Thursday, January 17, 2008

Liberal Hatred

Douthat gives a great write up about the debate over who's the biggest haters, Liberals or Conservatives. His conclusion is really worth thinking about, especially for liberals:

"That said, though, I do think that for smart liberals, the depth of conservative-hatred on the left ought to be at least the cause of some concern, even if they think it's possibly justified in the case of George W. Bush. As I suggested when Jon Chait's big netroots essay came out, there's a risk that the new "movement liberalism," having been forged in the crucible of Bush-hatred, will end up imitating contemporary conservatism's worst habits - which include, among others things, a difficulty engaging with the opposition save through vitriol and stereotype. To see this tendency in action, consider Matt Stoller's response to Barack Obama's expression of (mild, mild) sympathy for Ronald Reagan's 1970s critique of big government.

"It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power. Lots of people don't agree with this, of course, since it doesn't fit a coherent narrative of GOP ascendancy. Masking Reagan's true political underpinning principles is a central goal of the conservative movement ... if you think, as Obama does, that Reagan's rise to power was premised on a sunny optimism in contrast to an out of control government and a society rife with liberal excess, then you don't understand the conservative movement. Reagan tapped into greed and fear and tribalism, and those are powerful forces. Ignoring that isn't going to make them go away."

"I'm on the record expecting an era of liberal dominance in American politics. But there's no surer way to ensure that it's as brief as possible than for liberals to persuade themselves, with Stoller, that Ronald Reagan succeeded because he was e-e-e-vil, and that the entire conservative ascendancy boils down to nothing more that "greed and fear and tribalism" run amok."

As usual I look to comic books and science-fiction for a solution and nothing distills down this issue better than Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. At the end Luke is tempted with the dark side. "Strike me down!" The Emperor says. "Give in to your hate." But Luke is ultimately victorious because he turns away from his rage and embraces love. The moral: when you use your enemy's tactics you become your enemy. Which is, of course, why the US tortures people.
PS: By the way, did you know that Chris Dodd dated Carrie Fisher? Who'da thunk it?

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