Revisiting the politics of fear and the common enemy

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 18, 2017, 7:32 PM | comments: 0

I've written before about how fear seems to be at the core of American politics in recent years. As I've said, this is not something that is the exclusive domain of either side. While the focus now is on the right's desire to make sure you're scared of brown people and the extraordinary threat they pose to you, the left wants you to be scared of rich people and your own inevitable financial ruin. Scared people have a strong tendency to get beyond people that say they can protect you from the threats, but beyond the fear, what they're really doing is gathering support to confront a common enemy, real or not.

Donald Trump has managed to turn this into an art form, and takes it one step beyond the common enemy. He has learned to identify the enemy, and then blame that enemy for his own failures. This isn't a new tactic, certainly, as taking responsibility for anything isn't really his thing. It's awfully convenient now that the new enemy to unite against is the press, because in his mind, they are the reason there's a perception that he's not doing particularly well. I thought that participation trophies were the exclusive domain of bed-wetting liberals, but apparently not.

This isn't the end of the scapegoating, however. Even Fox "News" is starting to turn on Trump. Congress, even the GOP side of the aisle, will not be far behind. At that point, it won't just be the press, it will be Congress that is the enemy. The judiciary is already the enemy.

We have to do better than this. The right will have us believe that we're more likely to be killed by a terrorist than win the lottery, when the reverse is true. The response is not logical. We can't let the other side have us believe that financial success is the result of nefarious intent either. We get the government we deserve when we allow these ridiculous fear-based policies dominate our politics. Identifying an enemy is not the thing that makes us better. Identifying a problem and objectively looking for solutions is what makes us better.

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