All you have to do is to look at blogs and listener/viewer e-mail to know how angry Americans are right now. It is not just your usual every-four-years, pre-election anger. This anger is deep and will likely determine the next president.
I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to have some idea about where the rage is coming from. Carol Checkbook and Wally Worker are having a tough time paying the family bills. It isn't just the mortgage and stock market crises. You can open the paper on any given day and find someone who has taken horrible advantage of someone else. Even a casual glance at the newspapers can spill out stories of amazing greed. One that really got me was the story of two executives of Duane Reade drug stores allegedly cooking the books so they could take big bonuses home at the end of the year. If you have ever shopped in a Duane Reade it is obvious that the cashiers and other help in the store are not getting rich off of their employment. To cook the books and enrich themselves while workers are paid close to minimum wage is just plain immoral. I am not saying that this kind of greed is limited to the year 2008; it has been around since the beginning of time. What is new is that the moral discussion of such greed seems to be off the table.
President Bush and others have talked about moral issues, but they have focused on vote-getting issues such as banning gay marriage rather than issues that impact every one of us. Gay marriage has not negatively changed the fabric of Massachusetts, which now has the lowest divorce rate of any state in the union. But our culture of greed has impacted every citizen of our country. Has gay marriage made the crime rate increase? Has gay marriage decreased a family's ability to put bread on the table? The answer is clearly no. But, greed and the lack of discussion and societal sanctions on greed have changed the life of every person in America. Talking about greed has not been a wedge issue to get more votes so many politicians haven't talked about it. The Democrats have, however, started to make it an issue, and it is catching on and accounts for the women's formerly "undecideds" moving quickly to Sen. Obama. He was the first one to talk about what is happening in corporate America.
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A Fox News Poll on Friday showed Obama increased his edge among women to 16 percentage points, up from a four-point edge only a month ago. This is a shocking swing considering many women were very supportive of Sen. McCain's choice of Sarah Palin. How much a month can change things. But what a month it has been. Women in this country pay the bills. They might stay home or work part time but they are often the bill payers, and they are usually the grocery shoppers even if they also work full time. If they go to Duane Reade to pick up Johnny or Jane's cough medicine, they see how hard the clerks in the store work and how long they stand on their feet. Then they read the newspaper and the stories of corporate greed hit home. No wonder they have decided to cast their vote for Obama.
The Fox News Poll also points out that the Obama-Biden ticket has a clear advantage on "having better judgment" by seven points, "bringing the right change to Washington" by 15 points and "better understands American families and their problems" by a whooping 24 points. Twenty-four points?! That is an amazing lead. The vote in a few weeks is not going to be based on a Bill Clinton "I feel your pain" identification, but instead based on real concern and, unfortunately, real anger. This anger will dissipate only when politicians get back to values that are not trumped up to get votes but that made this country strong.
When I taught a college-level course on human development, I used to give the example of a child with a big red toy truck at the playground. Other kids would see it, want to play with it and, yes, even covet it. Most of the time the parent of the child with the red toy truck would encourage the child to share his toys. The problem is that we have had too many people with those toy trucks playing by themselves, and that has left the voters seeing red.
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