Zelin: The Epidemic of Outrage

Protests outside San Francisco City Hall on Inauguration Day. (Unmodified photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1iowB8m)

If you were to flip on cable news, log on to Twitter, or browse the web for more than a few minutes, it would be very difficult not to feel as if the world was going straight to hell in a handbasket. An endless barrage of catastrophic news stories is taking a heavy toll on many people.

Furthermore, enthusiasm for political participation and optimism for our country’s future is disastrously low. How can anyone be excited about making a difference when it seems like your voice will not even be heard?

The United States of America is facing countless obstacles and challenges in 2017; many of which should have been overcome long ago. Institutional (and outright) racism, rampant income and wealth inequality, severe impacts of climate change (Hurricane Harvey), and a broken health care system are just a few of the problems we must vigorously confront. These gaping issues need to be in the spotlight of our daily political discourse and magnified until we come together to find comprehensive solutions to them.

Despite the urgency that many of these issues carry, our media sheds very little light upon them. Instead, the corporate media salivates over political horseraces, presidential tweets, gossip between talking heads, and pure speculation.

A major reason as to why droves of people are turning away from the political process altogether is the daily circulation of overblown and exaggerated outrage spewed across television, newspapers, and social media.

One day you are told that there are grounds to impeach President Donald Trump. The next day you are told that we are on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. The day after you are told that the end times are officially upon us and death is imminent. Once the bar is risen to such fantastical and outlandish levels without any tangible consequences, who could blame the general public for their overall political fatigue?

Those who are interested in taking on the Trump administration are facing quite a conundrum: why can we not virtuously challenge the most unpopular President in the modern history of the United States?

The answer, in my opinion, largely lies in the simple fact that the “Resistance” drains out so much of its energy overreacting to each tweet and every off-hand comment that the President makes, regardless of the statement’s true importance.

Now, this is quite a fine line to traverse because many would argue that everything the leader of the free world publicly states should be open to criticism and scrutiny. I do not disagree with this premise; however, I do believe that a sizable amount of credibility is lost when many people in said “Resistance” cry wolf over things that ultimately wind up impacting the lives of essentially nobody.

While everyone has the right to shout to the heavens about Trump’s covfefe tweet and complain how he is continuously breaching the norms of traditional American politics, one cannot reasonably expect to keep the layperson’s attention span for very long while doing so. The ability to utilize outrage selectively is one that any effective opposition must learn.

In order for a “Resistance” to have any true merit or firepower, it must tout a clear, resonant underlying message; an alternative to the relative chaos of the current administration.

To win back Congress, the White House, state legislatures, governor’s houses, and beyond, the Democrats must choose between being the party solely against Trump or the party of clear-cut, ambitious policy goals that rival those of the far-right.

The specific goals of such a party can and should be robustly debated, but the Democratic Party has instead chosen to focus on raising copious amounts of money from wealthy donors and special interests while closing its doors on new voices and opinions. Without a viable avenue to channel their fresh ideas, large numbers of people are giving up and throwing in the towel.

To activate new people into the political process and begin making concrete electoral gains, the “Resistance”, the Democratic Party, and all others who are so adamantly against our president must formulate a real game plan that goes beyond sharing and retweeting ridiculous click-bait across the internet.

We must become cognizant of the institutional roadblocks that are preventing us from interacting with the political process in its current form. An honest and inspired opposition defined by unmistakably bold objectives is necessary to lift ourselves over these short-term hurdles. Only then can we take steps to reinvigorate our democracy and enact the change this country desperately needs.

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