Can Angry Win?

When Ronald Reagan won the Presidency in 1980, he charmed Americans as a man of character who was inherently good natured and calmly confident.   When Jimmy Carter tried to jab him in debates he said “there you go again,” with a smile.  No anger, no bile.

The one time Reagan did get angry was when George H.W. Bush tried to keep a New Hampshire debate to two people.  Reagan’s ire was not at Bush but at the moderator who was ordering “Turn off Governor Reagan’s microphone.”   A visibly agitated Reagan stood up, and said with steely resolve “I am paying for this microphone,” and got thunderous applause.

Reagan was elected, however, for his optimism and character more than his ideology.   Since Reagan it’s hard to find a successful candidate who ran on anger.     Bill Clinton was charisma and hope, George W. Bush espoused a “compassionate conservatism,” with a vow to unite.   Barack Obama promised “change we can believe in.”    That last angry candidate was Richard Nixon, though most of the anger we know about now was hidden from the public.    In the history of media intensive US elections (the last sixty years or so) there has never been someone with an angry and volatile persona like Newt Gingrich who has won the White House.

Add to that his ethical failures — serving divorce papers to his wife while she’s in bed with cancer, having to leave the House Speaker position and being fined $300,000 for ethics violations in Congress, and numerous stories that show him to be arrogant and extremely self-centered only accentuate the unlikelihood that he could be elected President.

So what the heck are the Republicans in South Carolina thinking?    Is the GOP really going to ditch Romney not for a new visionary to lead the party into the future, but an angry ‘blast from the past’ with a blemished character and lack of appeal beyond the GOP base?

Probably not.  Gingrich plays better in the south and in the more conservative states.   The GOP primary battle will be a slog, and the party establishment fears he could not only fail to defeat President Obama, but could perhaps endanger Republican efforts to take the Senate or keep its House majority.   Still, this says something about the state of the Republican party.

Many Republicans are driven by nostalgia, seeing a 21st Century America that looks far different than the country they grew up in.    That is also much of what drives the tea party – nostalgia for the loss of an America they remember from the past.    The white middle class ethos and life style of the late 20th Century have given way to a new cultural landscape.  From the shining city on the hill with a vibrant economy and unquestioned world leadership to economic collapse and international decline, everything about the country has changed.

This has happened before.  Nixon and the “silent majority” was a response to the changes brought by the sixties counter culture.    Rock music, women’s liberation, the civil rights movement, a growing social welfare system all caused a yearning for the America of the 50s.   Not that the fifties were all that great in objective terms, but change yields an idolized view of the past.   That was the real America, somehow we lost it.

Of course, the cultural changes of the sixties and seventies took root.   Cultural change is inevitable and real.  America’s future will never be from its past.

Nonetheless, with a black President with foreign roots, an Occupy Wall Street movement that challenges the status quo, and international crises that call into question our faith in the economy and the US role in the world, it’s possible that Gingrich can pull a Nixon – perhaps anger can win.   I doubt it.   Nixon may have ultimately been more flawed a human than Gingrich, but he constructed an effective public persona.   Gingrich’s problems are well documented and should he get the nomination the ad hominems will be intense, and almost certainly effective.

Can he pivot?   Right now he has to play to the right wing of the GOP now to get the nomination.   But his past work with Nancy Pelosi on climate change and other clearly moderate positions also define his record.   His recent attacks on Romney at Bain Capital have echoed some of the concerns of Occupy Wall Street about capitalist excess.   Might the anger and venom of the primary season give way to reason and calm vision?   Will a “new Gingrich” bury the old one, with the public forgiving or shrugging at his personal problems in order to express the view of the new “silent majority” that change is coming in a too fast and too scary manner?

Perhaps.    Gingrich has proven as malleable in his politics as Romney, but his angry forceful manner makes it appear he’s sticking to a principled script.     Yet just as the cultural changes of the 60s were real and did not go away at all with the elections of Nixon or Reagan, the changes that the tea party and the right decry are likely to remain a part of what America is becoming regardless who wins.   And perhaps in 2044 we’ll see a candidate running on the notion that we need to get back  “America as it once was” – back in the old fashioned era of circa 2012.

  1. #1 by Black Flag® on January 24, 2012 - 22:50

    As if it matters…

    Yes, the only President since Hoover that was not vetted by the CFR (Council of Foreign Relations) was Reagan, but the CFR forced Bush, Sr. (of the CFR) to be his VP … and then ended up as President himself.

    America as it once was …. was back before 1860 – Lincoln took was shattered remains was left of it, and burned it in the War between the States.

    After that fiasco, what is now was inevitable… and the consequences (save Ron Paul) is decentralization.

