Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fear Mongering and the Fall Election

At my job us regular employees whisper amongst ourselves that our managers like to lead by fear. Specifically through nasty-grams. Nasty emails CC'd to top level management threatening some disciplinary action such as a write up or suspension if a certain condition is not met. I've received one and have it saved in my inbox as a reminder to trust no one. But that's not the only problem with the nasty-gram; inbox received or spit from managerial mouth to unsuspecting employee face. At my job the problem with the nasty-gram is employees almost welcome such disciplinary action. Flippantly saying amongst ourselves, "Suspend me. I'd love a paid vacation on you."

Disciplinary action rarely takes place at my job. People are fired sure, but that in and of itself is a rare occasion. Yet the culture of fear persists. The threats persists. Managers rule by fearmongering but are not feared because apathy has set in amongst the ranks and optimism is a foreign concept sought after only when moving to another market. 

But in American politics unlike a top 50 news market optimism is expected. Fearmongering is disguised as hope and change no matter which party holds the keys to the White House. 

Fearmongering may be most recently remembered under the Bush administration. The case for the war in Iraq:


President Bush took on the usual American role as "Captain Save a World." He was protecting the world from grave danger when none existed. Was Saddam Hussein a "baaaaaadddd" man who need not rule a country until his death. Yes, for 500 points. But did the United States need to lead the charge to depose him allowing al-Qaida to infiltrate the country during the change of command chaos and destabilize it in more ways than the typical sectarian violence ever could? Absolutely not. But we did it anyway. 

In the name of fear we went to war to find weapons of mass destruction in a country that simply did not have them. The country that did and still does have weapons of mass destruction, i.e. nuclear weapons; is Pakistan and to a smaller extent North Korea. But we have yet to place boots on the ground in Pakistan. Instead we continue to call the South Asian nation friend and ally though we violate their sovereignty daily. North Korea we see with a blind eye; calling for more crippling sanctions only hurting the people of the country who cannot escape and not the newly minted and married leader Kim Jong Un. 

Beating the drum of war is not the only way to fearmonger. Before President Bush left office and through the duration of President Obama's tenure the best way to whip the electorate into a frenzy is to say we will be forever poor. 

You hear the words "worst recession since the Great Depression" and your memory calls to mind black and white newspaper clippings of block stretching lines at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Your mind imagines what it was like to live in a time under a four-term President who despite his best efforts and renewed New Deals could not shake financial crisis and fiscal instability. A President who died with the knowledge that a war hungry, fearmongering, genocidal dictator from Germany was the one to rescue his country from perpetual poverty. 

Even though the United States has made goo gobs of money off of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program the real economy (read: jobs) has not recovered as former President Bush and now President Obama hoped. The lack of job creation and credit lending by Wall Street and the one percent then lead President Obama to fearmonger in his own way. Whereas President Bush championed the fiscal risk takers by rewarding them with money not all of them needed, President Obama purported himself to be a champion for the men and women in the middle.

The President calls his stimulus a success citing it saved and or created three million new jobs. The only wildly popular stimulus program was the now defunct "Cash for Clunkers." The several variations on the mortgage modification program, which gave birth to the Tea Party through the loud mouth rant of CNBC's Rick Santelli, did not place a soft bottom to stop the housing market free fall. It also did not create jobs. After a year and a half of force feeding the country the Affordable Care Act the President got back to the business of the economy and creating jobs only after he averted another catastrophe level crisis through fearmongering. 

You remember the threat of the government shutdown in April of 2011 and every month or two following. You remember the debt ceiling don't you, and the 12-member bi-partisan Super Committee whose super failure will now lead to $500 billion in automatic defense cuts come the first of the year. And then there was the champion for the middle, standing in the middle of country fearmongering over the defining issue of our time. An issue that made Republicans scoff and use words such as classist and egregious.

