News / USA

    Angry Voters Reveal Decades-old Political Divides

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks through the buffer as he mixes with supporters mid-speech during a campaign stop at the Savannah Center, March 13, 2016, in West Chester, Ohio.
    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks through the buffer as he mixes with supporters mid-speech during a campaign stop at the Savannah Center, March 13, 2016, in West Chester, Ohio.

    The heated debate over the intense and often hateful atmosphere of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies continued Monday as the White House called for the Republican leadership to take responsibility for their party’s presidential front-runner.

    Violent confrontations between protesters and Trump supporters at a Chicago rally Friday night prompted Democrats to blame dysfunction in the Republican party for the success of Trump’s often chaotic campaign.  

    “If you’re a Republican leader and you don’t stand for something, then your voters will fall for anything,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the White House Monday. Earnest’s remarks followed President Obama’s reaction to the protests.

    “If you don’t care about the facts, or the evidence, or civility in general in making your arguments, you will end up with candidates who will say just about anything and do just about anything,” Obama said at a fundraiser in Dallas Friday.

    The president’s remarks sparked days of debate over partisan divides in the United States and the role of personal responsibility in a presidential candidate’s political dialogue. Analysts say Trump’s rhetoric is the result of a decades-long Republican party strategy to mobilize angry voters.

    “Donald Trump didn't cause the coarsening in discourse in this country and the coarsening in culture where anything goes, but he’s exploited it,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Ornstein said the Trump campaign's upending of Republican party orthodoxy follows what has been happening in American politics for decades, ever since the contentious days of the Nixon presidency and then into the 1980s and 1990s, as Republicans looked to wrest control of Congress away from Democrats.

    Police officers forcibly restrain a protester at U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016.
    Police officers forcibly restrain a protester at U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016.

    The result was an atmosphere in which politicians were branded as traitors for working with each other, and the problem has grown during Obama’s presidency.

    “We've seen a similar process of blowing up government, trying to make everything that it does look ugly along the way, voting in unison against anything that Barack Obama proposed because he's Barack Obama.”

    Bill Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, says that while dysfunction in the party is certainly one of the issues at play, he sees voters directing their anger internally.

    “The Republican party has tried to use the anger of working class whites for its own purposes, but that strategy turned out to be short sighted,” he said.

    “The Republican establishment was toying with them, was not really doing anything to meet their objectives and needs, which have much more to do with their economic well-being than with foreign policy or social and cultural issues.”

    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas calls upon his supporters get out the vote during Mississippi's primary Tuesday, during a campaign stop in Florence, Miss., March 7, 2016.
    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas calls upon his supporters get out the vote during Mississippi's primary Tuesday, during a campaign stop in Florence, Miss., March 7, 2016.

    One Trump challenger, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, has condemned the violence at his opponent’s rallies but acknowledged the anti-establishment sentiment among voters. Cruz said anger within the Republican party is directed at the president’s failure of leadership and the Washington establishment’s close ties with “the rich and powerful.”

    “Barack Obama’s a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us,” Cruz said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
    The divisive language leads voters to seek unorthodox solutions.

    “When a democratic political system, which depends in the last analysis on the ability of elected representatives to discuss their differences with one another and the American people, if such a system loses that capacity it's lost something very important and we need to think hard about how to regain it,” said Galston.

    While the leadership in both parties seeks a place to lay blame, a more practical question has emerged: can a politician be held personally responsible for the impact their rhetoric has on supporters?

    Local police are looking into charging Trump with inciting a riot at one of his rallies in North Carolina. Before the confrontations in Chicago, Trump routinely encouraged security and supporters to rough up protesters, and he used violent language to encourage his crowds.

    “One of the reasons there’s so much energy at these events is that you have an aspiring political leader inflaming tensions and appealing to people’s darker impulses and capitalizing on their anxieties,” Earnest said.

    Ornstein said Trump’s exploitation of the anger and frustration among his supporters “crosses the line for what we expect to see in a political process that has plenty of rough discourse and always has, but there are boundaries and we’ve crossed those boundaries.”

    He said he doesn’t expect to see a lessening of the tension at Trump’s rallies anytime soon.


    Katherine Gypson

    Katherine Gypson is a reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C.  Prior to joining VOA in 2013, Katherine produced documentary and public affairs programming in Afghanistan, Tunisia and Turkey. She also produced and co-wrote a 12-episode road-trip series for Pakistani television exploring the United States during the 2012 presidential election. She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from American University. Follow her @kgyp

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Thank
    March 15, 2016 9:13 AM
    Why voters are frustrated:
    Those that have called for tolerance would exclude them. Those that have called for freedom of speech would silence them. Those that have called for freedom of the press would destroy their freedom.

    Those that have called for education have replaced education with indoctrination, and wisdom with intelligence. The failure to make these distinctions has resulted in a plethora of indoctrinated intellectual leaders, utterly void of wisdom and the ability to reason simple things.

    Those who preach with great eloquence, confidence and calm about American values, civility, and mutual respect, trample the rights and values of their audience as they preach their hypocrisy. There is so much more, but, get the picture?

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 14, 2016 7:43 PM
    The reason voters are angry is that the wealthiest people in America have bought up both political parties and the government is being run for their benefit, the rest of us don't matter.

    Those wealthy people have had their way for a very long time but even Americans of average intelligence can see how they jobs, homes, life savings, businesses have been stole. Those wealthy people and the corrupt politicians are scared, their game may be coming to an end. They are the ones inciting the violence, they are the ones sending their shills to Donald Trumps rallies. They don't know how to stop him or how to deal with him. As his candidacy becomes more certain, they will use increasingly severe measures. Where will it end? Will they try to assassinate him?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 14, 2016 6:37 PM
    Trump supporters are angry and want to bring back America to what it once was and make America great again? .. And those politicians that oppose Trump align themselves with the supporters of gangbangers, violent protesters, violent criminals and rioters to gain their votes? .. And those supporters of those violent criminals will do anything (including violence) to disrupt and derail the Trump run for president? .. It's these Trump violent protesters starting the violence, just like they did when they staged their anti-cop violent protests, and violent riots?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora