What Americans really want from their politics

President Donald Trump talks with reporters outside the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks with reporters outside the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) AP file photo

Write a column proudly claiming the “derangement” you’ve been charged with for chiding a president who fails virtually every test of conservatism, Republicanism, patriotism and Americanism you were raised on, and you hear from people.

Who’da thought?

Agreement, disagreement, further diagnoses of derangement, and a request from a guy named Ralph.

“Thank you for your column pointing out how deranged those of us are who expect so much more from a president than mindless rambling and silly petulance.

“In a future column, though, would you suggest what the average citizen can do to stop the madness? Voters could do it, but so many seem uninterested or irrational. What can the average person on the street do to help bring sanity back to our state and nation?”

Would it be too simple to point out that the average person on the street could, anytime he or she wanted, choose to become interested and get rational?

Yes, too simple. No one would believe it. And it would leave two-thirds of this space blank.

Here’s the thing, Ralph. People only want voters to be more interested and rational when their guy has lost. It’s like people who complain about voters needing to be “knowledgeable” and “informed.” As long as their guy wins, most people don’t care whether voters were dumb as rocks.

Truth is, Ralph, what many people want isn’t to be interested and rational, or knowledgeable and informed. They want to feel good. They want someone to tell them they’re right and the other guys are wrong. They want someone to validate what they feel, whether what they feel is rational or not. That goes for the progressive young socialist as well as the conservative old tribalist.

People will choose feeling good over rational knowledge almost every time, Ralph. Look at how that Springsteen song has become a fist-pumping Fourth of July favorite because people love how it feels to shout “Born in the USA” even though the song’s every stanza and sentiment is a stinging criticism of the country and Bruce sings its chorus caustically.

By the way, Ralph, you and I may be proud to be deranged over Donald Trump, but he didn’t invent irrationality or spawn simplistic sloganeering. He just gave this brand its name, logo, and legitimacy, and jumped in front of the parade. Other parades and other slogans were just as maddening to half the country as MAGA is maddening today. “Hope and Change” comes to mind.

You see, Ralph, most Americans are drunk on their own biases, and all most people want in a politician is someone who’ll yell, “Another round of shots for me and my friends!”

I know I haven’t given you what you were wishing for here, like wide-eyed optimistic words about engagement and responsibility. Or maybe a quote from someone like Thomas Jefferson about an educated citizenry being a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.

I’m sorry I let you down, Ralph.

Thank you for reading the column, though, and for writing. To maybe give you something of what you were seeking, I will leave you with a quote after all. It’s from the funny pages of the newspaper, many decades ago.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Keith Larson’s regular podcasts can be heard on Email: Twitter @TheLarsonPage