Articles on Fear, Concern, and our Current Predicament

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

I found these two articles worth reading, about the current political mood.

1) “Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans.” This report in PDF, from Stan Greenburg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert for Democracy Corps, is two years old but seems very fresh. It is about the “we’re losing our country!” sentiment that is now buoying the Trump movement, and about related cleavages within the GOP. Obviously it comes from Democratic consultants, but I found it very clarifying as reportage. Thanks to Rich Yeselson for the lead. Here’s a word cloud from the report that sums up its findings from Tea Party and other conservative focus groups:

2) “Obama’s Address: The Truth But Not the Whole Truth,” by Robert E. Hunter.  Over the years I’ve often pointed to Hunter’s analyses for their common-sense and sophisticated appraisal of long-term U.S. interests. This one parallels the discussion in our Chickenhawk Thread about the tensions between the logic of President Obama’s recent anti-ISIS speech — which I found compelling, and with which Hunter also agrees — and the political / media demands for a more emotional response to the latest terrorist attacks.

The whole piece is worth reading, but here is a sample:

The president didn’t mention how the fear of terror is promulgated, especially in this country. He did point out, correctly, that the goal of the current breed of terrorists is, not just here but also in Europe, to magnify their acts many-fold in order to lure the United States and the West into military acts in the Middle East. Such “boots on the ground,” as they are known euphemistically, can help recruitment for IS and other Islamist jihadists.

There is not much the president can do about this phenomenon, other than to say what he did on Sunday night and to follow up with appropriate actions. The terrorists have a powerful enabler—the Western (and especially American) media—which, in “doing their job,” blow the actual terrorist acts far out of proportion…

Obama is probably right that [ISIS] spreading terrorism here-and-there in minor operations in Europe and the United States is a sign that it has passed the peak of its success in the Middle East and that its strength isn’t what it was only a few months ago.

The president could not say any of this, true as it is, without looking like he was just trying to ignore the problem and “not doing his job.”


Bonus sports feature. In the WaPo Dan Steinberg has a piece on mensch-like but beleaguered quarterback Jason Campbell, which I thought did an unusually good job in portraying the human, and inhuman, realities of life as a pro football player.