Fear and Anger

Author: Gary Hart

“Anger is a distinct emotion with distinctive thoughts.  It looks manly and important, not at all timorous.  Nonetheless, it is the offspring of fear.”  This sentence is from a new book, The Monarchy of Fear, by Martha Nussbaum, one of America’s, possibly the world’s, leading philosophers.

When most of us think of fear, we think of running, hiding, seeking safety.  When the fear is unfocused, however, sooner or later it makes us angry because we don’t know how to get rid of it.

Take for example fear of losing your job.  Your first instinct is to identify who—supervisor, boss, owner—has the power to fire you and get angry at that person.  But the authority with the pink slip is carrying out orders ultimately from the CEO who in turn is hearing from a corporate board reflecting the views of shareholders concerned about declining profits.

And the next morning your paper reports that profits are down because of foreign competition, products coming into the country that are less expensive than what your company requires to make them.

Now there is a direct connection between your fear and your anger.  Damn those foreigners.

Or maybe your pink slip is issued because a new immigrant citizen will do your job for less money than you require.

Once again, the fear of losing your job focuses your anger on immigrants.

In some respects, focusing one’s anger on Donald Trump misses the point.  He was elected because of a significant “base” of fellow Americans who are angry.  They are angry because they fear globalization, foreign competition, and immigration, cheap labor.

They don’t know how to stop international trade, too many fellow Americans have jobs because of it, but they will do anything, including building a wall, to stop immigration.

Then they find comfort in comradeship with those who fear abortions everywhere, liberals taking their guns away, rampant crime around the corner, and most of all America losing its greatness.

Authority for your fear and the anger it produces is just a television click away to Fox News.

All this is well known to many observers of society and those previously puzzled by the Trump “base”.

What is less well known is how all this fear and the anger it produces grew throughout the country, primarily between the coasts and in rural and small-town America, with so few officials and leaders understanding, anticipating, and responding in creative ways to it.

Instead of a “basket of deplorables”, it became seemingly overnight forty percent of America.

Less flamboyant politicians than Trump refused to skip down the “birther” path, the climate science conspiracy, the enemy of the people fake-news press, untrustworthy judges, all Mexicans as criminals, Russians as our new best friends, love talk with North Korea, and our allies are ripping us off charges.

Democrats responded with shock and dismay.  Republicans, suddenly finding a substantial number of “base” members in their States and districts, were cowed into complicity.

So, the formula for America in the early 21st century: fear=anger; anger=Trump.

Professor Nussbaum, a classicist as great philosophers almost always are, refers to Aeschylus’ Oresteia to describe how the Furies, the definition of anger in ancient times, were converted by Athena.  “She offers them incentives to join the democracy: a place of honor, reverence from the citizens,” Professor Nussbaum writes.  And given a chance to gain respect and enter into full citizenship in Athens, the Furies agree.  “They become Athenians, rather than beasts.  Their very name is changed: they are now The Kindly Ones (Eumenides) not the Furies.”

Consideration might be given by thoughtful Democrats to an approach to the Trump “base”, most of whose members are concerned, albeit strongly prejudiced, Americans, an approach that would offer them responsible seats in the halls of citizenship, an audience for their fears to be heard, and an opportunity to help fashion national policies that would respond to their concerns in constructive and positive ways.

All will not be persuaded.  Possibly only a few.  But America will only maintain its greatness if we replace confrontation with fellowship.

10 Responses to “Fear and Anger”

  1. John Dedie Says:

    Clarence Page once said, “Hate groups need love.” Trump supporters need love and that starts with tone and language. In 2020 democrats need to show love in rhetoric and discuss “restoring our democracy”.

  2. Paul G Says:

    Based on 2001 PhD thesis, Hart addressed students 2 years after his corruptly-ignored 14-member bipartisan commission (appointed by President Clinton) offered solution ideas to imminent 9/11-style attacks on our republic.

  3. Michael Says:

    Perhaps one should also ask, what made Trump himself so angry? Because his anger is causing him to use the presidency in ways that incite violence.

  4. Gary Hart Says:

    Michael: Could it be that somewhere down deep he is afraid? GH

  5. Michael Says:

    Senator, I think you’re right. I think he regrets they day he decided to run for president.

  6. Paul G Says:


    Our fake billionaire know-nothing child-president would be laughed out of town in 2016 if foreign bankers and political media owners had not bet on his marketing genius to benefit them.

