It’s becoming increasingly clear that Americans aren’t simply in the midst of hard times. They are in the midst of one of the most volatile political environments since World War II.
The immediate cause of this volatility is clear enough to see. Just a few months ago, there was a chance that an improving economy and progress in the war in Afghanistan might calm national nerves and return the political world to a more normal setting before November’s midterm elections.
Instead, trend lines in both the economy and Afghanistan now seem to be heading in the wrong direction, and that is producing a public attitude hovering somewhere between anxiety and apprehension. If hope was the watchword for the 2008 campaign, fear may be more apt for 2010.
But that snapshot merely fits into a bigger and broader picture. Today’s dark public mood appears to be the culmination of a long stretch of national anxiety encompassing a historic terrorist attack and two lengthy wars, followed hard by the worst economic crisis of the last 75 years. The nation is in a period of volatility that started well before this year, and that may stretch well beyond it.