Good grief, US is full of anger
QUEUING up recently in a post office in Cleveland Park in Washington, DC, a woman complained to me about the long line of customers being served by only one clerk. She then angrily provided a long list of what is going wrong in the United States.
Americans are known for being optimistic but the word most often used to describe public sentiment in the US these days is "angry".
A number of polls in recent months have shown more Americans saying they are angry and that those who were already angry are angrier than before.
A CNN/ORC poll conducted in December revealed that 69 per cent of Americans say they are either "very angry" or "somewhat angry" about "the way things are going" in their country.
A November survey by Esquire/NBC found that about half of the more than 3,000 American adults polled are angrier today than they were a year ago.
The survey also showed whites are angrier than other ethnic groups and Republicans are angrier than Democrats.
Such anger is reflected in the 2016 presidential race where leading candidates have been scrambling to cash in on people's anger.
Last week, billionaire businessman Donald Trump won seven of the 11 states on Super Tuesday by skilfully tapping into people's anger. He said in a debate in January that he would "gladly accept the mantle of anger", adding: "Yes, I am very, very angry."
Tapping into people's anger has proven to be so powerful for Mr Trump that some Republican heavyweights are wondering if they still have the clout to get rid of the non-mainstream tycoon in favour of Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.
Likewise, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate who carried four states on Super Tuesday, said: "I am angry and millions of Americans are angry."
And Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner, told National Public Radio that "I understand why people get angry".
The strong momentum in the Trump and Sanders campaigns is seen largely as a reflection of ordinary people's anger at Washington and the establishment.
Americans are angry with a lot of things these days, such as the police brutality that has triggered nationwide street protests, the stagnated household incomes that have haunted the American middle class for the last 15 years, the widening gap between the rich and poor, the mounting national debt which for the first time exceeded US$19 trillion (S$26 trillion) on Jan 29, and the country's crumbling infrastructure and rundown roads.
Living in a country that likes to proclaim itself the greatest democracy in the world, ordinary Americans increasingly find they are actually voiceless in influencing the politicians who are supposed to represent them, especially compared with the powerful interest groups and lobby firms.
The dysfunction in Washington, as exemplified by the fight between the White House and Capitol Hill, has become worse in recent years.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has broken many passionate promises he made to the American people in 2008 and 2012, such as ending the war in Afghanistan in 2014, closing the Guantanamo detention facility and providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Washington is viewed so negatively that when the Pew Center conducted a poll in November, it showed that just 19 per cent of Americans say they trust the government always or most of the time, the lowest level in 50 years.
A mere 20 per cent of Americans polled said government programmes are well-run.
Elected officials are now held in such disdain that 55 per cent of the American public expressed the belief that "ordinary Americans" would do a better job of solving their nation's problems.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The writer is deputy editor of China Daily USA.