In the good times under President Clinton the economy was thriving and jobs were plentiful. The fearmongering came in the form of attacks on a philandering President. What does his behavior say about American values? What does his lying to the American people say about the integrity of the office of the Presidency? What is this man teaching our children? And while political sex scandals have plagued Washington and the rest of the country long before President Clinton's Oval Office oral transaction and long after; Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, Craigslist Congressman Christopher Lee, the fearmongering has yet to equal the Dionysus level frenzy that led to the impeachment of our 42nd President. 

It is easy for our politicians to fearmonger, especially before an election, because voters -- for the most part -- realize the grave decision ahead of them and need a bit of persuasion to vote; either with their head or their fear driving emotions. 

It is why President Obama polls so well among women. Telling women birth control won't be readily available under a Republican administration and abortion will return to the Supreme Court and be overturned is telling 52 percent of the population to vote Democrat so you can continue to enjoy sex without consequences. It is fearmongering at its best and it's still working. 

Telling the elderly a Romney-Ryan Presidency will "gut" your Medicare is telling one of America's most consistent voting blocs to vote for Democrats so you will be constantly coddled in government programs that will go broke before your children who are paying into them ever see a dime. 

Telling blue collar workers you will "put the work back in welfare" when it has never been removed since the TANF of 1996 is fearmongering on a racial level and telling those blue collar men 'the more you work hard the more those minorities will mooch off of you.' 

Fearmongering is easy. It's the quickest way to get everything you want without doing anything more than appealing to the worst fears of your base. It is why Progressives get so upset when they hear Republicans go on tears about the socialist, communists, and even Marxist ideals infiltrating the great capitalist country that is America. It is why Conservatives get so upset when they hear the words gun control and giving everyone a fair shot. It is why employees work harder when they hear the words mandatory furlough and a few layoffs. It is why sinners get so prayerful the moment their laid up in the hospital. 

When people, politicans, and even God know what you fear it is easier to manipulate you into becoming a diligent employee, a dutiful voter, and a pious servant of the Lord. Not that God would ever manipulate his creations but I'm sure Moses wasn't really up to telling the Lord "No, I can't let your people go and march through the desert until you say stop" after seeing a bush burning for no reason.  

Fear is what helps us make some of the most important decisions in life. As D.L. Hughley once said, men marry because they simply can't lose the woman they're with. It is fear that is the motivator not the existing unconditional love. 

This fall you may say you're voting because you like the policies of President Obama over Mitt Romney or vice versa. But that's not the only motivating factor. You're scared straight that if the candidate not of your choosing gets into office life as you know it will be over. 

Old people will be forced back into an already crowded workforce, greeting you at your neighborhood Wal-Mart, just to pay for hearing aids and dentures. Welfare recipients will no longer work but start pushing Bentley's and selling their EBT cards while you back breaking laborers earn pennies on the dollar. You will vote for the right to use your vagina as you please. You will vote for the right to walk into the movie theater licensed to conceal carry. You will vote for the right of voting. You will vote for the right of freedom of speech. You will vote for the laundry list of reasons that have driven you to the polls. When you leave the polling place you will feel good about your choice and hopefully anticipate the rest of America will have made the same choice as you. 

At 10 o'clock on the East Coast you will watch the returns and hope your vote speaks louder than any words you could ever muster, not realizing it is your fear and the fear of others reeking over the nation. A stench only covered by the optimism that you made the right decision for you, your family and your country men, even though you can't quite place the discontent you feel. 

It could be because your decision was not your own but a decision you made out of fear of another outcome. A vote manipulated for political purposes to keep power controlled in the hands of oligarchs and plutocrats instead of a plebiscitic vote voicing the concerns of the people. 

Fearmongering is easy. It is natural.

I bet you $5 one of you will head to church in the morning, rejoicing, because you fear what may happen if you don't. 


1. What are your fears about the "other" party?
2. If fear of what extremes may happen is removed what will be the difference between an Obama and a Romney Presidency?
3. If politicians were forced to run on the issues and not catering to the worst fears would our elections be more fair and balanced (voter ID aside)?
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