Revenge of the 'Bitter Clingers'

Observers of all things political will recall the backlash from voters when President Obama, campaigning for president in 2008, talked about small-town and rural Pennsylvanians in the following way (emphasis added):

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

In a few sentences, Harvard-educated Obama managed to delegitimize just about every concern shared by small-town and rural residents in America by stereotyping them as ignorant rednecks.  Obama managed to imply that if Americans were worrying about runaway immigration, loss of jobs due to outsourcing, and deterioration of their communities, they were inherently racist, latently violent gun freaks, and ignorant Bible-thumpers. 

They were just bitter clingers.

Then-candidate Obama probably didn't foresee how his policies of the last seven years have enraged the people whose votes he was courting.  If small-town and rural Americans, along with other groups despised by the elite of both the Democrat and Republican parties, weren't bitter in 2008, they surely are bitter and angry now.

They are "grab the pitch forks, tear down the ramparts, storm the Bastille, and throw all the bums into the tumbrels" infuriated.  They are so angry that they don't care if their own political party burns to the ground. 

They want revenge.

It's the stuff of revolutions.

Revolts happen when the political paradigms that once were vital enough to attract millions of people become corrupted, exhausted, and/or so extremist that they no longer have popular support.  Millions become essentially disenfranchised because they either feel or actually are no long represented.  Meanwhile, those in power continue not only to hold onto power, but to continue to attempt to effectuate change from the top down – change that a huge number of people have neither wanted nor voted for.

Eventually the tension between those in still in power and those who are not being listened to or whose interests are not being represented in any meaningful way becomes so great that patience runs out.  The angry response is to want to tear the entire system down to the foundations.

Adding to the frustration and bitterness of citizens, American society, once so flexible that anyone with grit and ambition could climb the social and economic ladder and achieve success, has become increasingly stratified.  Onerous regulations have ossified the process of gaining wealth by one's own efforts, and tens of millions are now dependent on the government teat.  The economy is still languishing, America is almost 20 trillion dollars in debt, 93 million Americans are basically out of the work force, the nation's borders are unprotected, and there is a rising contempt for law and order.

In the meantime, both parties are seen as colluding with power brokers and serpentine underground sub-governments run by puppeteers who pull strings that leave Joe Average Citizen completely out of the political equation.  

Is it any wonder that millions of voters in the United States have come to the conclusion that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are hearing their voices in meaningful ways? 

The result?

Both parties now have candidates who embrace extremism that is at least temporarily supported by enraged voters.  Extremism is what happens when people perceive, rightly or wrongly, that there are no meaningful channels through which to effectuate reform.

The current situation may share a few similarities with the Bull Moose revolt of 1912, in which Theodore Roosevelt's unhappiness with William Howard Taft's policies led Roosevelt to challenge Taft for the Republican Party's nomination.  Party leadership stuck with Taft, and Roosevelt walked out of the convention to form his own Progressive Party in protest.  The result was the election of Woodrow Wilson, who won because the Bull Moose Party split the Republican vote.

There are also echoes of the election of 1968.  George Wallace, infamous for his "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech, attracted a huge number of Americans who wanted a tough-talking strong man.  As the PBS website relates the story:

Wallace's tirades against hippies, the Supreme Court, and big government, and his ennobling of the white working class – 'this man in the textile mill, this man in the steel mill, this barber, this beautician, the policeman on the beat,' as the candidate said in one speech – traveled better than the pundits had predicted. About a month before the election, polls showed that as much as 23 percent of the electorate supported George Wallace for president.

Wallace hoped to throw the election into the House of Representatives.  That didn't happen, but he surely gave Republicans a scare, carrying five states in the Deep South.

Are we seeing history repeat itself?

Perhaps.  Certainly the anger is there.

The rage felt by "bitter clingers," many but not all of whom support Donald Trump, will certainly not be ameliorated if Republican leadership attempts to go for a brokered convention.  Trump supporters would not tolerate it, and Trump would probably revolt, much as Roosevelt and Wallace did.  A political revolution would ensue, one from which the Democrats would reap enormous benefits, such as capturing the presidency and the Senate.

