Political Storms Rage as Summer Ends
By Susan Caba
It’s been one hell of an August.
Even before Hurricane Dorian took aim at the Bahamas, Florida and the Carolinas, politics and political news roiled the atmosphere. News bombs came in clusters, along with the mid-month Perseids meteor showers.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let the Senate vote on security measures to protect the 2020 election from Russian interference—then was miffed when the Twitter-sphere called him “Moscow Mitch.”
- Coincidentally or not, ICE rounded up 680 undocumented immigrants, many Hispanic, from their workplaces in Mississippi the same day a gun man slaughtered 22 people, many Hispanic, in El Paso.
- McConnell, sticking by his—or the NRA’s—announced there would be no Senate vote on an enhanced gun safety law passed by the House of Representatives.
- Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission—the body that’s supposed to enforce federal election laws—went dark at the end of the month after one of the four remaining commissioners resigned. The FEC is supposed to have six members but presidents of both parties have neglected to nominate anyone to fill the vacancies.
- President Trump took the opportunity of the G7 Summit of world leaders to lobby for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s return to the club. He skipped the meeting on environmental problems caused by climate change, but pitched one of his own “magnificent” Florida resorts as the site of next year’s G7 meeting.
- Let’s not forget the trade war with China. The President announced tariffs on even more goods, just as the first wave took effect on Sept. 1.
To top it off, four mass shootings opened and closed the month, leaving 53 people dead with not even the usual pious “thoughts and prayers” from denizens of Washington, since Congress was on its annual August break.
“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
Rarely does the news get more exhausting.
In my lifetime, only the Vietnam War, the “long, hot summer” of the 1967 civil rights riots, followed by Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation produced news cycles this tumultuous. To tell the truth, I’ve half-joked that I’d be happy to have Nixon back in office!
We’re feeling the stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2018 “Stress in America” survey, 62 percent of those survey view the political climate as a source of stress—up from 56 percent the year before. Those of the left of the political spectrum refer to “Trump Anxiety Disorder.” Those of the right—including the President—classify the anxiety as “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Only 26 percent of Republicans polled after Trump was inaugurated reported feeling stress from the political environment, while 72 percent of Democrats reported being stressed out by the election results. Not that Trump supporters don’t have their own anxieties—namely, criticism from friends and family who paint them as racists or fascists because they do support Trump.
Overall, according to the APA, stress levels among people of all political leanings are the highest they’ve been in a decade. And the stress is magnified by a feeling of helplessness. We’re all just tired.
Maybe we should take our cue from Cicero, the Roman stateman, who also lived in tumultuous time. “While there’s life, there’s hope,” he said. He was, of course, assassinated.
Susan Caba, managing editor of American Insight’s FreeSpeech blog, is an independent journalist who covered federal and common pleas courts for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership, Fast Track, and writes about politics, popular culture and leadership.