Friday, February 10, 2006

Beth Fouhy of AP has figured out that calling Democrats "angry" is a calculated strategy on the part of Republicans:

...In recent months, GOP operatives and officeholders have cast the Democrats as the anger party, long on emotion and short on ideas. Analysts say the strategy has been effective, trivializing Democrats' differences with the GOP as temperamental rather than substantive.

...The latest example of the anger strategy came Sunday, when Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said on ABC that Clinton "seems to have a lot of anger." He cited comments she made in Harlem on Martin Luther King Day in which she likened the Republican-led House to a "plantation" and called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in history....

And that's just one of the more recent salvos:

...Last summer, with chief White House political adviser Karl Rove under investigation in the CIA leak case, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, denounced Democrats' criticism of Rove as "more of the same kind of anger and lashing out that has become the substitute for bipartisan action and progress."

Last month, after Gore criticized the president for approving warrantless eavesdropping on terror suspects, [RNC spokeswoman Tracey] Schmitt retorted: "While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger."

Bush himself touched on the anger theme in his recent State of the Union Address, saying: "Our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger." ...

In Slate, Bruce Reed, the former Clinton staffer who now heads the DLC, stupidly pleads guilty on behalf of his party:

Anger is a real problem in American politics. Democrats lost the last presidential election in part because our side was so mad at Bush we couldn't see straight.

So it wasn't because social conservatives thought God wanted Bush to win, or because we were outorganized, or because voters don't like to vote against incumbents in wartime, or because of the effective lies of the Swift Boat guys, or because the "flip-flop" meme worked, or because an al-Qaeda tape surfaced days before the election, or because people thought Kerry was a stiff they wouldn't want to have a beer with -- we lost because we seemed angry? Did I miss that in all the exit polls?

Reed says his ex-boss's wife isn't one of those awful angry Democrats -- and he thinks this is why Ken Mehlman attacked her:

...If anything, Ken Mehlman is projecting: His real fear is how paralyzed with anger the base of the Republican Party becomes at the mere mention of Hillary. Mehlman and Karl Rove didn't spend the past six years inventing compassionate conservatism just to watch the pitchfork wing of the Republican party drag it back down again.

... As Republicans learned in 1992, and Democrats learned in 2004, the side that gets mad won't be the side that gets even....

Interesting analysis. Too bad it's wrong.

Republican voters were a lot angrier at Bill Clinton and the Democrats after he became president than they were in 1992 -- and they've won at the congressional level every time since then. Sure, Clinton won in '96, the GOP lost seats in '98, and Gore won the popular vote in 2000 -- but right-wing anger has increased steadily and relentlessly since '92 and Republican control of the government has increased in the same period.

For that matter, which side had angrier voters in 1980, when the GOP took back the White House and the Senate? (Has everyone forgotten the angry campaign against George McGovern and other liberal Democrats in the Senate, many of whom were defeated?)

Which was the angrier campaign in 1988 -- Dukakis's or Bush Senior's? Who ran the angriest ad in North Carolina in 1990 -- Harvey Gantt or Jesse Helms?

It's not about who is or isn't angry. It's about who successfully claims the mantle of "nice" or "normal" or "in touch with the concerns of ordinary people," and who can paint the other side as not normal or not nice or out of touch with regular folks. (In that North Carolina race, "regular folks" meant "white folks.")

George W. Bush isn't a nice guy at all, but we've been persuaded that he is; we've also been persuaded that the two Democrats he's run against were dangerous oddballs. Republicans attack the temperament of Democrats all the time; no Democrat ever says Bush is emotional or angry, even when he clearly is. Bottom line: In this as in so many other things, Republicans "work the refs" much better than Democrats do, and they win.


UPDATE: In comments, Bulworth reminds me of the obvious rebuttal to Bruce Reed's claim that Democrats lost in '04 because they were the angry ones:

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