That Anger Thing

by: Mike Lux

Fri Apr 02, 2010 at 15:39


The Washington Post this morning had a story on the front page about how President Obama may be treating some states as a no fly zone during this election year because he is so unpopular in those states. And on page two, they have a big article titled "Anger Doesn't Stop at Health Care Reform," about all the conservatives so very, very angry at Obama over everything. And on page three, they have a big article all about the tea partiers because, well, I guess the Washington Post editors were just feeling like the tea partiers hadn't gotten enough attention.

As one of the first people to start warning my fellow Democrats (back in Feb of last year) about the foul mood voters were in because of a broken economy not improving fast enough and special interests still seeming like they controlled DC, I have to make the observation that the traditional media still is not getting the story right. Yeah, no kidding, there is anger out there, but it's not all anti-Obama, it's not all based in the tea party, and there is a lot more nuance to it than the traditional media understands.

Here are some things to keep in mind about the anger thing:

1. Obama's approval rating has been hanging around 50% for a long time, not great, but given a tough economy that's not bad either. In fact, the latest approval number I saw was 53% - exactly the same percentage of the vote he got winning a big, impressive victory in November of 2008. His numbers are not plummeting, and most voters are in fact not incredibly angry with him. Mixed feelings, some disappointment, some discouragement, and a little cynicism for sure. But outside of the hardcore Republican right, not so much anger.

2. Speaking of the hardcore Republican right, there is nothing new or dramatic about the tea partiers. The same anger, the same demographic (white Christian men, tending more rural and older than the rest of the population) was around in 1993-94 when Clinton was in office, and the same demographic was the heart of the angry backlash against civil rights and peace protesters in the 1960s. The only thing new about this is the fact that the President is a black guy with an immigrant father might gin them up a little more than usual. But these angry white males (as the media called them in the early 1990s) represent about the same sliver of the electorate as they did then, maybe 20%.

3. To be clear, the tea partiers aren't the only angry people in America. There are plenty of working class swing voters who aren't inclined to buy into the tea party stew of racism, nativism, and Ayn Rand style libertarianism, but are deeply troubled that the jobs situation isn't improving and that no one in government seems to be looking out for them. There are plenty of progressive activists angry at the Wall Street bankers, the health insurance companies, and the other corporate interests that are screwing them, and are angry that too many politicians seem to be in their pocket. In both cases, Obama and his fellow Democrats still have the opportunity to reach them, still have the ability to make absolutely clear whose side they are on. If Democrats show those voters that they will reject those special interests, and fight hard for average folks' interests, they can still win this election. If they show voters that they are just as angry about what's been done to regular people as the regular people, they will have a better 2010 than anyone is predicting right now.

The media loves-loves-loves this tea party story, but the tea partiers really aren't anything new, and they don't represent a very big group of voters. There is a lot of anger out there, but most of it is righteous anger that Democrats can and should tap into - anger that Wall Street and other bad actor big companies have been allowed to destroy our economy, and that no one is taking them on for it.  

Mike Lux :: That Anger Thing

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That Anger Thing | 8 comments
approval (0.00 / 0)
1. Obama's approval rating has been hanging around 50% for a long time, not great, but given a tough economy that's not bad either.

I actually think it's sort of incredible. Ten percent unemployment and he's not really even in negative territory. Considerably better than Bush was doing before the recession started. If the economy ever returns to decent again, he'll be at least as popular as second-term Clinton and will coast to re-election.*

*caveat: I am fully expecting big problems in the oil market as rising demand in Chindia + supply constraints lead to 2008-style price spikes in the next couple of years. That is how we may yet end up with a President Palin or Huckabee 3 years from now.


Because the alternative is worse (0.00 / 0)
Obama in many ways has been lucky in his political opponents, as Clinton was with Gingrich. My hunch is that many people are worried if not upset but they disagree with outright obstruction of legislation (the party of No) and the right wing circus (aka Tea Party). When everyone in the room is going nuts, the calmest person in the room appears to be a genius: it's that dynamic.

Also, if Obama has erred, it's on the side of caution, being too publicly solicitous of Republicans and my hunch is that also has bought him some support (certainly more than if Obama had appeared reckless).

If true, this support would evaporate if joblessness stays high, if it appears corporate interests blatantly run DC, and so on.


[ Parent ]
Angry Progressives (4.00 / 3)
Obama and his fellow Democrats still have the opportunity to reach them, still have the ability to make absolutely clear whose side they are on.

I believe that ship has already sailed, and it's quite clear whose side they are on: corporate campaign donors.


Exactly. (4.00 / 6)
The Democrats cannot "tap into that anger" at Wall Street and other bad actor big companies until they part ways with them.

And I just don't see that happening anytime soon.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Which Democrats (4.00 / 1)
The same old Democrats certainly can't. Other Democrats can.  That requires people to win primaries who aren't the same old types of Democrats - rather, we need people who can credibly tap into that anger because they have been criticizing these moves.

They are out there - Winograd, Brunner, etc. Not as many as we'd like, but they are there.  And while we seem to be paying some more attention to them, it's certainly not in proportion to their importance.  So much of the liberal establishment has gotten behind Halter, but that is only a first step.

It also means state level Dems who weren't a part of this charting a more independent and active course. There are opportunities at the state level to turn the tables.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
This is where messaging gets sticky… (0.00 / 0)
...because as far as passing substantive legislation is concerned, the problem is as much on "our" side: Conserva-same 'ol-Dems can be as troubling as the GOP. And unfortunately, the throw-the-bastards-out impulse among some so-called independents doesn't lend itself to nuances, which is to say that to many of them, 'a Dem's a Dem's a Dem...'

There could be an up side, though it has to be defined and developed. GOP obstruction and reflexive anger are going a long way toward revealing it as a Party of No Ideas, so this might be the most opportune time to make the case for this kind of Dem, rather than that one.  

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams


[ Parent ]
The law/rule of three's applies here (0.00 / 0)
In politics, for most politicians, roughly a third of the people will always hate you, a third will always love you, and a third will either be indifferent or like or dislike (but rarely hate) you based on how they view your job performance.

No different for Obama. A third of the country loathes him and likely always will. A third loves him and likely always will. And a third is divided it its feelings about him, with a small but significant majority liking him.

This is the only third that he probably needs to worry about, realistically speaking (much as we wish it were otherwise), and he would be wise to continue to keep delivering it what it wants and needs, in a way that lets them know it.

But also in a way that doesn't lose him too much support on the left.

Anyway, it's not the tea partiers that he needs to worry about (at least politically and electorally), but rather those in the center and center-right who sympatize with them and/or have similar if less extreme concerns as them, about jobs, banks, taxes, corruption, deficits, etc.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


The problem (0.00 / 0)
with the Dems trying to tap into that anger is that they were elected to fix these problems.No party can be this incompetent and last as long as they have EXCEPT by design. The ONLY solution is to NOT vote for either legacy party,because they are both totally corrupted.Don't bother trying to defend the 'progressive wing' they may as well be called the 'origami wing'.  

That Anger Thing | 8 comments
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