Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Trouble with Evil Enemies

There is remarkably little daylight between the policy positions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama but their more rapid partisans talk about their intraparty opponents in much the same way that Martin Luther described the Pope. I hope and mostly expect that most of this bad feeling will drain away. How are the feminist supporters of Clinton ever going to explain to themselves support for a candidate like McCain whose hostility to women’s interests goes a long way beyond a desire to overturn Roe vs Wade? Still, the vehemence of the rhetoric during the Democratic primaries calls for a more specific explanation than the usual bit about politics being all about hating.

Over the last two decades American politics has been dramatically coarsened by the increasingly pathological behavior of the Republicans. Long before Bush and Company established their authoritarian kleptocracy, the Congressional Republicans had decisively broken with the normal rules of engagement that had governed politics for most of the last century. The dynamic core of the Republican party isn't simply made up of people you disagree with. It really is a criminal conspiracy that lies, steals, tortures, and kills—everybody laughs at Kusinch’s omnibus bill of Impeachment but they do so out of cynicism or as accomplices and not because the accusations are not largely true. Opposing our domestic evil empire by any means necessary is the obligation of all Americans and, for that matter, all decent human beings. A Manichean episode in our history has, unfortunately, the side effect of promoting a Manichean approach to all political disputes so that Keith Olberman trots out his Edward R. Murrow imitation to denounce a Clinton campaign gaffe in the same terms as the actions of a war criminal who ought to die in prison and not just lose a primary.

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