Candidates need antidotes to public anger, not anger
A combative, angry mood hangs over the presidential races, reflecting public sentiments. But below the anger are emotions that do need to be addressed, with a calm debate of policy.
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So far in the presidential contest, there’s enough pique in the air and indignation in the campaigns to say it might.
The anger is seen not only in opinion polls but in the grievance politics of the tea party and “Occupy” movement. And the candidates, with their mood meters ever on, are playing to this emotional alienation among Americans.
In his State of the Union message, for example, President Obama starkly shifted from his campaign style of 2008 that promised hope and an end to bitter partisanship to that of being a pugnacious populist. His newfound fighting spirit appeals to the hard-core left that sees him as too reconciling. The president even got into a personal spat this week with Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer.
In the GOP race, the candidates long ago resorted to personal barbs, eye-rolling, snide snorts, high umbrage, and tart retorts. So far, there have been 19 Republican debates and each new one seems closer to a Fox News or MSNBC talk show – the kind that looks at the world only in black and white. (Thankfully, the next debate isn’t until Feb. 22.)
Newt Gingrich is the champ of rage, and relishes it. “Newt’s Rocky Balboa – he doesn’t mind fighting,” says former Rep. Bob Livingston, a Gingrich adviser. Mitt Romney has tried to match Mr. Gingrich’s ire even as he accuses his rival of putting anger at the source of his campaign.
“When I’m shot at, I return fire,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m going to show the passion that I have when it comes naturally.” But then Gingrich warned him: “You have to be realistic in your indignation.”