The roots of anger, held predominantly among older white males, are hard to ascertain. This demographic, to which I belong, has had greater benefits than nearly any other in history. The United States was tremendously affluent when we were born.
In general we have had good food, decent housing, and an economy that’s been quite stable - compared to the rest of the World. Our own economy has been relatively stable since FDR and the New Deal.
Bankers and stock brokers, in general, do not like government regulations, but those regulations have protected the rest of us.
This country has been torn apart and polarized before. The Civil War came about because the Framers of the Constitution were short-sighted and not only allowed slavery to continue, but protected it as an institution.
An interesting observation of conditions prior to the Civil War, particularly in regard to slavery, is noted in “Lincoln and the Abolitionists,” 2017, by Fred Kaplan, p. 126:
“Unchangeable aspects of Southern life, even more fundamental than money and power, made a future rift inevitable. It was embedded in the character of the Southern elite. They could never accept territorial limitations on slavery. ‘The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls ... their souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom ... they look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee’s manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice; for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?’”
Those were the reflections of John Quincy Adams, later the sixth President of the United States, during debate over what became the Missouri Compromise.
Shortly after Missouri was admitted to the Union, “in mid-July 1820, the state convention charged with creating a constitution based on republican principles added a provision.... ‘It shall be ... the duty’ of the Missouri state legislature, the constitution stipulated, ‘as soon as may be, to pass such laws as may be necessary ... to prevent free negroes and mulattoes from coming to, and settling in this state, under any pretext whatsoever.’” Id., p. 127.
Anger rose in Indiana after World War I when the economy took a bad turn. The KKK jumped on that anger. D.C. Stephenson, who headed the KKK in Indiana, “arranged at Kokomo’s Malfalfa Park on July 4, 1923 the greatest gathering of the Klan ever held in the state. By [Stephenson’s] own estimate, 200,000 [Klansmen] had assembled ...” Leibowitz, “My Indiana,” 1964, p. 57.
More recently in “The River” by Bruce Springsteen lyrics ask “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true/or is it something worse?” In “Allentown” the lyrics tell of “For the promises our teachers gave/If we worked hard/If we behaved.”
Perhaps lyrics from a different genre would be as, or more, appropriate.
In part people voted for the GOP candidate for POTUS in 2016 - I believe - because he gave voice to this anger and was not too shy to cuss. The irony is that he has very little in common with those on whose behalf he cussed. Everything in life was handed to him.
Scholarly authority notes: “As usual, James Madison made a clear and farsighted statement. Experience showed, he said, that people in power do not easily give it up.” Collier & Collier, “Decision in Philadelphia,” 2007 ed., p. 203.
The way in which votes were manipulated in the 2016 election effectively disenfranchised three million voters more than the total votes received by the GOP ticket. Voter suppression is something that should not be tolerated by anyone.
The anger expressed in coarse language by the current occupant of the Oval Office is not a “new” anger. It has been with us for a long time. It is time we put a stop to its holding sway.