party "an outside extremist group" that has "hijacked" the Republican Party. Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint, one of the most ideologically conservative Republicans (and the most visible supporter of these dissident candidates, after Palin), holds a different view. He is unfazed and even pleased by the ideological purity of the Tea Party victors, arguing that he would rather have a "pure" Republican minority than a majority that was "Republican in name only". Then there's Congressman Bob Inglis, who, though concerned by the harsh "orthodoxy" of this movement, consoles himself with the belief that once these extremist candidates win and come to Washington they can be co-opted by the leadership and "turn out to be the politicians they replaced". In an effort to begin this process of co-optation or absorption, other GOP leaders have invited the Tea Party crowd to sit with them in Washington to help shape the party's agenda for the fall.

The battle lines have been drawn for the November contest, between incumbent Democrats, who appear to be somewhat demoralized by the persistence of a sagging economy and voter unrest, and an energized and increasingly hard-line cast of Republican candidates who have emerged from the nearly completed primaries. How will voters decide?

Overall polls showed a divided and confused electorate that can go either way in November. When asked which party they wanted to see control congress, voters were split between the two parties (with Republicans having the edge in some polls). When asked whether they supported small government and fewer services or big government and more services, by a 19 point margin they favored small government. But when asked which party had the "better ideas for solving problems" facing the country, voters favored Democrats by 7 points. And Democrats beat out Republicans by 22 points as the party deemed best to help the middle class.

It is a volatile electorate and a confused political scene. Republicans have had their say and have chosen an angry and ideological crew to lead their ticket. What remains to be seen is where voters, as a whole, will be in November.

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Sep 24th 2021
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Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "