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Susan Tochin on Voter Anger 30Sep 1996

THE EARTH TIMES

SEPTEMBER 30, 1996

CLOSE UP SUSAN J.TOLCHIN

Why American voters are angry

By Ashali Varma

Washington: As Washington hosts the World Bank/lMF Annual Meetings and finance ministers from 181 countries crowd hotels and conference rooms, the question on many foreign delegates’  minds is how will US politics affect funding for multilateral and bilateral agencies.

A new book titled “The Angry American,” cited as a provocative and insightful study on how voter rage affects political stance, best reflects how politics in America is being swayed by public opinion. In an interview with The Earth Times, author Susan Tolchin, professor of Public Administration at George Washington University, said, “One of the reasons why people are angry in this election season is that they don’t think they really have a choice. Both political parties have got so close to each other in ideology—–Clinton has moved to the right of center to be more appealing to the voters who voted for the Contract with America.”

The fact that for the first time in a hundred years America has been at peace, and there is no recession or depression, Tochin said, is the reason why people feel much freer to look more  closely at the government and its impact on them.

“So in a sense the anger is healthy, because people want more progress.” Some of the reasons for the anger is that crime is on the rise, the public school system is not delivering the kind of education people want for their children and the earning power is going down while the wage gap is getting larger.

“People expect to get more out of the taxes they pay, they don’t see the relationship of the taxes to the quality of their lives,” said Tolchin.

The major political parties are responding to the anger but not to the issues that cause the anger, Tochin feels.

In addition, the downsizing of large corporations, loss of jobs and benefits has had a major impact on people’s sense of security. “Americans are very uncomfortable with ambiguity and they don’t know what their place will be in the new global economy. There are more people than jobs.”

Its easier to vent rage on the government than on giant corporations, so people are angry with the government said Tolchin and mainly because “government has been a victim of its own success. Government has layered benefits on benefits for the last 70 years since the New Deal, so people have begun to look at government as a safety net, as a feature of their lives which will protect them from the predatory market place.”

According to Tolchin, Americans are also afraid of their entitlements being taken away

when they have put so much of their taxes into it. The future, according to Tolchin, depends on leadership—-leaders who can channel anger constructively will own the next century. They have to have the courage to take up the issues of jobs and trade and to tell the truth to the people . “I look forward  to a president who campaigns for office and comes into power with slogans that don’t beat up on the government,” Tolchin said.

Tolchin hopes that her book will reaffirm people’s faith in government and “force them to put their leaders’ feet to the fire to address the real issues.”