In a beige reception hall in a Des Moines suburb, over paper plates piled with the remains of a Monday morning continental breakfast, Sen. Bernie Sanders urged a packed house of Iowans to manifest their dreams. Imagine an America where cancer only kills you, rather than also rifling through your wallet. Visualize a future where no American child has to pay off her grandmother’s student loans. Cynicism is high and more than a quarter of us believe the American Dream is unattainable, but Sanders’s stump speech offered hope. “Everything is impossible until it’s not,” he said. The crowd went wild.
When the Iowa caucuses went to hell in a handbasket last week, they probably took some of Americans’ last morsels of trust in the political system down too. But when I asked political scientists and psychologists about the impact of the bungled caucuses on overall political cynicism, they, by and large, weren’t particularly concerned. The vast majority of voters probably won’t care all that much, they said; instead, these experts are more worried about the indirect effects. Long after the shoddy apps have been forgotten, mistrust and bitterness could still be trickling down from political elites to everyone else.