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American anger is alive, and it’s dangerous

September 17, 2009

I was motivated to write this post by Frank Luntz.  Mr. Luntz is a republican pollster.  He’s polled and run focus groups all over the country, dialing into the pulse of the everyday American citizen.   He has surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and performed extensive research on politics and the habits of people.  You can say with a good degree of certainty, that Mr. Luntz understands public opinion better than anyone else.  That is why this worries me:

And then there’s the ugly detail: Luntz says he’s never seen anything like the anger he’s seeing now. It’s not only coarsening public life; it’s changing the nature of his job, too.

“It is harder for me to get control and keep control of my groups,” he laments. “People are ruder and are more insulting.”

From an analytical standpoint, the fury has been a challenge. “It makes it easier to see where they are,” he says, “but it makes it hard to find a solution. The key to being effective and successful in politics, business and culture is not just understanding emotions but being able to direct [them]. But it is really hard to direct anything when the public is so angry. If you can’t get them to trust anything or anyone, you can’t get them to move. It is paralysis, and it is unhealthy.”

Mr. Luntz disapproves of the behavior of town hall participants, who rose up in venomous indignation over the summer:

“I have become intolerant of intolerance,” he says, “and it has put me at odds on occasion with people who I believe in and work for. I don’t support the town hall behavior of those who oppose [President Barack] Obama’s health care plan. I don’t [think] yelling by a member of Congress is constructive in any way.”

Why is the country so angry?  How can President Obama repair the fracture that split the electorate over the last eight years?  Should we expect solutions to the myriad of problems we face if we’re intolerant of one another, and don’t trust our elected officials to take the country in the proper direction?  The simple answer is no.  Unless our leadership is willing to be more adept in dealing with the living, breathing anger- and the people, are willing to accept the differences in ideology and each other- than our polarization will continue.  And the anger will erupt.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2009 1:00 am

    I think that Rep. Wilson was just a frustrated citizen…that was not a racist remark.

    • Matthew Wright permalink*
      September 17, 2009 7:30 am

      I agree that it wasn’t a racist comment. I think it was in the heat of the moment. I don’t agree with it, but I don’t think he had any intended malice in it.

  2. Valerie Curl permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:06 am

    Mr. Luntz is a long time Republican pollster and media savvy public relations expert…and a pretty honest guy. If he’s concerned by the vehemence unleashed by far Right pundits such as Limbaugh, Beck, Reilly, and Hannity and to which the rest of the Republican party has bowed in acquiescence, then you know positively that something is terribly wrong with that party.

    • Matthew Wright permalink*
      September 17, 2009 7:33 am

      I agree Valerie. There is so much venom in the atmosphere, how can we possibly expect any bi-partisanship?

  3. Tom Amlie permalink
    September 17, 2009 10:13 am

    You ask: “How can President Obama repair the fracture that split the electorate over the last eight years?”

    Perhaps a better question would be “When will President Obama end his policies, practices, and statements which have been so divisive over the past 8 months?” The anger out there isn’t entirely due to the actions of the previous administration. Much, if not most, of it is due to the heavy handed ram-it-down-your-throat-and-lie-about-it attitude of the current administration. “Stimulus”, “Cap and Trade”, “Cash for Clunkers”, “Obamacare”: all of these programs are horrifically expensive, and ALL of them are of exceedingly questionable value. This “most transparent administration” was recently forced through a FOIA suit to disclose what they long knew about “cap and trade”: it’s going to cost the average American more than $1,600/year. This was from a Treasury study the admin. had in hand PRIOR to passage of C&T by the House. “Cash for Clunkers” was of questionable value from an environmental standpoint, and the economic boost is going to be short-lived. Many consumers bought cars in July/Aug rather than a few months later…shifting sales on the calendar rather than generating new sales. There are also economic papers indicating that consumers new car payments will crowd out their other future consumer spending. “Obamacare” is a pig in a poke, and people opposing it (or anything Obama supports) are accused of racism (while Obama doesn’t discourage the accusations).

    Yeah. There’s anger.

    • Matthew Wright permalink*
      September 17, 2009 11:03 am

      Tom,

      That’s not going to happen, and why should it? Republicans lost the election last time I checked. People thought that his policies were better than what republicans were offering. This didn’t happen over night. He told you everything he was planning on doing during the campaign. The fact that some people don’t like them is, well, unfortunate. We have a two party system in this country. It sounds like your party lost. That does not give them the right to dictate what policy should be. Wait 4 years, then you get another shot. People who don’t support his policies are not “racist.” But some of them are misguided and foolish, and they show it with their blatantly ignorant arguments. They called him a Muslim during the campaign. They think he’s African, not American. In other words, they are trying to illegitimize him. That’s not protest, that’s hatred, and you can’t disguise that as political dissent.

  4. Gene permalink
    September 17, 2009 1:03 pm

    Obama is doing what he promised to do and what the majority elected him to do. What is scary is that this free-floating anger in fear in the population ought to be aimed 180 degrees around to the insurance industry and their goons in congress and at the Wall Street bankers who brought us this depression instead of at the guy who, for once, is working to fix things.

  5. Matthew Wright permalink*
    September 17, 2009 1:11 pm

    Good point Gene. Where is all the anger for the Insurance industry or all of these banks that we were forced to bail out? I think a good portion of it is misplaced and counterproductive. If you’re talking about helping the common man, then you have to shake up the system. It happened with social security, civil rights, women’s rights and medicare. If the protesters had their way, in the end all you’d have is a new president and the same old problems. Status quo to the fullest!

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