Trump and Palin: Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore

AMES, IA - JANUARY 19:  Supporters look on as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Hansen Agriculture Stu
AMES, IA - JANUARY 19: Supporters look on as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center at Iowa State University on January 19, 2016 in Ames, IA. Trump received the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

For purists, it was playwright Paddy Chayefsky who coined the phrase, "Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" as the signature line for an insane TV personality in the movie "Network." Life imitating art as it does, there is no better insight into the Palin endorsement of Trump.

For months, the pundits have gotten it wrong by focusing on the candidates. It is the electorate, the Republican primary voters, who are driving this train. Trump is leading an existing movement, not creating one. Even Palin only crowns him, the real energy and importance is in the grass-roots.

Palin's language is distilled populist rage: "They stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, 'Just chill, O.K., just relax.' Well, look, we are mad, and we've been had. They need to get used to it." or "How about the rest of us? Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution."

Jeb Bush can't compete with this any more than Rand Paul, or John Kasich or Chris Christie. Or even, Lord help us, Ted Cruz. It's about harnessing anger, not setting policies. Trump and Palin understand the voters of 2016 better than anyone else.

The only important question is how many of them there are. The upcoming contests will be decided by the largest fraction of the relatively small number of voters in the Republican primaries. On that factual question hangs the fate of the Republic. If pressed I would predict that it's around 40 percent of the Republican electorate, and if it hangs together that's enough to nominate Trump.

As to the validity of anger as a political message, it is by no means the property of the Right. Any serious movement seeking social change is populated by people angry about the status quo. The older progressive movements like, labor and civil rights, and their more modern expressions, are marked by loud passion and commitment as much as analysis and argument.

In the end, the nation will have to pick between vastly different social and economic visions. The problem with Trump and Palin isn't that they are angry, it's that their prescriptions for the country are shallow and unworkable. Democrats have to remember that a real focus on the economic situation of working families, and coherent explanation of why diplomacy is usually preferable to military intervention, and how Americans can co-exist as the fabric of society changes are going to decide the election. What Palin and Trump have done is to perfect the politics of anger, within the Republican Party. It's important. It's just not decisive.