Jan 31 2008
It has been a stunning couple of years to watch the GOP and Democrat parties disintegrate into rabid hyper-partisanship and cut throat (and can we just admit it – juvenile) tactics. I have seen the meltdown of our supposed leaders, transforming them from people who impress to people who are an embarrassment. The mood of the country is shifting and some people are just not able to adapt or control their frustration and temper (I have sadly moved Mark Levin into the mad-hatter category with Michael Savage because of his inability to adjust to a more centrist GOP). The Anchoress asked today what is wrong with the world. My way too long answer (below the fold) is ‘the world is actually righting its wrongs”.
Victor David Hanson sets the stage so much better than I ever could (and prompted this post):
After Barack Obama’s unexpected surge in Iowa, Bill and Hillary Clinton resorted to chewing him up through their trademark politics of personal destruction. Thanks to Clinton Inc., we now hear almost daily that Obama is inspirational but inexperienced, that he had admitted to drug use, that his middle name is Hussein, that he really was not against the Iraq war, that he consorts with Chicago slumlords, that he spins fairy tales, and that he likes Ronald Reagan.
Liberal spectators were bewildered not so much at the familiar Clinton knee-in-the-groin, but that it would be turned on one of their own good guys – and a young, soft-spoken and idealistic African-American at that!
Suddenly, “shocked” Democrats cried foul and recalled the tawdry pardons, impeachment and the tainted Clinton of the 1990s – not the rehabilitated Bill who helps tsunami victims and presides over the Clinton Global Initiative.
Bill, as our first “black” president, had encouraged identity politics among a collective black electorate, so why was he angry that African-Americans might vote collectively for Obama?
In reaction to McCain’s own surge and the Republican windfall, the conservative base went ballistic. Soon a Republican civil war broke out over how best to lose the election.
Despite McCain’s 82 percent ranking by the American Conservative Union, and his support for balanced budgets, an end to pork-barrel spending and earmarks, strong support for the war, and expressed regret over once supporting the Bush illegal immigration reform package, McCain was branded by the conservative media as a sellout and a near liberal. Not to mention, he was supposedly too old and hot-tempered to be the Republican nominee. The more McCain was discovered not to be a perfect conservative, the more he was accused of not even being a good one.
What does this all mean? Well the American people are leading the surge away from the hyper-partisans and the muck-raking, purity wars. Not only were the parties raging against each other – they had turned on the moderate middle and attacked with visceral hate towards anyone who could ‘sell out’ and reach compromise. And of course the support for both sides of the aisle tanked as each end of the spectrum tried to see who could denigrate the midstream voters the most.
But the American middle is not controlled by the hyper-partisans and does not take direction from them (contrary to what the hyper-partisans think of course, they are naturally practically perfect in every way). The middle tolerates their excessiveness and takes the good they have to offer and makes it possible through compromise, while they partisans complain they did not get all they wanted. So in response to all the denigrating, name calling and screaming – the moderates dumped the hyper-partisans.
It began with Joe Lieberman in CT when that state – very democrat – rejected the hyper-partisan Dem Ned Lamont for the moderate (e.g., “traitor”) and independent Senator Lieberman. It continued on as George Allen and Rick Santorum and host of other strong conservatives were replaced by more moderate democrats who straddled the center line of politics. And it continues on today with McCain leading the GOP contest, causing all sorts of emotional breakdowns on the right, and Obama on the verge of ending the divisive and destructive (to the dems) Clinton era.
I honestly think the left is more prepared for the new centrist future. I have watched people I once respected (to varying levels, but never exalted) just have meltdowns when their worldview stopped being popular. This includes Peggy Noonan, just about everyone at NRO, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingrahm, Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin and more. To varying degrees they have lost it and are just going crazy.
If you want to listen to the worst example tune into Mark Levin’s radio show. Last night he only had demeaning insults for those who he disagrees with. He lashed into McCain so much it was as if you wanted to put the guy on suicide watch. It was terrible. At one point he said that if you don’t like Rush or him or others just turn the channel. I did. I will go back to listen, but not to hear a respected voice, but to watch someone commit such a massive public humiliation of himself. I listen now and am thankful I have not succumbed to partisan madness.
What happens when political actions stop impressing and become embarrassing instead? Most Americans are turned off and tune out. The far right is screaming it is their right to say what they want in the public square. Well, yes of course! It is a right, I believe, to go into the public square and pick your nose, but it does not impress people. Because you can do something doesn’t mean you should or that it is good to do.
If you find something you are doing is easy and primarily satisfying to yourself then it is likely of little value to the general population. We can all do that. If your actions are wildly focused on making you feel better, you can figure it could easily drift into something more embarrassing than impressive. If one’s actions requires sacrifice and means you do something for someone else as well yourself, then it has the potential to be of value and others may take interest.
Once the line from impressive to embarrassing is crossed it takes years to recover the damaged image. Some will never recover. This is an interesting year, where I think both sides are beginning to warm to the centrist candidates and could crossover with ease. I know people on the right who could go Obama if the GOP candidate falters or something. And I bet there are people on the left who would vote McCain just to end the Bush-Clinton-Bush feud.
But the other thing they have in common is they have turned their backs on the hyper-partisans, who do nothing but insult them anyway for being willing to keep an open mind. And that my friends is probably over 40% of the country who are a combination of centrists (or outright independents) and who are not political junkies. The blogosphere and AM talk radio brought together the large community of political junkies who are, by their nature, probably closer to hyper-partisans than average Americans. Talk Radio and political blogosphere sometimes forget they are not a majority but a micro-minority that was starting to gain the ear of America. My feeling is many Americans, who are not hyper-partisans, have started to turn away from these media because they are repulsed, embarrassed or simply tired of being insulted.
And maybe that is the lesson being taught this year. When people lend the mantle of wisdom to you and you become a ‘leading voice’ in America it may be wise to remember whom it is you rant against when things don’t go your way. You may be ranting against those who lent you vaulted position – and who have the power to take it back with their free market right to chose.