  2. #2 by Black Flag® on January 24, 2012 - 22:51

    A very good post, Scott, regardless my comment

  3. #3 by modestypress on January 24, 2012 - 23:44

    Well, I agree to a point, in that in general we are getting less comfortable with anger. I lived in California when Reagan was governor, and during that time, and during the time he was President, I never really “got” the “nice guy” image that so many people seemed to pick up on. After all, he was an actor. Sometimes he played hit men and sometimes he played likable and attractive characters. Then after a lifetime of practice, he played a likable President. I guess that was his greatest role.

    As the saying goes, “Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.” As soon as the Republicans can come up with a candidate who can fake being a nice guy, they will probably get him or her elected. Either that, or they will nominate, and we will elect, one of the present group of angry, dangerous, unpleasant candidates, proving that we, as a nation, have devolved back to the day when everyone carried a revolver in a holster, and drew on their neighbors on the slightest pretext.

    • #4 by Black Flag® on January 24, 2012 - 23:50


      have devolved back to the day when everyone carried a revolver in a holster, and drew on their neighbors on the slightest pretext.

      …so please enlighten us on when these “days” happened?

      Methinks you are too much a child of Hollywood movies, and not much a student of history.

    • #5 by renaissanceguy on January 25, 2012 - 06:31

      Probably didn’t happen often, since most people do not wish to draw guns on their neighbors and since the neighbor was likely to have his own gun to draw.

  4. #6 by Titfortat on January 25, 2012 - 16:28

    Come guys, you dont need to go very far into pretty much any of your urban centers to see people “drawing” guns all the freaking time. If you cant see that then I think someone is going to sell you some land in florida, cheap. 😉

    • #7 by Black Flag® on January 25, 2012 - 20:08


      Methinks you, too, watch too much TV and Hollywood shoot-em-up movies.

  5. #8 by Titfortat on January 26, 2012 - 15:07


    You are right, your news and the stats on your murder rates by guns have definately clouded my judgement. 😉

    • #9 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 15:42


      ….stats …compared to what?

      …shows that the murder rate has been utterly flat for the last 50 years.

      In 2009 America’s crime rate was roughly the same as in 1968, with the homicide rate being at its lowest level since 1964.

      Methinks you watch far too much “Lethal Weapon” movies.

  6. #10 by Titfortat on January 26, 2012 - 16:29

    Ah Stats, I guess if we look at this study in regards to causes of death to men and see how it changes depending on race. If we factor in where most of the blacks, hispanics, asians and native americans live(inner city), we then start to see a little bit of a trend for homicides. Now, I wonder if we looked at some more stats, how many of those pesky little murders were caused by colt or remington…..hmmm, I wonder. Correct me if Im wrong, but I get the distinct impression you are white.

    • #11 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 16:33


      First, murder rate by guns is going down.
      Second, I wonder how many deaths have been caused by government guns vs. private?

      12,632 (40.5%) were homicide deaths (by guns) in US.

      You would agree that this number pales against that who die by government war.

      Methinks you need to apply your effort somewhere else other then private guns to be more effective – if saving lives is your goal.

      • #12 by Titfortat on January 26, 2012 - 16:43

        I have no goal for your nation, I was just pointing out you guys are pretty violent, regardless of the slight changes from year to year.

      • #13 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 17:02


        …again, compared to who?
        (per 100,000)

        Honduras 78
        El Salvador 66
        Saint Kitts and Nevis 38
        Venezuela 48
        Jamaica 52
        Belize 42
        Guatemala 41
        Bahamas 36
        Colombia 38
        South Africa [32
        Trinidad and Tobago 37
        Brazil 25
        Dominican Republic 25
        Saint Lucia 25
        Dominica 22
        Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 22
        Panama 22
        Ecuador 18
        Guyana 18
        Mexico 18
        Nicaragua 13
        Russia 13
        Grenada 12
        Paraguay 12
        Barbados 11
        Costa Rica 11
        Bolivia 8.9
        Moldova 7.4
        Haiti 6.9
        Antigua and Barbuda 6.8
        Estonia 6.3
        Uruguay 6.1
        Thailand 5.3

        …are all worse then the US.

        …and none of this accounts for government violence on their own people – where that would then add nations like China, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Congo, etc.

        Once again, methinks you believe Hollywood too much.

      • #14 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 17:10


        The correlation between violence and economics is key.

        Where there is a high division of labor, the existence of violence also must be low – the more complex the interactions between people, the more dangerous violence becomes in disturbing social order.

        High division of labor economies are very sensitive to violent disturbances – example, if there was even a small increase in highway piracy, the trucking industry would begin to withdraw, which would seriously impact the transport of goods and inventories, which would directly impact your ability to put food on the table – the grocery stores would be empty in two or three days.

