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Fear Makes the Difference in this Election Cycle

My first years of schooling were spent at Forest Hills Elementary School in Tampa. I have fond memories of the school except for one thing -- the air raid drills. We had regular practices preparing for nuclear war with Russia and an invasion of the Florida peninsula from Cuba. From time to time we were shown films prepared by the United States Office of Civil Defense, showing what our lives would be like in the bomb shelters, or how to recognize Russian or Cuban infantry if they were in our area. While walking between buildings the air raid would sound, we would hurl our bodies spread eagle with our hands over our head onto the ground, or if we were indoors we would get under our desks. 

50 years later the drills seem ludicrous. These precautions would have done no good in a nuclear war. Since President Kennedy's showdown with Russia gave the country a feeling of safety, to a small elementary school boy the precautions seemed adventurous. Most of us preferred the Civil Defense movies to our math lesson. The illusion of safety made 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Senator Barry Goldwater's declaration that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," seem bellicose to many. We believed the Kennedy/Johnson administration would keep us safe with out going to war. Most people rejected the idea of challenging the Russians, and the Democrats produced commercials with daisies and mushroom clouds associating Goldwater with nuclear holocaust. Johnson won in 1964 at least in part because people trusted him to keep us safe. If the public fears for their safety economic concerns will be secondary in an Election. The domestic policies of both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were abysmal failures, but in both cases people elected them because they trusted them to keep America safe in time of war.

Only once before in our history have American voters felt so insecure. In years following the Mexican American War as we established our manifest destiny, one territory at a time, our nation was polarized over states rights and slavery. There were slave rebellions, the most famous being in Harpers Ferry VA. While the industrial Northeast seemed to prosper financially, the rest of the country was living on meager wages, crime was rampant, the west was lawless. With the election of James Buchanan, the most experienced man ever to serve as President, the country had hoped for some even partial resolution. Like most people who have spent their lives in politics when confronted with real life Buchanan had no solutions. The economy continued to decline, their was talk of succession and Civil War. Many wanted someone in the White House to find a resolution to the problem and protect them. In the election of 1860 the public turned to a little known former Congressman, and private practicing attorney, who was a member of a rogue political party, Abraham Lincoln. The 1860 election is the only election cycle comparable to 2016. It was an election where the people turned to an outsider, because they were afraid, and the Buchanan administration and the Democratic party lost the trust of the people. When people lose faith in those who are governing, they look for someone outside of politics that they can trust.  Lincoln was an outsider or a non-establishment candidate.

When people lose faith in those who are governing, they look for someone outside of politics that they can trust.

In 2016 Trump's bellicosity is his greatest political asset. His proposal to temporarily end Muslim immigration convinces most people that he understands the threat we face and is willing to do whatever is necessary protect them. It also makes him and his policy dominate the political cycle. He continually makes provocative statements which in other years would hurt him, yet his numbers seem to rise. When Speaker Paul Ryan and establishment candidates criticize him as being inconsistent with American values, to many they sound as if they fail to understand the threat.

Not since 1860 has fear so dominated an electorate. Obama's incompetence is comparable to Buchanan's, as both have lost the trust of the American people. Obama either has no idea how to protect American safety, or has no interest in doing it. The protection of people's safety and security is the fundamental relationship a government has with its people. If people believe their homes and families are safe and at least being defended they will remain loyal even to tyrannical governments. Fear explains why the 2016 election is unique and why the outsider candidates, and Trump in particular, are popular. Fear makes the difference in this election cycle. It is inconceivable that a political party that puts climate change above security, and who appeases our enemies would garner the support of the majority of American people. Hillary Clinton is unelectable. The only way the Republicans can loose this election is if they nominate a candidate who is more concerned for common ground and consensus, than he or she is for restoring the hope and confidence of the American people in their safety. Events like Fort Hood, the Boston bombing, Chattanooga and San Bernadino makes us wonder whether Civil Defense movies and air raid drills in schools might be appropriate again. Fear explains the popularity of Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Cruz, and will likely get one of them elected as our 45th President.

Although fear is something we usually avoid, it can be healthy. When Franklin Roosevelt said, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself," it was calming oratory for the American people. However,  as a point of fact he was wrong. There is nothing fearful about fear. It is an emotion, a chemical reaction in the brain that occurs when we face stress or danger. Fear can be paralyzing or provocative. If one's car breaks down on a railroad track, and suddenly, bells and whistles sound, fear can provoke life saving action. When the shrill call of  a smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night, fear can save your life. Apathy, complacency or passivity in the face of terror is irrational and dangerous. When the President says we have nothing to fear, Issis is contained, climate change is our biggest enemy many fear Obama has stalled us on a train track and is ignoring the warning bell. Fear wakes us up. In the 21st Century our biggest fear is ignoring our fear.

The American people understand what none of Democratic candidates and most of the Republican candidates do not. For the first time since the mid 19th century Americans are living in fear for their basic economic and physical safety. The government appears to be either incapable or unwilling to defend us. This government, all three branches and both parties, have denigrated those who are afraid. Calling their precaution, prejudice and their vocabulary "aggressive." The 2016 election will  be won when someone convinces the American people that he or she is determined to keep them safe. Fear makes the difference in this election cycle.

The Republican establishment, who are afraid of Trump, Carson, Fiorina or Cruz winning the nomination don't get it. These outsiders are popular because the people no longer trust their leaders to protect them. In a time when people are afraid to go to the mall they will turn to people who will insist on strength and determined policies to protect them. Hence, Trump says what most people are thinking, and people appreciate it. Our government has forgotten its duty "to establish justice and to insure domestic tranquility." Those are the American values they are charged to protect. Neither this President nor this Congress have done their duty, and the people have rejected both. In the wake of recent shootings some people are passionate that access to guns are a threat to their lives while others seeing the ineptitude of government believe they must have the ability to defend themselves. Both sides are more guided by passion than they are by facts. Fear is what is underlying the gun control debate. The lesson of San Bernadino is that Goldwater was right "extremism in the defense of liberty in no vice... and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." The American public in this cycle will vote for bellicosity in the defense of liberty and pursuit of justice. Fear will make the difference in this election cycle, because the only thing we have to fear is fearlessness.

This post first appeared on Samson's Jawbone, please read the originial post: here

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Fear Makes the Difference in this Election Cycle


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