The result?  Revenge-motivated "bitter clinger" Republicans, much of whose anger is justified, might get exactly what they do not want.  They may get the sort of revolution that happens when anger and "strong man" rhetoric alone dictate policy.  

Do Republicans who are (legitimately) angry about the policies of the Obama and, yes, the Bush administrations really want what amounts to the destruction of their own party and conservatism just at the moment they were on the cusp of effectuating a peaceful revolution that could set the compass of this nation for generations to come?  Conservatives have worked for over thirty years to gain both houses and the presidency.  Now the vengeful, who because rage creates addiction to immediacy are always without foresight, are about to hand victory over to leftists.

How ironic is it that many of the "bitter clingers" are exhibiting characteristics the left has described as inherent to them?  How satisfactory must it be for Democrats to feel ratified in their suspicions that a huge number of Republicans are just as they thought they were all along?  How Obama and Hillary must be licking their chops to see at least a third of Republicans champion someone who fits the very worst stereotypes of conservatives.  What a triumph for the opposition to think they were right all along.  There are few things more satisfying.

If the acutely disaffected among the Republican Party don't get a grip on their rage, if they insist on picking an extremist candidate, things may reach the point where the Republican Party and reformist impulses of conservatism itself go down in flames just at the exact time progressive insanity was about to collapse the Democratic Party. 

It would not be the first time conservative Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  But if wiser, calmer, and more seasoned voices do not prevail, it may be the last. 

True conservatives must step up to take the platform.

To quote – ironically – someone whose policies are inimical to conservatives and who would be overjoyed to see the demolition of conservatism:

"This is not who we are."

Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Her thoughts have appeared in many other online magazines, including National Review, RealClearReligion, CNS, and Fox News.  Selected as one of the Delaware GOP's "Winning Women" of 2008, she has discussed her ideas on radio and television talk shows.  She may be reached at fvoshell@yahoo.com

Observers of all things political will recall the backlash from voters when President Obama, campaigning for president in 2008, talked about small-town and rural Pennsylvanians in the following way (emphasis added):

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

In a few sentences, Harvard-educated Obama managed to delegitimize just about every concern shared by small-town and rural residents in America by stereotyping them as ignorant rednecks.  Obama managed to imply that if Americans were worrying about runaway immigration, loss of jobs due to outsourcing, and deterioration of their communities, they were inherently racist, latently violent gun freaks, and ignorant Bible-thumpers. 

They were just bitter clingers.

Then-candidate Obama probably didn't foresee how his policies of the last seven years have enraged the people whose votes he was courting.  If small-town and rural Americans, along with other groups despised by the elite of both the Democrat and Republican parties, weren't bitter in 2008, they surely are bitter and angry now.

They are "grab the pitch forks, tear down the ramparts, storm the Bastille, and throw all the bums into the tumbrels" infuriated.  They are so angry that they don't care if their own political party burns to the ground. 

They want revenge.

It's the stuff of revolutions.

Revolts happen when the political paradigms that once were vital enough to attract millions of people become corrupted, exhausted, and/or so extremist that they no longer have popular support.  Millions become essentially disenfranchised because they either feel or actually are no long represented.  Meanwhile, those in power continue not only to hold onto power, but to continue to attempt to effectuate change from the top down – change that a huge number of people have neither wanted nor voted for.

Eventually the tension between those in still in power and those who are not being listened to or whose interests are not being represented in any meaningful way becomes so great that patience runs out.  The angry response is to want to tear the entire system down to the foundations.

Adding to the frustration and bitterness of citizens, American society, once so flexible that anyone with grit and ambition could climb the social and economic ladder and achieve success, has become increasingly stratified.  Onerous regulations have ossified the process of gaining wealth by one's own efforts, and tens of millions are now dependent on the government teat.  The economy is still languishing, America is almost 20 trillion dollars in debt, 93 million Americans are basically out of the work force, the nation's borders are unprotected, and there is a rising contempt for law and order.

