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The Secret to Bush's Success? The Angry Man Theory

August 3, 2007

A new study from a Yale scholar tries to explain why the image of a tough Hillary Clinton may not resonate with voters. But the findings, which suggest angry men are rewarded in American leadership roles while angry women are penalized, may do more to explain the unlikely rise of George W. Bush.
The study by Victoria Brescoll, "When Can Angry Women Get Ahead," found that Americans will assign greater status - and salary - to angry men, while punishing women of similar attitude. Groups of men and women were asked to watch videos of theoretical job candidates. The hot tempered male candidates were seen as most competent and given higher compensation and job titles. Of all personality types, the angry women were paid and respected least. This dynamic, Brescoll suggests, could explain one Republican's jab that Hillary Clinton is "too angry to be elected president."
But talking points and conservative stereotypes aside, the Yale study may do more to explain the rise to power of one its most infamous recent graduates, George W. Bush.
Bush's rise certainly can not be attributed to his intellect, eloquence or past accomplishment. But his tough-talking frat boy demeanor and mean-spirited sense of humor seemed to viscerally resonate with American voters (at least, until 2005). Moverover, Bush as Angry Man was tailor made for today's infotainment media led by Fox News, where conflict, confrontation and rage are highly valued in a world where politics and entertainment meet. When politics is theater, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, angry men like Macbeth - and George W. Bush - are rewarded.
All of which raises the question: why is George W. Bush so angry? After all, he was born into a life of luxury complete with every possible advantage. (As Jim Hightower famously remarked, Bush was born on third base and claimed he hit a triple.) If Dubya did not overcome adversity, pull himself up by his bootstraps or otherwise wrestle with a life of disappointment, where does his rage come from?
Sigmund Freud offers one possible answer.
(Hat tip to Carl for highlighting the Brescoll study.)
UPDATE: Yet another study, this time from Bond University in Australia, sheds further light on the success and survival of George W. Bush. Apparently, bad bosses get promoted, not punished. The authors could well have been writing about the current occupant of the White House when they concluded "nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader is rather remarkable -- remarkably disturbing."

2 comments on “The Secret to Bush's Success? The Angry Man Theory”

  1. Hi Jon!
    Thanks for the mention and the link for my blog, on C & L this morning! 🙂
    I am adding your blog to my blogroll.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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