So You Say You’re Angry? So What.

This Week’s Courier Herald Column:

It was not so long ago when anger was a pejorative in politics.  Those trying to marginalize the Tea Party as it originally organized referred to them as an “Angry Mob”.  Without much sense of irony, this angered many that were part of the protests.  But the anger wasn’t the kind of blinding anger that blocks out reason, purpose, strategy, or the final goal.

Those who united under the banner with a fairly narrow scope – taxed enough already – were able to frame an anti-incumbent, anti-administration’s agenda based message that propelled Republicans to take over control of the House of Representatives and make gains in the Senate.  Angry or not, it was the message, executed through strategy, that carried the day.

That day was not a long one.  By 2012, many others had grafted the name “Tea Party” to their own groups.  The message was blurred.  With some, it is no longer recognizable.  And anger was no longer a pejorative.  It became to be worn with many as a badge of honor.  2012 was not as kind to the movement.  Seats in the Senate that had been earmarked to change to Republican hands were not.  Others were lost.  The White House stayed comfortably in President Obama’s hands.  And the margin of Republicans over Democrats in the U.S. House shrank.  The anger grew.

As Democrats continue on into another term with the Presidency and control of the Senate, the anger within some factions of the Republican base has grown to the point where expressing anger itself seems to be a sufficient message for some.

There is an industry of anger for those willing to peddle it, and too many well intentioned people are buying these wares.  Whether talk radio, blogs, social media, leaders of many “conservative” organizations, and even far too many Republican elected officials, there is a steady supply of outrage to feed the base that cannot seem to quench their hunger.

There is plenty to be outraged about.  The danger lies with the fact that we are losing sight that outrage isn’t a goal.  It’s not a strategy.  And perhaps most importantly for a party that remains in the minority, anger is not a path to victory.  It is instead a destabilizing factor that uses emotion to detach the most committed from reason.

It is, bluntly and frankly, being used to manipulate the most hardcore of the conservative base to give up conscious and rational thought in exchange for blindly following the paths that the merchants of anger lay out.  None of these paths, unfortunately, lead to Republican majorities.  There is too much money to be made off of outrage when Republicans are in the minority.

The problem manifests itself not within a subset of Republican leaders, however, but within the grassroots.  Too many now are willing to end an argument with “…but I’m just so angry.”  That’s fine for self-awareness.  It does nothing whatsoever to advance your political philosophy with those who do not perfectly share your views.

Republicans will not win those who do not currently vote Republican by sharing our anger.  Getting angry at those who do not share our anger is a recipe to lose votes, not gain them.

Those not equally outraged know one thing about anger.  They know that anger does not lead to level headed decisions.  It does not lead to rational solutions.  It is generally an emotion that causes far more harm than good.

And yet, many among us wear it on our sleeves as a badge of honor – a requirement even – to participate in conservative political circles these days.  It is no wonder despite the economic problems our country continues to face, a heathcare system that is broken and getting worse, and a government that simultaneously finds new ways to reach into individual lives while demonstrating its total incapacity to solve its own problems that Republicans can’t sell an alternative of limited government.

We can’t sell this because we sell with anger.  And we’re proud of it.

The days of being angry for the sake of being angry must end.  We must not pretend to be happy about things we are not, nor sacrifice principles to overlook the unpleasant.  Instead, we must focus on strategies that will alleviate the root causes of the anger and build coalitions of likeminded people who will help win elections.

No one wants to put angry people in charge of anything.  And voters will not.

It’s time to lose the anger.  It will help cleanse and clear the mind, leaving room to focus on what it will take to win.

40 comments

  1. Mike Dudgeon says:

    Spot on again Charlie. Anger has its place when channeled correctly, but as you say it is a not a winning political strategy.

