(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and my blog)

I have the good fortune to split my time between an actual office and a home office.  I have the further good fortune of having access to C-SPAN in both places, as well as CNN – either on TV or via my satellite radio setup in the office.

This past week, a lot of the news sources I listen to regularly have been having discussions about Ken Mehlman, Hilary Clinton, Democratic anger, and the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Make the jump.
If you’re just catching up, Hilary Clinton gave an infamous (for whatever period of time) speech on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday where she referred to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as a “plantation” where opposing voices are silenced.

Riding the coattails of the news-garnering Clinton speech, Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the RNC, joined the fray:

“When you think of the level of anger, I’m not sure it’s what Americans want,” said Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican National Committee.


“I don’t think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates. And whether it’s the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger,” Mehlman told ABC’s This Week.

Here is Hilary Clinton’s direct response (sort of – through a spokesperson):

When contacted for a response, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said, “If the president and the White House spent half as much time worrying about the runaway deficit and the broken Medicare system as they do about Hillary Clinton, the country would be in much better shape.”

Nothing wrong with that statement, right?  It focuses the attention on issues that matter, right?  Well, in my view, yes and no.  While it’s important to focus on the issues, and especially the issues that show so clearly the ineptitude of the current administration, I also don’t think it’s wrong to be angry.  What’s wrong is letting the other side define your anger as to whether it’s “good” anger (the kind that spurs people to seek justice and right wrongs, etc.) vs. “bad” anger.  Apparently, the post-9/11 variety of anger that led to the Afghanistan invasion is “good” anger.  Anger at corruption and Constitutional defiance is “bad” anger.  By not standing up and saying “I’m angry and now let me tell you why” you cede the definition of good vs. bad anger to those who want to paint you in the worst possible light.

We are angry.  You need only to go and watch this highlight video of speeches at Coretta King’s funeral service to understand the why behind the anger – billions for tax cuts.  Budget cuts that disproportionately affect the poor among us, many of whom have joined these ranks from the middle class during the Bush administration.  Civil liberties violated again and again – in this United States, in the year 2006.  Defiantly violated.  Arrogantly violated.  Self-righteously violated.  Untold thousands injured, maimed and killed in Iraq, sent there with a belief that they were defending our nation only to find out that the basis for their incursion was inherently false.

Of course we’re angry.

Average, every-day people are angry.  Read a transcript (done by me) of these two calls to C-SPAN not an hour ago – they were entertaining calls on the Republican, Independent and Democratic lines on the subject of whether or not the Democratic party is “angry”, whether that anger will work for or against them, and whether or not callers feel the Democratic party serves them appropriately:

HOST: next call is a call on the Democrat’s line.  Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, welcome to our dicussion on party politics.

CALLER: Yes… um… You know what – the Democrats are angry – the Republicans are using it as a strategy – but this is the way they operate.  They use something that’s true but then they twist it – they use smoke and mirrors.  Their talking heads – the Sean Hannitys the O’Reillys… they are the ones that are out there spewing anger and hatred while Democrats are trying to get across facts.  And most of America is so afraid of intelligent politicians that they like to spin them as angry.  And I’d like to say, real quick, the Democrats by and large – they do not want Hilary Clinton.  So, that’s another part of our frustration – she keeps getting shoved down our throats.  We don’t want her.  And we have a lot to be frustrated and angry about when Gonzales isn’t sworn in and he’s lying about wiretapping as over 2,000 men and women are killed over lies… There’s a whole lot – America should be angry and should turn it into a very very intelligent message.  And if the rest of America could sit down and listen to it – if they could accept – the truth hurts – if they could accept that we have a lying [inaudible]… This administration is so corrupt and it hurts to see such a great country brought down by the – you know – very corrupt people.  So they – that’s what they do.  They use it.  They spin it.

HOST: Thank you for the call Pittsburgh.  Milton Massachusetts – good morning – Democrats line.

CALLER:  Good morning.  I’m a Democrat and I’m very angry.  What I’m most angry about is having 51% of my tax money going into the military industrial complex while our troops in Iraq go unsupported, unarmed, unrelieved, un-everything.  Iraqi-wounded veterans, our veterans, American veterans – they’re dying on the streets because Bush has cut veteran’s benefits six years in a row now with the 2007 budget.  He’s cut them so that ciilians have to build hospitals to rehab Iraqi wounded vets.  

HOST: Now caller, since we’re talking politics this morning, where is the outlet for your anger in party politics, is there someone speaking on your behalf and how successful will that message be to the larger public?

CALLER:  Who is speaking on my behalf?  I’m the only one I know of speaking on my behalf.  

HOST: So are you unhappy with the Democratic party for not … picking up on the message that matters so much to you?

CALLER:  The Democratic party is picking up on it beautifully.  Your so-called liberal media is the people not picking up on it.  What they’re picking up on is our anger and not the message because they can’t print the message!  They can’t print the message that Bush is bankrupting the United States.  That we have Nazi concentration camps and torture prisons.  We have Nazi laws on our books now.  The same law that Hitler used to pick up Jews in Germany we have in the United States.  It’s called CAFRA – Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act where someone could be picked up for the act of terrorism  – which is exactly what the Jews were picked up for – the act of terrorism – they even used the same words – and whoever is picked up for terrorism in the United States is picked up outside of our justice system, outside of the court system.  They can be taken to GITMO, all their property can be confiscated, and guess who it’s given to?  In the law that I read, which may have be changed now – JOHN ASHCROFT is named in the law as the person to whom all assets are to be consigned to.  Not to a department of our government but to John Ashcroft.  Now tell me that that’s not unconscionable.

HOST: Caller, let me – let me jump in.

CALLER: (yelling) In the United States.  In the United States!!

HOST: Caller, we have to move on.

My emphasis added.  Both of those callers are angry and they have no problem giving a voice to that anger and applying a rationale to its emergence that serves as a basis for discussion.

I realize it’s important to have our own ideas.  I accept, in certain circumstances, that just saying “we aren’t them – they suck” is not a platform.  But we have also allowed the opposition the advantage of defining the playing field on this issue – in my view, they have rather effectively gotten the message out that it’s not enough to criticize if you can’t offer a proposal of your own.  Yet that argument isn’t always true.  It works for issues like health care and medicare/medicaid reform and social security but not for other big issues, arguably the big issues of the Bush administraion.

How would Democrats fight the Iraq war?  Well, we wouldn’t.  We wouldn’t have rushed in there in the first place.

How will Democrats ensure that they are not participants in corruption?  Well, that’s obvious – we’d keep doing what we’re doing becuase we are not the ones ensnared in corruption scandals.

How will Democrats balance 4th amendment and civil rights with the need for national security?  We wouldn’t.  The processes are already in place that allow for needed national security activities without undue violation of civil liberties.  We’d just follow the law.

See what I mean?  There isn’t always a contra-proposal.

I only used Hilary Clinton as an example because her recent comments have sparked this whole discussion.  In it, I can see the emergence of the Next Great Republican Strategy – paint Democrats as angry people who are weak on national security and will get the average voter killed.  I see it because it’s obvious – so do many of you here and so have many progressive columists in the nation’s larger newspapers.  This isn’t rocket science.

So I am angry.  Righteously pissed off.  I fear the 999 days left in this administration.  The only salvation I see is substantive gains in the 2006 mid-terms that build momentum for the 2008 Presidential election.  Yet if we won’t clearly state, as a party, that we are angry and intelligently posit the reasons giving rise to the anger, I will be angrier still.  Anger is not a bad thing – it can be used.  It’s up to us to use it to our advantage.

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