Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Fury Failure


Rage is not working out.

In Delaware, the Republican voters were so angry that they rejected a popular congressman and gave their Senate nomination to an apparently unemployed 41-year-old woman whose major life success had been an ongoing performance as Wacko Conservative Girl on late-night talk shows. In Alaska, they were so mad that they tossed out their incumbent senator for Joe Miller, a lawyer who believes unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, except when his wife is receiving it.

So now in Delaware the unangry Democrat candidate is way ahead. In Alaska, Miller keeps dropping in the polls, which made him so mad that he had his private security guards take an inquiring reporter into custody.

That did not go over very well even in Alaska, an extremely angry state that hateshateshates all forms of government, despite the fact that 40 percent of its economy comes from government aid, and the state’s oil-revenue-sharing program gives families thousands of dollars in payments every year. “Unemployment has never been lower; there is no housing crisis; banks are solvent. We just got Permanent Fund Checks — and, boy, are we pissed off!” said Michael Carey, an Anchorage Daily News columnist.

Really, people, rage never gets you anything but overturned garbage cans and broken windows. If you want to do rage, go to France.

We are talking here about undifferentiated anger, which creates nothing but a feeling of moral superiority on the part of the irate. It’s natural to get furious at specific things: a tax increase or an unfaithful spouse or a blown tire. Or, in the case of the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, a debate opponent who asks: “When is it ever appropriate to tie up a woman and have her kneel before a false idol that you refer to as Aqua Buddha?”

This involved a college prank that Paul told reporters he doesn’t remember. You can see why he was angry, although it does sound hard to forget.

It’s the difference between Joe Manchin, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia, who has ads showing him metaphorically shooting a bullet into the heart of the cap-and-trade bill, and the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona, who had herself filmed spraying machine-gun fire all over the place while an announcer said: “Pamela Gorman — conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.” Even if you don’t agree with Manchin’s position, you have to admit that Gorman would probably be more difficult to work with.

In New York, Republicans were so full of free-floating rage that they nominated Carl Paladino, a hotheaded developer from Buffalo, for governor. For a while this summer, upstate New York was littered with “I’m Mad As Hell, Too, Carl!” lawn signs.

Paladino quickly developed a gender gap the size of the Grand Canyon. A recent Siena College poll showed that 71 percent of female voters preferred his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, while 21 percent supported him, demonstrating yet again that women will not vote for a guy who yells.

The Republican nominee got into fights, promised to “take out” one reporter and insulted gays. He trotted out his poor wife, who gave interviews recounting how she had forgiven Carl for fathering a 10-year-old daughter after he broke the news while she was getting ready for their son’s funeral.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has not only refrained from yelling, he’s barely had to leave his office.

On the rage-o-meter, this week’s gubernatorial debate in New York was not quite as stirring as Kentucky’s, possibly because it involved seven people, some in alarming get-ups, sitting on uncomfortable chairs in a line. Actually, it looked less like a debate than a tryout for some particularly embarrassing reality show.

Several third-party candidates, including a former Black Panther in a Nehru jacket, were more experienced in the politics of unproductive rage than Paladino. In a late-breaking attempt to change the tone, Paladino announced that he was not actually angry but simply “passionate.” Unfortunately, the world will remember his performance only for the part in which he had to run off to go to the bathroom before his concluding remarks.

The person who got the most postdebate attention was Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. McMillan wore black gloves and had a moustache that wound around his head like a ribbon, and a goatee that looked like two little fuzzy gerbils hanging from his chin. He was very, very, very angry. Particularly about the rents, which he pointed out were too damn high.

Afterward, Sarah Maslin Nir of The Times tracked him down in Brooklyn and discovered that McMillan’s own personal rent is, he said, zero. His landlords, he added, are “like family. They don’t want me to pay any money at all. I am basically living rent free.”

Which doesn’t mean he can’t be ticked off about it.

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