  2. Scott65 says:

    Yet there is another source of anger you dont address. Anger AT the TP movement itself. Anger at the now discredited austerity imposed by the TP. Millions of children being kicked off head start, seniors losing meals on wheals, people with chronic conditions such as cancer and aids losing the ability to get medicine…and for what? Because a bunch of economically ignorant self serving people who have no clue what fiat currency is or sovereign debt and got bought by billionaires said so??? Its not enough that they are going to destroy what little recovery is happening, but I have yet to see a credible idea from the TP on fiscal issues. Bottom line is Reinhart and Rogoff were wrong…very wrong, and real people everywhere are suffering because of the TP. The anger from the right is a kin to what you would expect from a group who clings to a failed ideology…and voters wont be fooled much longer. We do not have a spending problem…thats what the facts say, and the longer it takes the right wing to figure that out, the smaller they will become. Problem is most of you just dont want to hear (or see) the truth…but it is the truth

      • DavidTC says:

        Clearly, mpierce is the quality of intelligence you get without Head Start.

        For the _non_ stupid people out there, Scott65 was talking about the sequester. You know, that think that happened _in 2013_.

        • DavidTC says:

          Although I guess you’re right in that ‘millions’ can’t be kicked off…just a singular million.

          • mpierce says:

            Demonstrating your excellent math prowess? Can you show where the Head Start program was eliminated? You are aware that the sequester idea came from the Obama administration, not the Tea Party right? You are aware that Obama said he would VETO any effort to stop the spending cuts?You are also aware that the government did a study and found “by the time they [head start participants] were 8 or 9, they were, on average, indistinguishable from their peers.”?

    • saltycracker says:

      You are right as long as we have cheap unlimited credit, it’s all good, so says the kid taking out another $30k student loan. Go to PIMCO.com and read Bill Gross’ last letter.

      And govt plays the austerity card by cutting muscle where it hurts the general public to maintain the fat.

    • Noway says:

      WE don’t have a spending problem, Scott? Really? 17 trillion isn’t a prob?

      Wait for it….He’s undoubtedly ready to burst…..

      (C’mon Scott, I’m teeing it up for you…you know the “gov’t can print all the money it wants….” line you always throw out)

      • saltycracker says:

        The states, counties, cities and agencies can’t print money while their obligations are exploding….

  3. Lea Thrace says:

    Fantastic piece Charlie. I see what I read last week as a prime example of this anger irrationally blinding any future progress.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/johnstanton/conservative-infighting-kills-effort-to-fix-obamacare

    (Not the most prestigious “news source” out there but the facts about the infighting still stand confirmed.)

    That bill was (IMO) a great way for Republicans in the House to gain some much needed confidence and points with the public. Stick it to the DEMS while showing they can move on improving healthcare. But that righteous anger has once again gotten in the way.

  4. D_in_ATL says:

    Probably the most painfully obvious post I’ve read here. The thing is, you offer no solutions other than ‘don’t be mad’. I imagine you have some ideas but mentioning them would brand you a traitor (or worse yet, a progressive).

  5. saltycracker says:

    The Tea Party is another special interest group with a popular angry cause – taxes – with misdirection for various “me first” goals.

    They promote a type of individualism that tromps on other individuals and diverts the costs of public services to everyone else. They say all the right things for me, until I get the bill.

    The problem is that main stream Republicans and Democrats are worse, they tax, redistribute and spend all while encouraging debt and selectively enforcing laws.

    We voters are so sure we can control matters to get more than we contribute, that it is near impossible to elect folks to treat all equally.

    Got to run, my congressman has an idea that will put money in our pockets and “create jobs”.

  6. Trey A. says:

    It’s like Bobby Jindal has been saying: “We can’t be the stupid party” and “We used to be the party of ideas.” Only problem with this logic is that it requires good ideas that actually work and are popular with voters. As Jindal has learned the hard way, ideas aren’t equivalent to good ideas. Radical cuts (in both income taxes and services) has his approval rating in bright red Louisiana hovering at around 40 percent.

  7. seenbetrdayz says:

    We could go back to doing business as usual, but isn’t that what brought on the Tea Party in the first place?

    The cynic in me thinks the Tea Party ought to lay low for a bit. Let the elites have the axe of power firmly in their grip, so that when things go to hell in a handbasket, there will be no doubt as to whom to blame.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      The elites have done enough damage, they don’t need to have the opportunity to do anymore unabated.

  8. Al Gray says:

    Charlie is right. During the French Revolution a very angry Robespierre ascended to power…….when the anger of the masses persisted, a blade swiftly descended upon his neck.

