I try to stay away from politics but this election season just keeps sucking me in. For someone who comes from a politically savvy family and also majored in political science in college this has been an unprecedented and fascinating couple of months. The only thing I can see that comes close is the Ross Perot experiment that handed Bill Clinton the White House. Not many people remember old Ross or that at one point it seemed like he might actually win.
Anyway, listening to NPR today and heard a bit of a piece about union rank and file members bucking the union leadership and supporting Donald Trump. At the same time there is another story about Max Lucado who is befuddled by support from evangelicals who support Trump. As I pondered this I saw a similarity between two normally disparate groups.
On the surface there seems to be very little linking these two groups. Evangelicals are typically consistent and reliable voters for Republicans, the party that is far less union friendly. Growing up in a union town, Toledo, Ohio, it has always seemed to me that the epitome of the union family is an ethnic Catholic family, usually white, that votes Democrat no matter what. In Toledo you could run a parakeet as a Democrat and it would win. Where I see the linkage is in the disconnect between leadership and the regular folks who make up the bulk of each population.
In both cases the leadership, the movers and shakers on the stage, pretty reliably tell the masses the same thing over and over. Evangelical leaders talk about abortion and gay marriage and why you have to vote Republican if you care about these issues. Union leaders talk about Democrats as the champion of the little guy, watching out for workers and defending them from the evil corporations. I don't really know any national or even regional evangelical leaders personally but I used to work for a bank and many of my customers were unions so I spent a lot of time with the local and regional leadership.and they mostly seemed interested in how many expensive lunches and tickets to sporting events they could finagle out of the bank. A lot of ministries seem mostly interested in keeping the lights on and the staff paid, spending the funds they raised to turn right around and raise more funds, making it seem like the primary purpose of the organization is fund raising. The union bosses keep their cushy jobs funded by the wages of hard working union laborers and the big name evangelicals keep endorsing each other's never-ending books which sell like hotcakes.
Why then this sudden revolt by the rank and file of evangelicals and unions workers alike? What seems to be happening is part of the broader shift in our country, a shift that sees an unraveling of the former social contract where the vast majority of Americans formerly placed their trust in revered institutions: the government, unions, religious denominations, the education establishment, the police, the military. Bit by bit the foundation that compact was eroded until it suddenly is collapsing. People no longer trust someone because they are a member of the clergy, the Roman Catholic abuse cover-up helped shatter that illusion. The advent of smart phones, dash cams and body cams has revealed that all too often police shoot people inexplicably. The teacher's unions seem mostly interested in keeping as many people employed in "education" as possible, even when a teacher is incompetent, not to mention the regular reports of teachers having sex with their students. Titles, authority, tradition, all have lost what used to be their power over the little people, power granted because of trust. Trust that was betrayed and has been revoked.
It will be interesting to see what the endgame is. If it is indeed Trump versus Hillary, the reality show con-man versus one of the most corrupt, patronizing politicians to ever sell themselves, what will the masses do? Will they listen to their leaders one more time or is that time at an end for good. If it is over, what will replace it? It is going to be an ugly and fascinating and revolting all at once. Buckle up!