One big issue in the election

Published 11:03 am Thursday, October 6, 2016

Discontent is the driving force in this election. If boorishness and tax returns mattered, Donald Trump would have been toast long before now.

Election Day nears. The outcome will be determined by whether exasperation overcomes fear of what a Trump presidency would look like.

What are people unhappy about?

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Their narrative is clear: America has become a nation of makers and takers. They and Trump are the makers. Everyone else is a leech.

There are race and class overtones and undertones, but the core difference rests with the question, “Are you satisfied with the direction in which the nation is headed?”

People with good educations, decent jobs and a sense of personal security may not be jubilant, but they are able to stifle their stress. They fret about the deficit, about employment, the rise of Isis and Hillary Clinton’s lack of ethics, but they put those concerns on the back burner believing that one day everything will work out fine.

Those who will vote for Trump are far more alarmed. More than alarmed, they are tired.

In their view, it’s not enough that they work to make money to house and feed their families. They also are forced to pay taxes to house and feed those who can’t or won’t work.

In their view, the powerful talk about the problems with health-care costs, with sorry roads, schools where coddling and accommodations are more important than students learning, about factories closing, jobs ending — but it’s all talk.

They know “buying American” has become almost impossible when shopping for clothes or furniture and many other products and services. They see major America cities in rot while international capitals soar.

They see criminals as respected and authorities as disrespected. They see corporate scofflaws never held to account.

They perceive wholesale fraud in housing programs, Medicaid, Supplemental Social Security (crazy checks) and every other federal or state form of assistance and no one doing anything about it while the national debt arcs ever upward.

They don’t see Trump as a genius. They don’t care about his position on issues or that some of his views are, in fact, classic liberalism. They don’t care what he says or who he offends. He’s not an insider, and that’s all that matters.

In Mississippi, we’ve seen this.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, came out of absolutely nowhere in 2014 and forced stately statesman U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. into a runoff. It was some of the nastiest campaigning ever in this state.

McDaniel’s only appeal was that he wasn’t Cochran, whose only flaw was being in office. If it weren’t for a third candidate (who polled a mere 4,800 votes) in that primary Cochran (who had polled 766,111 votes in the general election six years earlier), McDaniel would have won the nomination.

Several other states have seen the same thing — RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) have been sent packing or nearly sent packing.

A notable saga from Indiana: There, in 2012 veteran conservative-centrist Richard Lugar was challenged in the Republican Primary by the unknown state treasurer, Richard Mourdock. Lugar and Cochran had similar credentials. Lugar was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had done bundles for his state. Cochran was chair of Senate Appropriations and brought millions of dollars and jobs to Mississippi, protected against base closings and more. But Mourdock beat Lugar like the proverbial drum, denying the genteel, white-haired leader a seventh term.

The reaction of establishment, white-collar America to these political tsunamis has been, “Oh, well” or “tsk-tsk.” Ruffians are at the gate, but common sense will turn them back, right?

Sure enough, Cochran survived. Sure enough, Mourdock lost the general election (and the Senate seat) to a Democrat.

Americans who consider themselves aware and informed fail because they try to use logic and reason to understand Trump’s appeal. They cannot imagine how his inarticulate, abrasive and frequently flat-out impossible positions can attract votes. They don’t see that none of that matters. His faithful believe he will reverse the skid. End of discussion.

Looking at the math, it appears that Trump will go the way of McDaniel and Mourdock. In all likelihood, an organized campaign by Democrats combined with large-state dominance will result in an Electoral College loss.

Establishment America might take note, though. The age-old yardsticks of experience, competence, maturity, charisma and ideology have not been useful in this election cycle.

And don’t expect the ruffians at the gate to be silent as their vision of what America should be becomes more and more obscure.

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at