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This Year, Anger Is All The Rage In Politics. Why?


Finally today, remember when then-Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman appeared on ABC? It was February 5 to be exact, almost 10 years ago to this day. And he set off days of chattering by the chattering class with his comments about then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. She was assumed to be getting ready for her first presidential run, and Mehlman said - and I quote - "I don't think the American people, if you look historically - elect angry candidates. Mehlman was assumed to be testing out a line of attack against Sen. Clinton by suggesting that she was just too angry to be president. Well, what a difference a decade makes. You know this fellow...


DONALD TRUMP: All right, get him the hell out of here, will you, please?


TRUMP: Get him out of here. Throw him out.

MARTIN: But there's also this guy.



JOHN KASICH: There's a...

CHRIS CHRISTIE: John - I'm not done yet, John.

CARLY FIORINA: A track record of leadership is not a game.

CHRISTIE: And stop playing - and Carly...

FIORINA: It is the issue in this election.

CHRISTIE: Carly, listen, you can interrupt everybody else on this stage. You're not going to interrupt me, OK?

MARTIN: And OK, there's also this guy...


BERNIE SANDERS: The government of our great country belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires. When that happens, we will transform this country.

MARTIN: And this lady...


HILLARY CLINTON: And I'm going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.

MARTIN: ...And another lady.


FIORINA: This is about the character of our nation. And if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

MARTIN: It seems that anger is all the rage in this election year, even beyond the usual temperatures of a presidential contest. Adding fuel is the fact that this year there is no incumbent. And there's a crowded field of people who have similar professional experiences and need to stand out. Factor in a couple of particularly outsized personalities who are used to brandishing those personalities like aluminum bats whose brand - if you want to call it that - is angry. And factor in that plenty of voters seem to be cheering them on and are angry themselves, experiencing a range of emotions - fear, anxiety, confusion - that find their easiest public expression in anger. For whatever reason, it seems this year there are candidates for whom anger is not just the fuel but even the rationale for their campaigns. Can I just tell you, anger has its place. It must because it exists. It's a human emotion that serves a purpose. It's a warning sign to self and others. It's a call to arms. Even the scriptures denounce those who refuse to be angry when the situation warrants, calling out those who cry peace, peace when there is no peace. Throughout our history, we've been told that are times when if you aren't angry, you aren't paying attention. But what about the dark side of all this anger? How do we reconcile this public anger with what we know about the destructive force of that emotion left unchecked in our own lives? How it obscures logic, tears relationships apart and makes reconciliation difficult, if not impossible. If you think about how your own life works and the decisions you made when you were angry, are you proud of them? Were they the best decisions? Anger is a habit, a practice and a choice. We're all getting a lot of practice this year in being angry. But at some point, the election will be over. Meanwhile, who's teaching us the skills we need for that day, to cool off, to calm down, to listen?


MARTIN: For something that is all things considered from NPR news. I'm Michel Martin. You can follow us on Twitter @npratc or follow me @NPRMichel. We are back next weekend. Enjoy the Super Bowl if you're into that. Thank you for listening. We hope you have a great week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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