Why are we so angry, politically?
© Greg Nash

Over the last several months, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE has insulted Mexicans, insulted POWs, insulted women, insulted his fellow candidates and insulted the media; and that's only to name a few of his targets.

Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonVA slashes program that helps homeless veterans obtain housing: report Homelessness rises for first time since recession Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is the right call MORE has said he does not want a Muslim in the White House because Muslims cannot be trusted. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation," Carson said on NBC's "Meet The Press" in September. "I absolutely would not agree with that." Carson does not believe that Islam is "consistent with the Constitution."

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In this election phase, we have elevated the cruelest, most divisive and least qualified candidates to the top of Republican polls. In the case of Trump and Carson, we have branded their misogyny, xenophobia and volatility as "refreshing."

I'm sorry, but there is something wrong with a country that is so angry at the Washington "establishment" that it finds these two candidates, and their impertinent behavior, refreshing.

How has name-calling become a winning campaign strategy? Why are we so angry?

The answer to these questions begins with how divided we are. The number of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal, opinions has doubled over the last two decades, according to a Pew Research poll conducted last year; while the center —  people who express an equal number of conservative and liberal opinions — has shrunk.

We have become ideologically tribal in this country. We are much more comfortable basking in our sociopolitical super-zones — Fox News, MSNBC, left- and right-wing blogs — that create content to promote, and placate, our own biases. The proliferation of media, and the sensationalism in which most of these 24-hour outlets now traffic, have made it easy to cloak ourselves in dialogues that are frighteningly fanatical.

The presumption 20 years ago was that the Internet and emerging technologies would give a voice to a large percentage of the population that had never had one. The world would become more connected, citizens more engaged and proactive. What we have discovered in a more connected world, however, is that there are a lot of different people out there and a lot of different opinions. The proliferation of media has amplified this diversity of opinion; but in a counterproductive way, has also made it easier for like-minded people to coalesce, mingle and entrench themselves ideologically. As discontent with the government's role in our lives grows, these predisposed outlets, which are inherently void of compromise and nuance, foment that discontent rather than soothe it. The Internet and, to a large extent, cable television have become riotous free-for-alls laying waste to the idea of a civil, balanced discourse.

The one thing a great majority of Americans can agree on, regardless of party, is that they are angry. They feel like they're being ripped off, marginalized and underrepresented; and they feel like an epically unproductive Washington doesn't care.

The problem with politicians is not that they don't care; it's that they have become so dogmatic in adhering to ideology that it has paralyzed them. This fundamentalist approach to politics has created an establishment political system that is not only dysfunctional, but also cruel. In fact, the cruelty is perhaps most responsible for the dysfunction.

This country was built, and intended to be governed, with an indomitable human spirit; a spirit that yearns for unity, for community and for empathy, and is characterized by reason and tolerance. That is what makes America great.

Candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson may appear like "outsiders," when in reality their campaigns have been the most reflective of a Washington that has become divisive and cruel. The rhetoric of these two men has been so toxic and degrading that it has only served to foment our discontent, not soothe it; and neither candidate has made a case that he would be prepared to productively govern.

Right now, that's about as "Washington" as it gets.

Spatola is a West Point graduate and former captain in the U.S. Army. He currently serves as a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and SiriusXM radio.