- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2016

New York-based psychiatrist Frieda Birnbaum has tracked the persistent appeal of Republican front-runner Donald Trump for months. “Trump’s prolonged popularity reveals a lot about the mental state of Americans,” she says, noting that the wide range of his appeal and the unpredictable surges of support signals the nation seeks “massive” change.

“Many Americans have felt ignored by their leaders. When Trump verbally assaults these leaders and candidates associated with the establishment, they cheer him on. They vent their frustration on these leaders through him,” Dr. Birnbaum continues. But something else is going on.

“Trump’s popularity also reveals that Americans are seeking someone strong to lead them. The fact that there may be too much hope invested in Trump is a reflection of weakened mental health among Americans. When we seek an external individual of force outside of ourselves to make right or change what we are capable of changing, it’s disempowering,” Dr. Birnbaum concludes.

Uh oh. Meanwhile, another New Yorker has noticed psychological dynamics. Michael Bloomberg, who announced Monday he would not run for the White House, is also vexed at the presidential candidates.

“Rather than explaining how they will break the fever of partisanship that is crippling Washington, they are doubling down on dysfunction,” the former New York City mayor noted in his rationale for not entering the 2016 race.

CRANKY CANDIDATES, CRANKY NATION

Nine in 10 Americans now deem political discussions as “angry and bad-tempered” while three-fourths say the political climate has gotten even angrier since the 2016 presidential campaign got rolling. Over half predict it will get even worse. All this according to a new Harris Poll charting the sentiments of 2,000 U.S. adults.

“If Americans are right, we should expect to see this anger bubbling over into our daily lives as well: 76 percent believe that the way American politicians treat one another influences how American citizens treat one another,’ says Larry Shannon-Missal, managing editor of The Harris Poll. See more numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.

LEVIN’S REASONING

“It’s time for a new television show where people can have their principles, beliefs and values reinforced rather than attacked. LevinTV will be unabashedly pro-American.”

— Talk radio kingpin Mark Levin, on the Monday night launch of his new prime-time daily TV show.

CONVENTION JITTERS

Is the host city expecting a riot over Republicans? Maybe. Or maybe not. Cleveland Plain Dealer political reporter Andrew J. Tobias reports that the city of Cleveland may buy up to $50 million worth of riot gear for the Republican National Convention, set to begin in that city on July 18.

On the wish list: 2,000 “HWI Elite Defender riot suits” with an equal number of 26-inch collapsible batons, 300 bicycles, 15 motorcycles, 3 miles of interlocking steel barriers, 25 sets of tactical armor and two horse trailers, among other things. The funds come from a federal security grant. Mr. Tobias also cited previous GOP conventions in Tampa, Florida, and St. Paul, Minnesota, and said these purchases could suggest that city officials anticipate “large demonstrations.”

“There’s logic to that — but people tend to always overreact to what’s going on in the moment. So I’m not going to try to make any predictions — they thought there would be 10,000-plus protesters in Tampa in 2012 because of the Occupy movement, and less than 1,000 showed up. But this was based on 2008 RNC, where there was legitimately social unrest, property damage, mass arrests, etcetera,” Mr. Tobias wrote in an addendum to his report.

“People are welcome to their own opinions on whether they think cities overreact or properly react to security threats at political conventions. My only point in sharing this extra information is to try to dial down the idea that by buying riot gear, we can infer that Cleveland is doing so because it believes riots are more possible this year than in years past. It’s actually a standard precautionary measure that has become more standard since Sept. 11, 2011,” the reporter noted.

FOR THE LEXICON

“Kasichuation”

That’s a convenient catchall term for the moment when Republican presidential hopeful Gov. John Kasich makes news, or has a victory or defeat. The word has been bandied about since mid-2015, most recently used by Daily Beast senior correspondent Tim Mak in a tweet announcing that Arnold Schwarzenegger had endorsed Mr. Kasich. The actor made his wishes known in a 10-second Snapchat video.

“I want John Kasich to be the next nominee for the Republicans, and to be the next president of the United States. Here he is,” a grinning Mr. Schwarzenegger told the camera.

“Thanks, Arnold. I love you, man,” chimed in Mr. Kasich, who was standing right next to him. The former California governor is serious about the Ohio governor, however.

“John knows, like I do, that it is still the greatest country in the world no matter what anyone else says. He’s offering real, common-sense solutions to our greatest challenges,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in a follow-up fundraising email circulated by the Kasich campaign.

POLL DU JOUR

68 percent of Americans say the U.S. needs a president who is not a career politician “to clean up the mess made by other politicians”; 80 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats agree.

68 percent overall say they are angry at both political parties and their candidates; 70 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats agree.

60 percent overall say neither the Democrats or Republicans are capable of “getting this country going in the right direction”; 62 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats agree.

50 percent overall say lifelong politicians “cannot be trusted to run the country”; 64 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,219 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 17-22 and released Thursday.

Balderdash and ballyhoo to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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