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Jun 16, 2024  |  
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https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/gene-lyons


NextImg:Americans aren’t as angry or cynical as many think

To hear some tell it, the American people are seething mad, and they aren’t going to take it anymore. “Why Are People So Cynical and Angry?” one headline writer wants to know. The Washington Post recently dispatched reporters to Door County, Wisconsin, a location whose voters have favored the winner of the presidential election six times since 2000.

“It’s the swingiest place in the perennial battleground of Wisconsin and one of nine U.S. counties that has backed every presidential election’s winner since 2000,” the newspaper reported. Mercifully sparing readers the customary political polls — I’m guessing there were none to be had — the reporters interviewed people patronizing a local psychic, a physical therapist and an establishment called The Hen House Bar and Grill.

Also, the Peach Barn Brewery.

Pro tip: If you want to find talkative people in Wisconsin, first find the taverns. My wife once volunteered to canvass voters up there. She reported that after dark, pretty much everybody of voting age seems half in the bag. She came away with a win for her candidate and a marriage proposal.

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Interviewing people who patronize psychics, of course, pretty much guarantees they’ll be ignorant and suspicious. So maybe it’s no surprise the Post team found that voters “long for compromise. They want to feel heard and understood. Most Americans, for instance, desire access to abortion, tighter restrictions on guns and affordable health care. Many wonder why our laws don’t reflect that.”

The short answer is they keep voting for Republicans who reject all these things. So, if they’re feeling cheated, it’s their own damn fault.

But I don’t think they are. Not really. It’s definitely true that people in red hats flock to Trump rallies the way stoners in tie-dyed shirts once followed the Grateful Dead. As Ben Jacobs points out in Slate, the former president doesn’t so much have political supporters as he has fans.

And Taylor Swift has more. Many, many more. But hold that thought.

Trump’s events aren’t so much political rallies as they are like professional wrestling exhibitions — sideshows, spectacles. Recently, the candidate has taken to recycling Adolf Hitler’s greatest hits, delivering spittle-flecked rants about immigrants “poisoning the blood of our country” and vowing to purge the nation of “communists, Marxists, fascists and radical left thugs that live like vermin.”

He’s going to get them all.

Meanwhile, shoppers stampeded the malls on Black Friday like lemmings in Santa hats. TV reporters interviewed women delirious with acquisitive zeal. Then came Cyber Monday and more record retail sales. Evidently, many of the same consumers who tell pollsters “Bidenomics” has rendered them destitute found plenty of loose change in their sofa cushions.

Thanksgiving weekend set new records at American airports as well. TV anchor-creatures fretted about whether overwhelmed airlines would be capable of handling the hordes of holiday travelers.

Short answer: yes.

Too much time brooding on social media

Where I live, in a “blue” city in an overwhelmingly “red” state, the restaurants are crowded, and it’s often necessary to wait for a table. The biggest thing making people unhappy isn’t the Biden White House, the Israeli-Hamas war or the unpleasantness in Ukraine, it’s the dreadful state of Razorback football.

In daily life, the only sign I see of generalized anger is people in oversized SUVs driving like lunatics on city streets. Running stop signs and red lights, passing old duffers on double yellow lines, that kind of thing. Or driving like Texans, actually. In Dallas, everybody drives that way.

Then there’s the amazing Taylor Swift. Try to square reports of angry, cynical Americans with The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan’s lists of reasons she should be the 2023 Person of the Year:

“Her tour has broken attendance and income records across the country. She has transformed the economy of every city she visits. The U.S. Travel Association reported this fall that what her concertgoers spend in and around each venue ‘is on par with the Super Bowl, but this time it happened on 53 different nights in 20 different locations over the course of five months ...’ Wherever she went it was like the past three years didn’t happen.”

I can’t say Swift’s music does much for me. I’m more inclined toward the aged, ageless Rolling Stones. But I can’t think of anything negative to say about a performer who gave $55 million in bonuses to everybody who worked on her tour, including $100,000 each to the guys who drove the trucks.

So while there’s plenty going on in the world to worry about, I can’t agree it’s rendered all Americans cynical and negative. Maybe it’s only those who spend too much time brooding over politics on social media.

Get away from the keyboard and open your eyes.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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