    He wasn’t angry anymore.

  9. seekingtounderstand says:

    Here is an idea…….what if the tea party gave out an award every year for the most legal graft politican in Georgia. “The Rotten Peach Award” and outline exactly how they did it for educational purposes.
    If done with humor, its something Georgia Voters could look forward to.
    Maybe put the winners name on a bill board or two where he/she is located.
    There has to be a modern way to tar and feather with humor instead of Anger.

    • DavidTC says:

      Except the stated basis for all the claims is complete nonsense.

      The amount of ‘farm operators’ counted under the US census has nothing at all to do with who is eligible for relief. Farms can have multiple operators, both over time and at once, and the definition of ‘farm’ under the US census is not the same as ‘farm’ for the Dept. of Ag, and the census only counts the _primary_ operator.

      Moreover, the fact the claimants outnumber the number of farms operated in _one year_ rather ignores the fact that the settlement was for 14 years. (Do you know that there are five people wandering around that collect the presidential pension, but as of 2013, only _one_ person is president? In fact, checking, we appear to only have one, or, very rarely, two presidents a year. Yet _five_ people are drawing the presidential pension?!)

      And perhaps most importantly of all, the settlement is about people _who were denied farm aid_, so, duh, some of them _might never have managed to start their farm_. You don’t have to already be a ‘farmer’ to apply for ‘farm aid’. Or their farm might have collapsed since then because, you know, _they couldn’t get farm aid like white people could_. They should sue! Oh, wait, they did!

      The ‘overpayment’ idea is complete and total gibberish based on someone comparing two random numbers that are completely unrelated. Which is _exactly_ the level of ‘journalism’ expected of those Breitbart idiots.

  10. Doug Deal says:

    The government needs to kick up the dosage of pacification drugs in those chemtrails they spread around all the time. Then people will get along better.

  11. davidfarrar says:

    We are tired of big, outside political funding coming from special interests now buying off our Georgia congressional delegation even before the People of Georgia have spoken in their own primary. Therefore, the Tea Party Exploratory Committee of Georgia has been created to help Tea Party candidates establish their Tea Party credentials throughout the State of Georgia for the 2014 elections.

    Besides being “taxed-enough-already” and there aren’t “enough-spending-cuts” as Tea Party supporters demand, the following lists some of the most fundamental constitutional issues all Tea Party supporters should support in 2014, and, hopefully, take a stand on the line to get our country back.

    Under Item 4: Candidates must agree to accept no outside PAC funds during their primary campaigns. This should be a decision in and for Georgia citizens.

    Other congressional imperatives:

    (a) Immigration: Insist present immigration laws be enforced and our borders strengthened. And establish an effective E-verify program, with real penalties for employers** (including homeowners) who violate the rules.
    (b) Bring impeachment proceedings against Eric Holder over Obama’s Fast & Furious debacle.
    (c) Demand a Congressional investigation into the whole Benghazi affair.
    (d) Support for at least a five working-day waiting period before any bill is written and moved for a floor vote***
    (e) Support a “Caption” bill.
    (f) Demand verifiable federal elections.
    In addition, there is growing support for a Congressional investigation into the allegation that Marxist ideology has infiltrated our public school curriculum.

    ex animo
    davidfarrar
    ** Make E-verify accessible to homeowners
    *** Unless an emergency has been declared

    • Three Jack says:

      “By 2012, many others had grafted the name “Tea Party” to their own groups. The message was blurred. With some, it is no longer recognizable”

      If there was any doubt about that statement, davidfarrar just provided ample proof.

  12. Dave Bearse says:

    The don’t be mad strategy is a non-starter until purveyors Rush Limbaugh et al are run off. That’s not going to happen until at least 2017 (and may not happen then if a Republican is elected President) when guys like Frank Luntz are fearful to even suggest Limbaugh be exorcised. Heck, a sizable fraction of the grassroots think the last election was lost because voters weren’t mad enough.

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/frank-luntz-rush-limbaugh-problematic-secret-tape

    • Joshua Morris says:

      “Heck, a sizable fraction of the grassroots think the last election was lost because voters weren’t mad enough.”

      Oh my… smh.

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