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There is a live political grenade rolling toward us all, an explosive combination of a sense of alienation from both national and local government and the willingness to use violence in protest. Alienation manifests itself by not voting or voting to keep government as small as possible. Violence is likely to mean guns and Capitol-like protest and destruction. Drawing a crowd of them in 2024 may not be difficult, particularly if their paranoia continues to be fed.
A recent poll, taken in five western states, found that 20 percent of those polled think violence is OK as an expression of their distemper. They apparently think it is their macho patriotic duty to destroy. All of them may not have voted for Donald Trump, but likely most did, if they voted at all. But bullets, not ballots, seem their protest of choice. When guns replace votes, we are on our way to being a banana republic, at best. The number of would-be vigilantes among us is frightening, and the states polled, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada are not much different from Iowa.
Simply, if democracy is, indeed, a social contract between government and its people, we are in trouble. Seventy-four percent of those polled felt alienated from the federal government. The poll asked for a yes or no on “Federal government works to benefit other groups of people, but not people like me.”
If alienation meant only people pouting in the corner, we might just shrug. But it doesn’t. Violence is guns, mayhem, and death. Over 20 percent of those polled believe violence is OK and 61 percent of us, including unpolled me, believe violence will inevitably come from them. Inauguration Day 2024 will be a mob scene, possibly with armed battles between the National Guard and some “alienated.”
Donald Trump is not solely the cause of the alienation the poll found, but the discrediting of the election feeds the paranoia. Trump lives off the oxygen of distortion and deceit and 71 percent of Republicans polled think the election was rigged, a pit-stop on the way to alienation.
Trump cannot be held responsible for either the sense of alienation or the acceptance of violence as a means of public discourse, but he has certainly used it, encouraged it, fed it, and benefited from it. He and his acolytes continue to defend the Capitol riot as an acceptable political behavior.
The consequence, if he is the Republican nominee in 2024, is frightening to contemplate. A gunman at a Biden Democratic rally is inevitable. This year’s riot at the Capitol where five people died will be only prologue. And Trump, although not legally, will be an accomplice to violence, if there is one.
Seventy-five percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats in the poll think democracy is under attack, although probably for very different reasons. All of us, in both parties, need to consider alienation as a national problem as much as highways or health care, try to do something about it and stop prattling about big government, rigged elections. Alienation is not easily cured. Our officeholders and candidates better try.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary.