Monday Meanderings: Why Are They So Mad?

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Image by usatoday.com

The Republican presidential primaries have proven that there’s a significant block of GOP voters that yearn for the old days. They want to “make America great again.” Not surprisingly, 90% of Republican voters in those states are white. Exit polls show that these people are angry and frustrated with the direction of our country.

I have to confess that I don’t even know what “make America great again” means, nor do I understand why these folks are so mad. To educate myself, I’ve spent the past month or so listening to conservative talk radio while driving. I’ve had a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin.

Man, these guys are pissed off!

Their language is filled with slurs and put downs. When describing people who don’t follow their way of thinking, I’ve heard them use words like: idiot, swine, liar, stupid, moron, and on and on. And that’s just during a 5-minute drive to the grocery store! No wonder their followers cheer when candidates bellow insults from the stage.

After hours of listening to these angry men and their loyal listeners scream, growl, complain, and scold, I think I know what they’re so upset about. Here are the top five reasons (in order):

President Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton

Latinos (with special venom for Mexicans)

Non-Christians

Outsourced jobs (except a certain brand of suits and ties made in Mexican maquiladores)

I’m not making this stuff up. Tune in and listen for yourself. Their explanation for the election results goes something like this: Voters are angry because the political establishment has allowed unpatriotic forces within our country (i.e. President Obama, Clinton, Mexicans, and non-Christians) to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

So when was the last time America was “great”? Historians agree that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, was a turning point for the United States. Before that fateful day, America thought of itself as a black and white TV show starring well dressed parents and “gee-whiz” freckled-faced kids with wispy blonde hair.

During the next five decades, those who didn’t get a fair shot at the American Dream have fought for and gained equal rights. This sea change in America has ruined our country according to the angry electorate who wants to see us go back to November 21, 1963. These mad voters scoff at every piece of anti-discrimination legislation and each court decision that has leveled the playing field for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

Guess what happened on the way to a more equal nation? The economy changed, we elected a black president, women have risen to the highest levels of government, Latinos have out competed working-class whites in the new economy, and evangelical Christians now have to share the national spiritual stage with believers of other faiths.

Yeah, I said it: Latinos have out competed working-class whites in the new economy.

That may be why rebellious voters are mad. They want to go back to the way it was before JFK’s assassination triggered all of this equal rights stuff. The white working class thrived when America was the global leader in making cars, mining coal, heating steel, and manufacturing in a myriad of blue-collar industries. Over 90% of those workers were white men. Management and unions ensured that it stayed that way.

By the early 70s, American auto manufacturing moguls, getting slaughtered by foreign car makers, realized that machines operated by computers could make a car faster and cheaper. The rest of the manufacturing sector followed suit. Then, Ronald Reagan and his Republican revolution introduced the free trade movement.

The most hated and reviled trade agreement is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It passed during the Clinton Administration, but Reagan was NAFTA’s father. Yup…Look it up. American manufacturing as we knew it disappeared, the economy changed, and the white working class anger we see today was born.

Yeah, I said it: Latinos have out competed working-class whites in the new economy.

What have Latinos done since white working class manufacturing jobs disappeared? We adjusted to the new economy. While white Americans have turned their noses up on low-paying service jobs, Latinos have dominated that sector. High paying constructions jobs are mostly filled by Latinos, especially in states with large Latino populations.

A new group of Latinos replaced the Latinos who left the backbreaking agricultural and meat-packing industries  for the new economy. America can thank Ronald Reagan for that too. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was President Reagan’s baby. It ushered in a new era of immigration. Is the angry crowd mad at their beloved conservative icon? Nope. They’re mad at the group of people who took advantage of his policies.

When not cheering and jeering at political rallies, the angry white working class collects welfare at high rates. According to a Bloomberg News report, 160 of the 227 counties with the highest rate of food stamp usage are in southern Republicans congressional districts. These counties, approximately 90% white, have been devastated by the new economy.

The same report points out that Owsley County Kentucky has the highest rate of food stamp recipients in the nation. Over half of the residents of the area (52%) survive on the program. Owsley County is 98% white. GOP nominee Mitt Romney won 81% of the vote against President Obama in 2012 and 63% of the angry electorate voted for the angriest Republican candidate during the 2016 presidential primary last week.

While displaced workers of the new economy in rural America collect food stamps and complain about immigration and outsourcing, Latinos have worked their way to college campuses. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the University of California system admitted more Latinos than whites for the first time in its history.

A generation ago, my American-born parents were denied entry at a Phoenix nightclub because they were “Mexican.” Today, my family and Sandra’s family (including our spouses and children) have earned 26 college degrees with more on the way. Working-class Latino families throughout the country have followed this path to compete in today’s workforce.

That’s why angry working-class white welfare recipients are so pissed off. That’s why they want to build the wall (and make Mexico pay for it). That’s why Donald Trump’s nonsense resonates with this self-defeated group of people.

Latinos have come a long way, yet we have a long way to go. The executive suite and the halls of power are still but a distant speck on the horizon for Latinos. The United States of America, our country tis of thee, has provided an opportunity for Latinos to compete. We can’t allow anger to change that.

America is not perfect, but for the past half century, it has been great for Latinos. The ballot box is more important than ever. Let’s go out and vote in record numbers to make America even greater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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