In the meantime, both parties are seen as colluding with power brokers and serpentine underground sub-governments run by puppeteers who pull strings that leave Joe Average Citizen completely out of the political equation.  

Is it any wonder that millions of voters in the United States have come to the conclusion that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are hearing their voices in meaningful ways? 

The result?

Both parties now have candidates who embrace extremism that is at least temporarily supported by enraged voters.  Extremism is what happens when people perceive, rightly or wrongly, that there are no meaningful channels through which to effectuate reform.

The current situation may share a few similarities with the Bull Moose revolt of 1912, in which Theodore Roosevelt's unhappiness with William Howard Taft's policies led Roosevelt to challenge Taft for the Republican Party's nomination.  Party leadership stuck with Taft, and Roosevelt walked out of the convention to form his own Progressive Party in protest.  The result was the election of Woodrow Wilson, who won because the Bull Moose Party split the Republican vote.

There are also echoes of the election of 1968.  George Wallace, infamous for his "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech, attracted a huge number of Americans who wanted a tough-talking strong man.  As the PBS website relates the story:

Wallace's tirades against hippies, the Supreme Court, and big government, and his ennobling of the white working class – 'this man in the textile mill, this man in the steel mill, this barber, this beautician, the policeman on the beat,' as the candidate said in one speech – traveled better than the pundits had predicted. About a month before the election, polls showed that as much as 23 percent of the electorate supported George Wallace for president.

Wallace hoped to throw the election into the House of Representatives.  That didn't happen, but he surely gave Republicans a scare, carrying five states in the Deep South.

Are we seeing history repeat itself?

Perhaps.  Certainly the anger is there.

The rage felt by "bitter clingers," many but not all of whom support Donald Trump, will certainly not be ameliorated if Republican leadership attempts to go for a brokered convention.  Trump supporters would not tolerate it, and Trump would probably revolt, much as Roosevelt and Wallace did.  A political revolution would ensue, one from which the Democrats would reap enormous benefits, such as capturing the presidency and the Senate.

The result?  Revenge-motivated "bitter clinger" Republicans, much of whose anger is justified, might get exactly what they do not want.  They may get the sort of revolution that happens when anger and "strong man" rhetoric alone dictate policy.  

Do Republicans who are (legitimately) angry about the policies of the Obama and, yes, the Bush administrations really want what amounts to the destruction of their own party and conservatism just at the moment they were on the cusp of effectuating a peaceful revolution that could set the compass of this nation for generations to come?  Conservatives have worked for over thirty years to gain both houses and the presidency.  Now the vengeful, who because rage creates addiction to immediacy are always without foresight, are about to hand victory over to leftists.

How ironic is it that many of the "bitter clingers" are exhibiting characteristics the left has described as inherent to them?  How satisfactory must it be for Democrats to feel ratified in their suspicions that a huge number of Republicans are just as they thought they were all along?  How Obama and Hillary must be licking their chops to see at least a third of Republicans champion someone who fits the very worst stereotypes of conservatives.  What a triumph for the opposition to think they were right all along.  There are few things more satisfying.

If the acutely disaffected among the Republican Party don't get a grip on their rage, if they insist on picking an extremist candidate, things may reach the point where the Republican Party and reformist impulses of conservatism itself go down in flames just at the exact time progressive insanity was about to collapse the Democratic Party. 

It would not be the first time conservative Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  But if wiser, calmer, and more seasoned voices do not prevail, it may be the last. 

True conservatives must step up to take the platform.

To quote – ironically – someone whose policies are inimical to conservatives and who would be overjoyed to see the demolition of conservatism:

"This is not who we are."

Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Her thoughts have appeared in many other online magazines, including National Review, RealClearReligion, CNS, and Fox News.  Selected as one of the Delaware GOP's "Winning Women" of 2008, she has discussed her ideas on radio and television talk shows.  She may be reached at fvoshell@yahoo.com