Thursday, November 13, 2003

Nicholas Kristof is Reading My Mind

Now Nicholas Kristof is saying precisely what I've been saying for ages now - that the sheer intensity of the vitriol being directed at Bush by the Democrats will likely backfire. This sort of foaming at the mouth by Clinton's enemies only succeeded in making them look deranged, and Clinton a victim deserving of the public's sympathy; there is no reason to believe that the results will be any different now that the rage is being directed in the opposite political direction.

Considering the savagery with which the Snarling Right excoriated President Clinton as a "sociopath," blocked judicial appointments, undermined U.S. military operations from Kosovo to Iraq, hounded Vincent Foster and then accused the Clintons of murdering him, it is utterly hypocritical for conservatives to complain about liberal incivility.

But they're right.

Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again.

A new report from the Pew Research Center says that America is more polarized now than at any time since its polling series began in 1987. Partly that's because it used to be just the Republicans who were intense in their beliefs, while now both sides are frothing.

The latest Progressive magazine features the article "Call Me a Bush-Hater," and The New Republic earlier published "The Case for Bush Hatred."

I see the fury in my e-mail messages. In a fairly typical comment, one reader suggested that President Bush and his aides are "lying, cynical greedy pirates who deserve no better than a firing squad." At this rate, soon we'll all be so rabid that Ann Coulter will seem normal.


Anyone who isn't concerned by the growing political incivility in this country doesn't remember how the antagonisms in Europe became so caustic that they often blocked governance (not to mention triggered civil wars in Spain and Greece). Already, in this country the public vitriol discourages public service.

The left should have learned from Newt Gingrich that rage impedes understanding — and turns off voters. That's why President Bush was careful in 2000, unlike many in his party, to project amiability and optimism.

Core Democratic voters are becoming so angry that some are hoping for bad economic figures and bad Iraq news just to hurt President Bush. At this rate, Democrats risk turning themselves into an American version of the old British Labor Party under Michael Foot, which reliably blasted the Tory government and reliably lost elections.

Paul Krugman, are you listening? Howard Dean? It doesn't matter how right you are in your criticisms of the administration's policies; delivering said critiques as if you were Ahab, and Bush your great white whale, only detracts from your credibility, by making you look like a monomaniacal partisan. The histrionic style of commentary may delight your base, but it is simply a turn-off to the rest of us, and without the support of at least some floating voters, the Democrats don't have a prayer of ever regaining power.