TCS Daily – The Triumph of “Angry and Stupid”

My latest at TCS Daily, “The Triumph of ‘Angry and Stupid’,” is up.* It’s about the poisonous tone of American political rhetoric.

The win at all cost mentality, which is more a function of the permanent campaign and the ever-increasing role of the federal government than anything Kos has done, is corrosive. There was a sense, as recently as the 1980s, that once the election was over, it was time to govern. Presidents who won elections were entitled to a honeymoon period and preparations for the next election were on the back burner. In recent years, though, the losing party immediately sought to undermine the legitimacy of the winner and brought out all the tools at their disposal to obstruct.

The win at all costs model, which is bipartisan, leads to politics being a sport where you merely root for whoever happens to be wearing the team colors at the moment. Ordinary voters are more likely to be turned off by the rancorous atmosphere and the core electorate will likely be more energized than ever to make sure that the “bad guys†lose.

More at the link.

*Note: The title wasn’t mine. It was originally titled “The Kos-ification of American Politics.” While angry and stupid may have triumphed, the story is the anger more than the stupidity.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Published Elsewhere, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. odograph says:

    I think the feelings were always there, but balanced by a level of civility. It’s the civility that is gone, leading to feedback loops of heat and anger.

    How many times have regulars here gone off on me, told me I can’t be a real Republican, and lumped me with “the other” … the hated Democrats?

    Now, maybe those guys really are crazy, but in a more civil time they wouldn’t have been quite so accepted.

  2. odograph says:

    WRT declines in civility, we’ve got a President who flips people the bird. And clips are carried on television.

    I would not have dreamed of that 20 years ago.

  3. Eli Rabett says:

    Where were you in the 90s (or more to the point in 1998?)

    And then, of course, we remember such darling quotes as: “It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left,” Abramoff was quoted as saying in the group’s 1983 annual report, “Our job is to remove them from power permanently”.

    And Jack’s pal Grover: “We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals — and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.”

    We could go on, but these are the folks of the moment and if you want real raw meat take a peek at little green footballs.

  4. James Joyner says:


    I don’t spend much time at LGF but agree that the tone tends to be harsh, although mostly on foreign policy issues rather than Democrat-Republican. There are plenty of over-the-top GOP sites, although they’re not the more prominent ones.

  5. Phenobarbarella says:

    I agree with you about the tone, but I place 90% or more of the blame with Republicans. The simultaneous rise of Rush Limbaugh (in the civilian, non-politician arena) and Newt Gingrich (whose GOPAC famously funded seminars throughout the country where aspiring young GOP turks were taught to go negative at all times when describing the enemy, with words like “incompetent,” “sick,” “losers,” “morally bankrupt,” etc.) was the genesis of it. Oh, sure, rancorous idiots have always been with us. But they’ve usually been confined to the fringes, and rightfully so. People like William Pierce and Father Coughlin fall into this category. Mainstream conservatism used to be (in this regard) about civility in discourse, politics stops at the water’s edge, etc. Conservatives used to actually frown at the New Left-coined notion that the personal is political, believing that some things were not appropriate fodder for political debate or even consideration. What a contrast those quaint-seeming notions provide when stacked against today’s standards of conservative politicking. Gingrich and Limbaugh taught the conservative faithful that there was both big money and electoral success in lowering the lowest common denominator as far as they could. It gave the angry eveyrman a direction in which to channel his previously unfocused, nebulous rage against politicians. Those frustrations which he’d previously thought could only be expressed in public apathy and private cynicism, he was now being told by Limbaugh and Gingrich, were fit to be ruminated upon, amplified, stoked and spewed out at “the enemy” in any forum he considered appropriate.

    Everyone’s responsible for their own behavior, of course, and there have always been the Abbie Hoffmans and other spewers on the left, as well. But nothing like the coordinated campaign of lowbrow political discourse which has been mounted in the last twenty or so years by conservative ideologues has ever been seen in American politics, to my knowledge. Let’s give credit (or place blame, in my opinion) where it’s due.

  6. McGehee says:

    But nothing like the coordinated campaign of lowbrow political discourse which has been mounted in the last twenty or so years by conservative ideologues has ever been seen in American politics, to my knowledge.

    I’m reading a bookn I got for Christmas about the years leading up to the Civil War.

    Of course nobody ever referred to Abraham Lincoln as an ape, right?