        Nations with a low division of labor are more immune to violence since most their economic production is immediate – they do their own planting and harvesting, etc. Thus, there is little disturbance that a shutdown of trucking – since, there is little trucking necessary.

        The symbiotic effect of a lowering of violence and the increase in division of labor are a looped, feedback mechanism – the lessening of violence increases social order, increases divisions of labor, increases prosperity, which lessens violence.

      • #15 by Titfortat on January 26, 2012 - 19:25

        Compared to us. I didnt see our name on that list. I guess it must be the cold weather. 😉

      • #16 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 20:34

        Your country benefits from a highly advanced economy with a very diverse division of labor.

        It utmost depends on trade for survival, therefore, abhors violence.

        Further, it is very small in population in a large country. With ample areas to move to so to avoid unfavorable people, also reduces crime.

        But at these edges, the differences is violence is small – not orders of magnitude differences as with other nations.

      • #17 by Titfortat on January 26, 2012 - 21:51

        Do you think any of our socialistic ideas help with that? Afterall, we are similar to Sweden and Norway and they arent too violent either.

      • #18 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 22:34


        Do you think any of our socialistic ideas help with that? Afterall, we are similar to Sweden and Norway and they arent too violent either


        I argue the Socialism makes violence worse, for it destroys free men in trade of his property and replaces it with coercion and violence taking his property by force and giving it to others who have not earned it.

        Socialism never solves the problem demanded by the people – prosperity – for it first demands equality.

        Socialism would rather have massive but equal poverty of the many, then inequality in prosperity for the many.

        Yet Socialism is sold as a solution to fix the problem of a lack of capital of a few – something it cannot provide without also destroying the capital creators.

        As it fails, more of it is demanded – until massive pervasive theft of everything, absolute distribution by rationing, and the resultant corruption and slaughter of humanity becomes the common course.

        The Northern nations are more peaceful for many reasons and none have anything to do with Socialism.

        They are too cold – there are few people willing to fight and die so that they can then freeze to death.

        They cannot feed themselves for 6 months of the year – therefore, they have learned that trade is the only route to survival, and they are among the best free traders in the world.

        They have few trade barriers, if any.

        Trade and coercion live in opposition to each other.
        They are traders, therefore, violence is rare.

      • #19 by Titfortat on January 27, 2012 - 01:07

        They are too cold – there are few people willing to fight and die so that they can then freeze to death(BF)

        Damn, I will have to remind the Vikings about that. 😉

      • #20 by Black Flag® on January 27, 2012 - 01:55


        You forgot which way the Vikings went!

        No one invaded them! Too cold!

        The Vikings invaded went south, to warmer lands!

        Heck some fought all the way from Scandinavian, through Europe and finally conquered what is modern Spain … called the Vandals – until finally displaced by the Arabs….

    • #21 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 16:34


      Other insights:
      Gun deaths are going down

      • #22 by Scott Erb on January 26, 2012 - 16:36

        Gee, our police forces and legal system must be working, deterring crime.

      • #23 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 16:39


        our police forces and legal system must be working, deterring crime

        There is no correlation between this and deterrence, as the stat shows.

        It matters little of the changes of law; those that are of the mind to murder already have a mind that is not bound by such law.

        What does make change is the increase or decrease in self-defense. As people are more able to defend themselves, the incidents of crime decrease.

        “When seconds matter, the cops are only minutes away”

  7. #24 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 16:36

    Other insights

    Gun murders is highly dependent on age: the more mature, the less it occurs.

    The 20- through 24-year-old age group accounted for 7.1% of the population,[31] while accounting for 22.5% of those killed by firearm homicides


    since there were roughly 70 million handguns, the chance of any particular gun being used in a homicide is very low.

  8. #25 by Black Flag® on January 26, 2012 - 16:41

    But the point:

    People’s perceptions are highly distorted by Hollywood and TV fiction.

    This, in of itself, offers grave insights – not about Hollywood, but how poorly the common people utilize critical thinking.

  9. #26 by Titfortat on January 28, 2012 - 17:02

    No one invaded them! Too cold!
    The Vikings invaded went south, to warmer lands!(BF)

    Some of them also went to Greenland and Newfoundland. Not too warm out there!

    • #27 by Black Flag® on January 28, 2012 - 18:35


      Actually it was very warm there – the ME warming period…..

      They had farms and grape vines (greenland and vineland)

      When the warming ended, the colonies ended too.

      • #28 by Titfortat on January 28, 2012 - 19:05

        Warmer, yes. Warm, not so much.

        Their colonies died out because they couldnt adapt. The inuit on the other hand………..

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