You see it everywhere you look. Parents are ripping masks off of educators. Unruly passengers on planes having to be physically restrained. The knee-jerk reaction to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement on Thursday. Efforts to stamp out non-existent election fraud in swing states.
It’s anger and, in some cases, out and out rage. And it’s pulsing through the electorate. Heck, even President Biden could barely contain his frustration-bordering-on-anger on Thursday.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden scolded those who continue to resist getting the Covid-19 vaccines.
New polling from CNN bears it out. Asked to “think about the way things are going in the country today,” three-quarters of respondents (74%) said they were either “very angry” (26%) or “somewhat angry” (48%). Those numbers are similar to what an August 2020 CNN poll found, with 79% saying they were angry roughly a year ago.
Now, the poll doesn’t ask people why they are so angry. But if we dig into the crosstabs of the poll, we can gain some insight.
Almost 9 in 10 Republicans (88%) say they are angry – including 44% who describe themselves as “very angry.” By contrast, only 67% of Democrats say they are angry about the current state of affairs in the county, with just 15% saying they are “very” angry. (For what it’s worth, 70% of independents say they are angry.)
So, while both parties are angry, they are almost certainly angry about different things.
Republicans are up in arms about what they believe to be government overreach across a broad spectrum of issues but most notably on Covid-19. In response to Biden’s pledge to mandate vaccines for upwards of 100 million Americans, the Republican National Committee promised to file suit from keeping the mandate from ever going into effect. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, never one for understatement, tweeted this following Biden’s announcement: “Rest assured, we will fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.”
(Sidebar: Republican elected officials didn’t have much problem with schools mandating kids to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and the like. But I digress.)
Democrats, by and large, are – like Biden – angry at the unvaccinated people who, by their continuing refusal to take the shot, are allowing variants to continue to develop.
That frustration, of course, is not solely a Democratic feeling. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, in a press conference this week sounded absolutely fed up with those who resist taking the vaccine.
“For god’s sake’s a-livin’, how difficult is this to understand,” Justice asked. “Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas – and they’re crazy ideas – that the vaccine’s got something in it and its tracing people wherever they go.”
In fact, political parties may not be the best way to express the current split in the country – and where our anger is targeted. On one side are former President Donald Trump and his political base – not to mention many GOP elected officials who are ensuring they stay in good stead with the party base. On the other side are Democrats and plenty of Republicans — led by Chamber of Commerce types– who just want thing to go back to normal, and know that the only viable path back to normalcy is through vaccinations.
These groups are not equal. The latter (the back-to-normal vaccinaters) are FAR larger than the government-overreach Trumpers. But per the latest CNN poll, the Trump base is angrier over the current state of affairs than are the rest of the country. And that rage closes the numbers gap – mostly because Republican elected officials are willing to do whatever it takes to stay on the right, rage-filled side of the base.
And, of course, Trump both benefits from and foments that rage. One exampl;e of many came Thursday in the wake of the Robert E. Lee statue being taken down in Richmond Virginia. “Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left, and we can’t let that happen,” said Trump in a statement released via his Save America PAC.
Anger cannot stay suppressed for very long. It will eventually burst forth, striking out – often indiscriminately. We saw that on January 6 when rioters – egged on by Trump and his most loyal allies – rioted at the US Capitol, leaving five people dead and more than 100 police officers wounded. And there are already dire warnings coming from law enforcement officials about a planned right-wing rally in Washington a week from Saturday.
Anger is a powerful emotion. And a dangerous one. And at the moment, we as a people are just so damn angry. And that anger will have consequences. Bad ones.