Will the American electorate come to rue the day?
Have you ever seen the 1976 film “Network”? The main character is Howard Beale, a news anchor who is known as “The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves.” It’s obvious to everyone at the network that Howard has some mental issues and should be seeing a psychiatrist. But they keep him on the air because of his ratings. Viewers love him! When he’s on the air, the ratings at the network soar! Yes, Howard may be a loose cannon and he may say stuff that’s way out there in right field, but what he says resonates with his audience.
At one point in the film Howard really goes off the deep end and delivers a rant that has been called one of the most iconic in film history. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. If you would like to see that particular scene from the movie, go to Google and type in “mad as hell speech” or go here.
Even though the film came out in 1976, it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Here’s a snippet of Beale’s rant:
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad–worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy….” And this is how he proposes his viewers respond to what’s happening in the world:
“I want you to get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a human being! My life has value!’….I want you to get up right now and go to your window. Open it, stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!….Things have gotta change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!….”
What Howard Beale advocated in the film “Network” is basically what happened in America on November 8, 2016. On that date, millions of Americans, many of them white, middle-class workers and the working poor who have been struggling to keep their heads above water for their entire adult lives, decided to vent on election day. This anger had been building for a long time and the media, politicians, the pollsters, and even labor failed to recognize it. But there was one man who saw it and who capitalized on it.
Donald J. Trump.
Yes, these American citizens were as mad as hell and they decided they weren’t going to take it anymore. And there on their TV screen and perhaps in a venue somewhere in their state, there was a guy who understood their anger and frustration. He got it.
But instead of going to their windows and shouting, they did something much better. They went to the polls and did their shouting by voting. At the end of the day, their voices were reverberating through a stunned nation. They never saw it coming. Most everyone said it was going to be Hillary, but lo and behold, it was Donald who came out the winner.
So what exactly made these folks so angry? What caused them to turn out and vote for a reality TV star who had absolutely no public service record of any kind, a man who had said so many absurd and shocking things, alienating a huge swathe of the country?
Why the anger? Why vote for Trump?
They were angry because their government hadn’t been taking them seriously, had been making them promises that it hadn’t kept. Year after year they had been sold a bill of goods by their presidents and their representatives in Washington, lots of feel good rhetoric with no substance, the selling of the sizzle but the withholding of the promised steak.
These American citizens, many of whom were white working class, the working poor, the under-employed and the unemployed, were angry because they had seen their paychecks buy less and less, while Wall Street executives and the CEOs of big corporations had made more and more, millions more.
They were hot under the collar because they had seen foreclosures on their homes or businesses, or both, while the top one percent of the nation lived lavish lifestyles and the wealthy politicians in Washington sat on their duffs and wouldn’t lift a single finger to help them or punish the greedy. And then when they did lift a finger, it was usually the one in the middle.
These American citizens, your neighbors and mine–and quite possibly you–were livid over seeing their insurance premiums and medical bills skyrocket, who had seen their good paying jobs go overseas. Remember, it was Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, who saddled us with NAFTA.
They were fed up with the elitists and the establishment they represented, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired, of living under the heel of the status quo. They were boiling mad because despite the fact they were working harder and longer hours, they were incurring more and more debt.
They wanted change, the kind of change that Donald Trump was promising them, and by god they were going to get it!
Quite frankly, much of this anger was justified. If that many people perceived that our country was headed in the wrong direction, then their perception was and is their reality.
But here’s the problem. The solution they chose to solve their problems was misdirected. President-elect Donald J. Trump is not the solution to their grievances. He may make America great again, but it won’t be for them. It will be great for the one percent, the high-rollers, the folks who have been having it great for quite some time now. America will be greater for them.
Although the white working class folks who voted for Trump can’t see it now–and it’s senseless to try and convince them otherwise–it will eventually become obvious to many of them that they chose the wrong candidate, and the wrong party, to address their problems. And the sad irony is that the candidates they elected are only going to make the situation here in America much worse.
There was a reason the NALC and other unions supported Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump. Many of the country’s unions backed Mrs. Clinton because of her past record with working people. No, she wasn’t a perfect candidate, there never is. However, she was far and away better than the man who by his past words and actions, has shown no inclination toward helping working Americans. None. And I believe time will bear this out.
Labor could have worked with Hillary Clinton. But now, with the White House, the Senate and the House in the hands of the GOP, we have a formidable, uphill climb ahead of us. Not only is postal reform at risk, but so are our pensions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health care, just to name a few. By writing this we’re not trying to shame those who voted for Trump. However, we hope that once you discover the truth about this man and his administration, you will join with others in labor in channeling our anger in the right direction.