Look for it: When confronted with Republican ideas (or, for that matter, Republicans) Democrats’ go-to stance is always to assert, directly or by implication, that those ideas and persons are and should be deemed noxious and disqualified on the basis of four factors, the Four Big Slurs. All of them go to Republicans’ fundamentally odiferous and unenlightened character.
It isn’t just violent rhetoric that stirs the pot; it’s also rhetoric that is inherently and relentlessly insulting, that dehumanizes, delegitimizes, and ultimately demonizes the opposition.
Anyone who disagrees with the liberal progressive approach is stupid, intellectually not up to the task of nuanced discernment or high-level ratiocination. They are either an ignoramus or a moron, a “clown car.”
Smart people gravitate to the places smart people congregate—the Democratic Party, the faculty lounge, the newsroom, the red carpet—and agree with other smart people, while not-smart people go wherever it is stupid people go to sit around being stupid. Probably Louisiana. Or Cracker Barrel, the Indy 500, or Fox News. The progressive position is the smart position, and anyone who doesn’t arrive at the same spot can only do so by virtue of not being smart enough to get there. Get it?
Republican politicians and those who elect them are greedy and self-absorbed, uninterested in such things as justice. Also, they already have the money; they just want more. Their selfish needs and wants so consume them that they lack the capacity for higher-level things like empathy and compassion, qualities they deem womanish (see “misogyny”) and weak-minded—or with which they are entirely unfamiliar and unconcerned.
They are driven by lower-animal instincts, not enlightened modernism the way good people are—good people like Democrats. Republicans are—why beat around the bush?—wicked.
Republicans are mentally unbalanced, literally crazy. You know this because the liberal progressive worldview is so obviously right, and everybody agrees with it: the media; academia; Hollywood, to say nothing of everyone you ever meet at a cocktail party. Ipso facto, only a crazy person could fail to see the immutable truth. Pay no attention to these people or their arguments or their wacky policy proposals; they’re nuts.
This stands in for any “ism” or “ophobia” one cares to manufacture for political advantage. Republicans are driven by atavistic, Cro-Magnon personal animus sufficiently venomous and ingrained as to prevent them from even knowing they are consumed and poisoned by it. Intelligent discourse or rational thought, compassion and decency are subsumed to “hate.” Hence, they—and their yammerings (see: “hate speech”)—should not only be ignored, they should be condemned as the dangerous credo of unenlightened beings and banished from the public square by whatever means necessary.
These bloated, self-righteous, condescending calumnies belch forth from the top: Listen to a speech, press conference, or TV interview with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, any one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign speeches, or, heaven forfend, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Grab a piece of paper and make a hash mark every time you hear them make a beeline for one of the Four Big Slurs rather than acknowledge and deal with a legitimate counter-position.
Your page is going to be filled with hash marks almost faster than you can make them. If you prefer your slurs unadulterated by polished political sanitizing, just watch any episode of John Oliver, Samantha Bee, or Bill Maher, who use straw dummies, half-truths, and cherry-pickings to crank out these slurs like an Indian prayer wheel.
Of course, they would have their camp followers and acolytes believe there are no reasonable contrary positions. Life is far easier when you don’t have to acknowledge that with any hot-topic issue, from climate change to same-sex marriage, the minimum wage or “reproductive rights,” there exists a robustly crafted opposing argument offered by people equally as smart, equally as compassionate, equally as concerned about the general welfare and the safety and well-being of the least among us, and therefore equally as deserving of being considered decent, sentient, capable human beings.
They share not only the same capacity to understand and address the issues in all their complexity, they also share the same goals. But they disagree, because they have a different worldview that proceeds from some different premises and, hence, have a different idea as to how to get to the justice, fairness, opportunity, and good life for all that Democrats claim sole possession of.
This is not to say that none of these things exists: Racism, greed, prejudice-based enmity, “hatred.” All have been around from time immemorial, throughout the world, and, given the nature of humanity probably always will. No faction holds the corner on them or is immune from them. But it is to say that summoning them as disqualifiers to hurl at your political opponents and those who see the world differently from you does not constitute an argument, is, in fact, the opposite. It is also both fraudulent and cowardly.
No, Republicans Generally Don’t Do the Same Thing
Some will be quick to say that Republicans do the same, but they are wrong. Republicans criticize Democrats for the results that flow like fetid water from the policies they insist upon, while lamenting Democrats’ refusal to even take into account those results, being too busy endlessly patting themselves on the back for their good intentions and the manifest virtue attendant thereto. Put another way: Republicans attack Democrats for what they do; Democrats attack Republicans for who they are, and the latter is infinitely more corrosive to the body politic than the former.
Accusations of greed, stupidity, hatred, insanity are the basic Crayola box of Democratic political discourse. I’m enlightened; you’re not. I’m modern, up-to-date and informed; you’re antediluvian, yearning for an historical ideal that never existed.
Calling for actual violence is not the problem, or, at least, not the biggest part of it. When the leadership of one party adopts constant slurring of their opponents as their most pervasive and fundamental tactical tenet, an incessant call to have opponents nullified on the basis of ugly, repellent character traits that, if believed, would cause anyone to despise them, it is a very short step to the justification of forcefully removing them from the possibility of harming the commonweal with their dumb, greedy, wicked, self-serving, uncaring selves.
Reduce the temperature? Democrats could start by treating their opponents and their arguments with the merest baseline level of respect, dignity, and common decency, no matter how much they might disagree ideologically, and, as a start and maybe a guiding discipline, eschew the habit of relying on the Four Big Slurs, no matter how comforting and reflexive they find them.
But that’s unlikely. More likely, they will draw a false equivalence, howling about “birtherism,” referencing all the racism, misogyny, homophobia, trans-intolerance, Islamophobia, etc. that may not be overt but which they just know is simmering beneath the surface everywhere and which nullifies Republicans’ claim to anything but contempt, condemnation, and ridicule.
And the carousel will continue to go ‘round and ‘round, with The New York Times always finding some way, somehow, to blame it on Sarah Palin.