Campaigning on the Anger Platform

Misery and anger love company. And the candidates know it

by Patti Davis • Columnist
patti davis image

I blame Newt for the new craze in campaigning: Vote for me because I’m one mad-as-hell guy. But then I claim no objectivity here. I’d blame Newt for sunspots if I thought I could get away with it.

However, he was the first to see a massive surge in his poll numbers once he got on a roll with angry outbursts at every presidential debate. He elicited cheers even when he was being completely illogical. Like when he attacked correspondent John King at the CNN debate in January for asking about his ex-wife and their not-so-idyllic marriage.

Newt’s not a stupid guy. He had to know the question was coming.

My guess is he rehearsed his "I-am-appalled" response in front of the mirror before coming to the debate. Listening to the cheers that greeted his outrage, you’d think the audience was about to start chanting, “Death to the media” at any moment.

But I don’t really think they cared who he was enraged at; they just wanted to see rage. It’s the new version of ultimate fighting…between people who think they should be elected to the highest office in the land.

Apparently, the other campaigns on the Republican side took note of this strategy, and how well it was working. So now it’s Rick Santorum’s turn. We’ve been treated to an unearthing of his 2008 speech in which he said, “Satan has set his sights on the United States of America.”

Defending his belief that Satan is alive and well, he invoked my father’s name and tried to draw a parallel between his utterings of religiosity and my father calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” There obviously is no parallel – my father was talking about foreign policy in the midst of the Cold War and Santorum was talking about a manufactured spiritual crisis he’d decided was real.

Then we have Santorum showing his rage and disgust at President Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which he spoke about the separation of church and state, and how vital it is to uphold that precept. Santorum said he “almost threw up.”

Could someone please get this man a copy of the Constitution? And suggest to him that Thomas Jefferson was a whole lot smarter than he is?

As for Mitt Romney, he appears at times like he wants to get into this ultimate fighting game, but he just comes off as a patrician guy who wandered into the ring by mistake on his way back from the yacht club.

The strategy behind all this seems to be that, because so many Americans are angry right now – over the economy, over all that is not working in this country at the moment – it’s a smart move to join them.

I can almost hear the back room dialogue – “To be a man of the people, you have to tap into the anger people are feeling…”

Really? Appealing to what is definitely not our higher nature is the mark of a leader? There is no question that we are living in angry times – not only here, but throughout the world. Adding to that isn’t a solution, it’s just fueling the problem. Any mother or shrink just out of social work school would tell you that.

Einstein has been credited with saying, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Along with a copy of the Constitution, could someone please send Rick Santorum that quote as well? Better still, put a package together for him. Maybe he just needs some milk and cookies to calm down.


First Published March 2, 2012

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