    Citing extraordinary network profits a major network chief in a December 2015 CBS-Wall Street conference call, said: “DT may be bad for America, but he’s great for us; bring it on DT!”

    Now, like an adaptive nixonian virus without a conscience, and fearing his foreign money sources and cover-ups will be outed, he is fearfully dangerous, and, tragically, of our own willfully-blind making (with a little help from his friends in the 1970’s firm: Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater).


    “Regret” suggests one is not socio or psycho but a person of conscience. But DT’s life-long actions show he is far more Othello than Hamlet. Aye, there’s the rub; if all he sees is his own recoil (his golden image on the bank-run), we may be wise to reflect on FDR’s inaugural caution: to fear “FEAR itself.”

  7. Neil McCarthy Says:

    This is a sound piece because it dissects what is real and relevant in the so-called Trump base.

    And it raises an important question — what, in truth, have Democrats done for the past thirty years to respond to this group, which has always existed and which is growing?

    We desparately need a New New Deal or the next New Deal. The Washington Consensus or neo-liberalism does not (and did not) respond sufficiciently to the needs of this group. It’s not just the Democrats fault; the GOP was all in on the Washington Consensus and has stood in the way of any effort to help the middle class — their tax cuts are and always have been top loaded, and on big ticket family expenses (education and health care), they are AWOL and have no real program whatsoever; they have also stymied efforts by any Democratic Administration to combat these ills (see their opposition to Hillarycare in the ’90s and Obamacare for the last ten years). Nevertheless, the Democrats have also been blamed (not entirely without cause) for failing to solve these problems.

    What would the next New Deal look like?

    As a beginning, I think it should include (i) a free public college education for everyone, (ii) education reforms that help produce students who can excel at the jobs of the future, (iii) true national health care (perhaps with a Medicare for all option on top of the current system, along with a strengthening of Obamacare markets, and real drug price reforms), (iii) increases in the minimum wage, the earned income tax credit, and perhaps living wage legislation, and (iv) campaign finance reform in order to make possible the election of legislators not beholden to special interests.

    This, I believe, would respond to some of the legitimate anger in the so-called Trump base and begin the (long) process of reclaiming for the Democrats the notion that the party represents working people and the middle class and is not just one of two “corporatist” entities that happen to trade the White House every eight or so years.

    It is important for Democrats to understand that opposing Trump, and riding his deficiencies (which are on exhibit every day) to power, is not a long term plan for success and, in fact, may well worsen the problem Sen. Hart identifies rather than solve it. Can you imagine how angry the Trump base will be if he is ousted and their problems/concerns remain unaddressed? If they remain consigned to some economic and political wilderness? In that case, the nightmare that is Trump may only be the start of our problems.

  8. Michael Says:

    Neil McCarthy, I don’t disagree that we need all the things you talk about. But the anger Trump tapped into (the part not motivated by the pure racism which Republicans have been tapping into for 50 years) also requires an acceptance on the Left that globalization is a force that cannot be stopped; that promising the people it has displaced that we can magically bring back the jobs lost to it only adds to their disillusionment and anger. There are a lot of good Democrats, like Sherrod Brown, who support Trump’s trade war who are going to have a lot of explaining to do to their constituents when their promises hit the fan. The Democrats have to be honest about how the world now works, push for the kind of public investment that would cushion the blow and make us more competitive globally. And we are going to have to engage with the world, not turn our back to it. No civilization in history has ever become more prosperous by isolating itself.

  9. Zoheyra OR Says:

    Finally someone who makes sense!!!!… But this time it is not going to be enough with one man, although the right one is a must. Power is the issue. But what for? It is made of the same kind of energy matter whether at an individual level, a household level, society or World level.
    Ego doesn’t work when Principles are at stake.
    No answers here but glad someone out there is finally getting the voice across. It helps the rest of us think, feel AND act coherently in a constructive direction no matter each and everyone’s (limited) circumstances.


    Senator Hart it is astounding how our countries are similar. The parties , personalities are not.

    I d not support our prime minister in the uk, but she is decent and has dignity.

    Even George Bush was a pleasant man. These problems have arisen due to factors other than Trump, but his responsibility is for being irresponsible.

    Jack Jones, Frank Sinatra, sang them, Sammy Caan lyrics, “Call me irresponsible,” was made for Trump, the concluding line” I’m irresponsibly mad, for you” with a replacement of , you, with “me!” He loves only himself.

    That is why he is oblivious to the already felt and horribly experienced fears FDR spoke about, and panders to and increases other fears. It works to make him popular.

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.