• The One About Malaise

    October 21, 2021

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Democracy


    The word malaise, a general feeling of uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify, is starting to creep in to discussions. It’s a word, albeit like most everything these days, politically-loaded after its use by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to describe the country he could not figure out to how lead.

    Carter’s specific use of the term focused on the energy crisis, when OPEC monkeyed with America’s oil supply. But Carter saw something much deeper was wrong. Not just an oil shortage to manage, but a recession of hope, a crisis of confidence that someone would have to lead America out of. He perceived we were tired, worn down, unable to come together in common purpose to fix something.

    It would be interesting to hear what Carter thinks about 2021. where things don’t work well. Flights don’t fly. Inflation returned. Gas is expensive. Supply chain problems mean Americans are for the first time since WWII rationing getting used to hearing “We don’t have any and aren’t sure when we will.” Unemployment plagues us as Covid tore the wool off many Americans’ eyes about how little meaningless jobs for sub-living wages contributed to their piggy banks or their sense of self-worth. Nurses who were last years heroes for working unvaccinated are fired today for being unvaccinated.

    There appears no end to Covid. The promised conclusion, the vaccine, proved as rich a lie as two weeks to flatten the curve. Even fully vaccinated people are prisoners to restrictions and mandates that often make no sense, or at the very least vary so much from state to state as to challenge their usefulness. There is little faith the economic devastation caused by mismanaged Covid restrictions will ever be addressed; the poor will just get poorer. There is a declining sense Covid is a problem that can be managed as it has been in much of the world (see Europe, especially Scandinavia.) The conclusion is no one is really in charge.

    Economic inequality has risen to where there are two systems, one for the wealthy and one for most of the rest of us, for everything. Education, healthcare, travel, shopping, how you are treated by the law, where you can eat or entertain yourself, what masking rules apply to your social events. Diseases of despair, suicide, alcohol, and drug overdoses, drive a drop in our life expectancy.

    Is there anyone who can claim, in the American tradition, that our lives are getting better? That they are confident in a better future?

    Looking for leadership, Americans come up short. The best our system could produce last election was two geriatric candidates. Biden, elected, has done little to move the nation past Covid. He hid behind our national exhaustion with Afghanistan to not suffer a greater political defeat over the botched Gotterdammerung in Kabul. His open borders policy created a massive humanitarian crisis, and a growing political one as an unknown number of immigrants play a version of the Squid Game to flood America. The Border Patrol reports “200,000 encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in July,” the highest monthly total since Bill Clinton was president.

    The president can’t even exercise leadership over his own party, and it appears likely his signature infrastructure bills and social spending initiatives, if they pass at all, will be more symbolic than transformational. In the background, police reform legislation failed, and most defunded departments have been refunded to face down rising crime. “Disappointed” is likely the term most Biden voters would be apt to use.

    America alongside all this has become a deeply cynical place. We once were to the annoyance of most of the world an endlessly optimistic place. Now we take for granted AOC and the media would be at the border for the Kids in Kages spectacular but missing when an even worse situation unfolds on Biden’s watch. We roll our eyes when the media tells us what we’re hearing isn’t what we’re hearing but “Let’s Go, Brandon.” Newspapers will print any Trump gossip but not one actual Hunter Biden email.

    All of this bleeds over into how we interact with each other. Never mind the street fights over whether black lives matter, or the combat on planes, in restaurants, and at Walmart. We don’t discuss things, never mind disagree because we don’t just hate ideas, we hate the people who hold those ideas. It doesn’t matter anyway because what were once sincere beliefs now come in packaged memes. When we run out of big issues we discover microaggressions. We enjoy as classist sport how businesses care so little about their employees they’ll fire them if one of us makes a scene. We video everything in hopes of settling matters by embarrassing someone virally.

    How prescient was Jimmy Carter when he made his “malaise” speech in 1979? The seeds he saw being planted have now grown to sad, desperate fruition. What he said then might well describe where we are now:

    “There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

    “All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path — the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our… problem.”

    For all he foresaw in his ferocious tenderness towards America, Carter failed to find a way to lead, and in 1980 suffered complete election defeat at the hands of someone who promised he would. Biden certainly did not create the current malaise in America. But his failures, far too many in too short a time, have not helped fix it. Disappointed and unhappy people vote for change. Never mind all the screeching Republicans might steal the next election. Democrats should recognize history suggests they simply will win it.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Peter, maybe you are feeling island fever.

      Down here in sunny Florida things are recovering great. Full employment. The tourist industry is thriving. Construction is through the roof. Seems like the whole country is moving down here. Sure gas is going back up, but look on the bright side, more reason to kick the global climate killer oil fuel habit. Restaurants are full, stadiums are full, Shopping center parking lots are full.

      Covid? What’s that?

      10/21/21 4:36 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Jimmy Carter’s reference to “American values” is part of the manipulative myth that muddies the awful truth about this nation. Sadly Carter’s rhetorical honesty did not resonate with enough Americans. Biden’s campaign claim was that his vast and lengthy experience in government meant he knew how things worked and thus knew how to get things done. Biden now appears to have grossly oversold his capabilities. Maybe only a third party could blunt the appeal of Trump.

      10/22/21 10:25 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      Don’t overthink the reasons why people voted the way they did. In 2016, Trump won(he actually lost by more than 4,000,000) because he was not Hillary. Biden won (really) because he was not Trump.

      The majority of the voters have no memory of this Jimmy Carter you speak about.

      10/22/21 2:19 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer- for your edification: 43% of eligible voters did not vote in 2016 which may amount to 100 million potential voters. I am certain if voting had been mandatory with a hefty fine of $10K for non participation Trump would have easily won the popular vote not as well as the electoral vote. I refrained in 2016 but had I been facing that fine I would have voted for Trump and held my nose(I despised Hillary Clinton that much). I’m certain that Trump would have gotten 80% of those 43% non voters. People didn’t know Trump and would have held their nose and crossed their fingers but they sure knew the evil and conniving Hillary.

      10/23/21 2:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The 80 million people voted in 2020 against Trump because they knew what a con artist he was.

      10/23/21 4:19 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Why doesn’t Peter pick on a pack of pampered pricks who protest presidents? This is truly a nation of bullshitters. How else to describe the sheer number who loudly claim not to trust the government when it comes to a vaccine, but trust the same government that poses a much greater threat in their personal privacy and is intent on destroying its social safety nets to feed the MIC beast.

      10/28/21 8:23 PM | Comment Link

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