You look out right now at the presidential contests and the startling, dismaying probabilities, and it's hard not to wonder if something dramatically wrong isn't happening to America. It is. Too many things are falling apart.
Trust has disappeared. The white working class is in agony. Family dissolution is a fact of life. The economy is poking along. The debt is racing along. And now we have this political reality show in front of us.
This last item is currently the headline-grabber, but all the above are related, and the rise of Donald Trump is more symptom than cause, as is Sen. Bernie Sanders' failing seduction of unwary voters. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been a causative factor, and who hasn't understood the truths implied in the latest joke about the Democratic front-runner that she just may prove too big to jail?
More and more Trump looks like he's going to get the Republican presidential nomination, which is to say, the party will combust, conservatives will have to find a new home and there'll be a candidate whose disqualifying attributes are beyond summation. You can mention his ignorance on issues, the cruelty he projects, his lies and his authoritarian braggadocio, but you've barely started and each day brings something new.
Of course, Trump, who says he wants to make America great again, is no worse than the thankfully shrinking Sanders, who wants to make America hate again. Typical of fanatical leaders, he has identified an evil to be crushed, namely Wall Streets executives seen as the sole instigators of the financial crisis of 2008. What he forgets, among many other things, is that it was as much the fault of congressional Democrats letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac get away with mortgage madness.
It's complicated, to be sure, but Trump and Sanders attract their followers primarily because of massive, pronounced distrust for the common way of things. Polls have repeatedly shown for years now that public trust in virtually all of our institutions is evaporating, not the least of them government. While some of this would seem unjustified, some of it isn't. Moral corruption is easily found among our elected officials, such as how Clinton and husband Bill have happily gotten richer and richer at the hands of special interests.
Trump gets much of his support not all of it from the white working class, people who are clearly up against it. Not so long ago, it was revealed that, because of suicide, drugs and alcohol, the death rate of middle-aged whites with no more than a high school education was going up while it was going down for all other large groups. This is a huge tragedy, a sign of massive societal disintegration.
The economy is clearly a part of the issue, and while Democrats point happily to a decline in unemployment under the Obama administration, they are not so quick to point to the record numbers of those in the workforce who have quit looking for work, largely because there are not enough jobs available, or to the slow gross domestic product growth rate. The way to address that is not the usual liberal nostrums but tax and regulatory reform that gets things going again and the reverse of the big spending ideas of Clinton.
What matters, too, is the vast increase in single-parent homes among low-income groups. Here is a cruelty to the mother and a way of keeping children from much chance of social mobility. Clinton has addressed the issue with passionate concern, but her remedies tend to be using government as a substitute daddy, which doesn't work. It was government welfare programs that helped induce this state of affairs in the first place by giving more money when daddy was not around.
Societies don't work without trust, without sound families, without opportunities, without well-functioning economies or without dependable leadership. There is still much that's outstanding about our land, but there's a lot to worry about, too.