Sunday, June 22, 2003

ACROSS THE COUNTRY Republicans and conservatives are asking each other the same basic question: Has the other side gone crazy? Have the Democrats totally flipped their lids? Because every day some Democrat seems to make a manic or totally over-the-top statement about George Bush, the Republican party, and the state of the nation today.

"This republic is at its greatest danger in its history because of this administration," says Democratic senator Robert Byrd.

"I think this is deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States of America," says liberal commentator Bill Moyers.

From an excellent and unflinchingly accurate article by David Brooks in the Weekly Standard. It gets better:

It's mystifying. Fury rarely wins elections. Rage rarely appeals to suburban moderates. And there is a mountain of evidence that the Democrats are now racing away from swing voters, who do not hate George Bush, and who, despite their qualms about the economy and certain policies, do not feel that the republic is being raped by vile and illegitimate marauders. The Democrats, indeed, look like they're turning into a domestic version of the Palestinians--a group so enraged at their perceived oppressors, and so caught up in their own victimization, that they behave in ways that are patently not in their self-interest, and that are almost guaranteed to perpetuate their suffering.


When they look to the culture at large, many Democrats feel that the climate is so hostile to them they can't even speak up. During the war in Iraq, liberals claimed that millions of Americans were opposed to war, but were afraid to voice their opinions, lest the Cossacks come charging through their door. The actor Tim Robbins declared, "Every day, the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And the public, like so many relatives and friends that I saw this weekend, sit in mute opposition and fear." Again, conservatives regard this as ludicrous. Stand up and oppose the war, conservatives observe, and you'll probably win an Oscar, a National Magazine Award, and tenure at four dozen prestigious universities. But the liberals who made these complaints were sincerely expressing the way they perceive the world.

And when they look at Washington, they see a cohesive corporate juggernaut, effortlessly pushing its agenda and rolling over Democratic opposition. Again, this is not how Republicans perceive reality. Republicans admire President Bush a great deal, but most feel that, at least on domestic policy, the conservative agenda has been thwarted as much as it has been advanced. Bush passed two tax cuts, but on education he abandoned school choice and adopted a bill largely written by Ted Kennedy. On Medicare, the administration has abandoned real reform and embraced a bill also endorsed by Kennedy. On campaign finance, the president signed a bill promoted by his opponents. The faith-based initiatives are shrinking to near nothingness. Social Security reform has disappeared from the agenda for the time being. Domestic spending has increased.

But this is the kicker. I was at this graduation and I sent the original link to Andrew Sullivan, who posted in at his website, which I'm guessing is where Mr. Brooks saw it. Needless to say, I'm slightly this side of ecstatic that I actually managed, in my own small way, to get Mr. Kushner a whack by the Weekly Standard. It just proves how totally the web has opened the marketplace of ideas to all. Yeah, I'm happy about this:

But if you listened to liberal rhetoric, you would think America was convulsed in a Manichean struggle of good against evil. Here, for example, is the liberal playwright Tony Kushner addressing the graduating seniors at Columbia College in Chicago. This passage is not too far off from the rhetoric one can find in liberal circles every day:

And this is what I think you have gotten your education for. You have presumably made a study of how important it is for people--the people and not the oil plutocrats, the people and not the fantasists in right-wing think tanks, the people and not the virulent lockstep gasbags of Sunday morning talk shows and editorial pages and all-Nazi all-the-time radio ranting marathons, the thinking people and not the crazy people, the rich and multivarious multicultural people and not the pale pale grayish-white cranky grim greedy people, the secular pluralist people and not the theocrats, the misogynists, Muslim and Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, the hard-working people and not the people whose only real exertion ever in their whole parasite lives has been the effort it takes to slash a trillion plus dollars in tax revenue and then stuff it in their already overfull pockets.

Second, there is the frequent and relentless resort to conspiracy theories. If you judged by newspapers and magazines this spring, you could conclude that a secret cabal of Straussians, Jews, and neoconservatives (or perhaps just Richard Perle alone) had deviously seized control of the United States and were now planning bloody wars of conquest around the globe.

I love this job.


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