Everyone Is Angry, and It's Only Going to Get Worse
During a presidential campaign, everyone is angry
August 16, 2012
Yes. But, then again, everyone seems angry in an election year. Extreme rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent weeks with no signs of sanction or abating. Mitt Romney's suggestion that President Barack Obama should "take his campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago" was precipitated by a statement by Vice President Biden suggesting that a Republican victory in November would "unchain" the banking industry and put most Americans back "in chains." Both sides are to blame in this escalating war of tempers.
Beyond what the candidates actually say, the negative advertising war is also heating up. Negative advertising has become the norm, especially in states where the margin of victory is expected to be close. According to data collected by Kantor Media, the top five largest groups buying negative ads (including the Obama and Romney campaigns and super PACs Restore Our Future, Americans for Prosperity, and Priorities USA Action) spent more than $161 million through August 1.
What is said in these anger-inducing ads is almost as outlandish as the amount of money being spent on them. In an ad by Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting President Obama, the narrative implies that Bain Capital (run by Mitt Romney at the time) closed a steel plant, causing the death of family member of a worker who had lost his job and health coverage. Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, has run ads taking quotes out of context, including a joke the president made about a project being "shovel ready" as out of touch and comments made by Democratic strategist (dubbed a "White House insider") Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney. The ads for consumption on the Internet are, of course, far worse.
With the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan to the Romney presidential ticket, the amount of vociferous anger is only going to get worse. The "Ryan Budget" is a polemic and ripe with controversy. Right or wrong, brave or futile, the economics and policy choices of the newly minted vice presidential nominee will escalate the heated rhetoric in an already scorching electoral season.
There is too much at stake for both parties to tone down the rhetoric. Too many states are battleground states. Each base needs to be primed and perturbed by the campaigns to get out to support their respective candidates. Candidates have an incentive to roil their partisans and rankle their opponents. Until November, everyone is going to seem more angry than usual.