What's Tony Thinking

What Are Those Russians Up To?


It’s a little odd that neither Iowa nor New Hampshire could settle on one of the Democratic candidates, but the Russians have. And without the fuss and bother of caucuses or primaries, never mind actual elections. Well, maybe Nevada will sort things out?

I’m trying to imagine a bumper sticker slogan here. How about, “I Want My Vote to Count As Much as A Russian Bot.” Or maybe, “Try ‘Feel-the-Bern’ Vodka: Raging All the Way Down.” Or, “You Thought You Won the Cold War? Har-Har.”

When I was in high school, at the height of the Cold War, there was a stretch where our P. E. teachers and coaches berated us American boys by screaming, “Let’s go, you weenies, we gotta get tougher than the Russian women.” Apparently, some international physical fitness test had confirmed that the women of Russia were more physically fit than American boys. I figured they were 25 to our 15 and had PED’s on their side.

But this is serious stuff, even if President Trump refuses to take it seriously. Score one for Bernie who is.

Why would the Russians be working for Bernie and Trump? An odd couple you’d think. But not so much. The Russian goal seems to be to aggravate the polarization discussed in my last post. Trump and Sanders represent the extremes, which demonize each other and yet, in an odd way, are mirror images of one another. Both believe that total, radical change is the only option. Both enjoy hyper-loyal, cult-like bases of support ready to trash those who question them.

There’s a new book out from the Brooking Institution Press, Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era by Darrell M. West. “Why,” asks West, “are Americans so angry with each other?” Good question. The de-regulation of broadcasting and non-regulation of the internet discussed in that last post laid the ground-work.

Besides, anger is addictive. You get a rush. But like most such things, as time goes on you need a little more to get the same rush, the same high. Sworn enemies, deserving of destruction, are necessary. Nothing short of burning down the house will work.

I recall Frederick Buechner’s delicious riff on anger in his, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.

“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

With not quite such a literary flourish, West says much the same about our polarizing societal rage. It is our democracy we are consuming.

“West argues that societal tensions have metastasized into a dangerous tribalism that seriously threatens U.S. democracy. Unless people can bridge these divisions and forge a new path forward, it will be impossible to work together, maintain a functioning democracy, and solve the country’s pressing policy problems.”

Yes, the only trouble is that the feast is you — or in this case — us, all of us.



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