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Republican Rage!

How else to explain the election?

8:20 AM, Nov 2, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Much is unknown about this election. But with Republicans poised to make historic gains based on deep unrest about the policies of Barack Obama and other Democrats, one thing is certain: There will be lots of chin-stroking about the anger and hate on the right.

Republican Rage!

We’ve seen this before.

“With people headed to the voting booths tomorrow for what is said to be a crucial off-year election, hate seems to be drifting through the air like smoke from autumn bonfires. It isn't something that can be quantified. No one can measure whether it has grown since last year, the '80s or the 1880s. But a number of people who make their living taking the public's temperature are convinced it's swelling beyond the perennial level of bad manners and random insanity. It's fueled, they say, by such forces as increasingly harsh political rhetoric, talk radio transmissions and an increasing sense of not-so-quiet desperation.”

That was Kim Masters, writing in the Washington Post the day before the 1994 midterm election.

The author looked to experts to confirm her main point, and so she turned to – who else? – David Gergen. "There is, I believe, a nastiness about the politics of today that exceeds anything any of us old-timers in Washington can remember."

Some of the stories we’ve read in recent months seem to have been lifted from the pages of newspapers sixteen years ago. Talk radio was ascendant and degenerate. Then, as now, there were endless stories about conservatives and their hatred of the president. There were anecdotes about an opponent of health care who brought a gun to a health care town hall. There was even the 1994 version of Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the Tea Party movement was “Astroturf” – fake grassroots. George Stephanopolous, then a top Clinton adviser and now an anchor at ABC News, complained about a campaign of “manufactured hate.”

To her credit, the author of the piece consulted a skeptic. "The anti-war movement of the '60s, the Black Power movement of the '70s, the anti-Reagan movement of the '80s tried to intimidate the opposition and that was never a great object of concern in the salons of Georgetown and Manhattan," said Bill Kristol,  then-head of the Project for the Republican Future. "When liberalism is in power, suddenly the opposition to liberalism is suffused with a deep and dark anger and a pathological rage. ... But I'm not sure anything fundamental has changed."

This year, as in 1994, there is outrage and even anger but it is directed at the policies of the current administration. Most polling shows that President Obama is still viewed favorably by a majority of Americans even though his policies are deeply unpopular.

And that’s what so many journalists cannot understand. Rational people cannot object to providing health care for millions or taxing the wealthy just a little bit more or deficit spending to spur economic growth. So they claim that it’s all driven by hate.

Shortly after the 1994 election, Peter Jennings compared the electorate to “an angry two-year old” and said, “The voters had a temper tantrum last week.”

We’ll hear that again.

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