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October 07, 2002

Politics is a Contact Sport

Both Ted Barlow and Eschaton have both recently written about the viciousness of rightwing pundits, which is true but the left has often had plenty of folks declaring their opponents fascists, nazis and corporate scum. That this commentary comes more from the streets on the left than from newspaper pundits says more about the relative disconnect of the liberal elite versus the conservative elite from their respective grassroots.

It's not so much that I am in favor of defamation of character; it's just that politics matters in peoples lives and when something matters, people go over the top with rhetoric and actions at points. If they do so all the time, it's a sign of psychosis and immaturity, while if it happens too rarely, it's a sign of failure to connect with the passions that should motivate political action. For much of the 90s, the conservative elite pundit class has been in thrall to psychosis-- and it's hurt them at times as with Gingrich's gradual self-immolation-- while the liberal pundits have been so passionless that they become caricatures of elitist disconnect (most liberal punits) or snarky wise-ass condecension (read Michael Kinsley and Maureen Dowd).

There is a middle ground of bruising political warfare that is harsh enough to register with the passions that ARE appropriate to the life-shaking issues that matter in politics, yet have just the touch of self-conscious whimsy or hard-headed analysis to rein in truly monomaniacal hate. The recent DNC ad of Bush pushing old ladies down the stock market hill was almost the perfect balance-- hard enough to bring cheers to partisans but obviously a metaphor not a conspiracy theory.

And it's always worth remembering that early American campaigns involved everything from accusations that John Adams wanted to overthrow the Constitution to become king to Jefferson being described as literally in league with Satan as he spawned his illegitimate black children. Clinton never took any hits that old Tom J. hadn't in an early era. Oh yeah-- and remember that despite the character assassination, Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans won, because their side had the passion to match their opponents.

Posted by Nathan at October 7, 2002 10:02 AM

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I am sorry, sir. There can be no role for you in this debate if you intend to offer reason and historical perspective. Perhaps you wouldd be kind enough to SHUT UP! WE WANT SCREAMERS! YEAH, THAT'S IT....


Posted by: Tom Maguire at October 7, 2002 11:00 AM

But, but I'm all for screamers-- that's my point, but um, where are the troops inspired by your screams? The difference between a nut and a charismatic leader is just the size of his or her entourage.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at October 7, 2002 11:02 AM

Hmm, there you go, asking questions when you already know the answer. And please, no more comments about the size of my nuts.


Posted by: Tom (Yet Again) Maguire at October 7, 2002 01:34 PM

This is a great article on campaigns past.


Posted by: Tom Maguire at November 4, 2002 05:38 PM

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