Ever heard “You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?”
Of course you have, that’s why it’s a cliche. But, like all cliches, it’s one thing to realize that there’s wisdom contained within a particular phrase or aphorism. It’s quite another to let it guide you, and I think it’s one reason–perhaps the reason–why the Left has been so politically inept recently.
Take the comments inspired by Zephyr Teachout and her post on the hiring of bloggers by the Dean campaign that I mentioned below. I can’t recall the last time an internal disagreement on the part of the Republicans was so in-your-face vicious.
“You’re a useful idiot whether you like it or believe it.”
“your an absolute Moron.”
“You will forgive me for paraphrasing a commercial, but you can take your blog-blamming, self-exalting, left-loathing, right-wing conspiracy freak show back to granolaland where it belongs.”
“Either your judgment is so bad as to be a liability, or you are engaging in an insidious form of character assassination for undisclosed motives.”
“You are a disgusting evil demon from Hell. I hope you return to hell soon.”
“Fucking Benedict Arnold!”
“Congrats you are the QUISLING of the Blogosphere.”
“I would not walk across the street to piss in your mouth if you were dying of thirst.”
And it’s not just the almost-certainly-anonymous commentators. Many of the bright lights of the Left-leaning sphere are equally ready to spew vitriol in Zephyr’s general direction.
Like Steve Gilliard;
“Because you didn’t get a job, people didn’t jump on your bandwagon? You absolute fucking idiot. You goddamn halfwit, you stirred up shit for no fucking reason.
Are you fucking kidding me? Your ethics suck. You would buy coverage for a candidate. So exactly why should I listen to you?
Here’s the deal: just shut the fuck up. Your carelessness has caused an amazing amount of harm for a non-issue. And Kos will have to explain, in interview after interview, that he was not paid to say nice things about Howard Dean. Why? Because you unfairly implied that he did so. In a just world, no Democratic candidate would work with you again.”
This isn’t just a one-off. Here’s his response to Peter Beinhart’s essay in the nation on the Democrat’s Iraq problem
“…Beinart is full of shit. Because he’s a lap dog who works for lapdogs.
Of course, we can help him succeed by supporting the Greens, Nader and other fantasists and ignoring the fact that ther Dems supported Vietnam until 1970. I say if you leave now, Vichyites like Beinart will win the day.”
When he wants to be, Gilliard is a reasonable, well informed and indepth essayist, but when it comes to intra-party politics he’s fighting to be first to show up for the firing squad volunteers line.
Even those who realize what they’re doing can’t help taking a potshot.
“She opened her big mouth and gave the ethically challenged douchebag Robert Novak a talking point. They don’t need to beat us. We beat ourselves. But we’ll remember the dumb ones.”
I think a real Republican strength is party unity. They stick to the talking points and never, ever, ever bring up anthing that could be considered harmful to someone in their party.
What the commenter saw as party unity I see as simple politeness. There’s no reason to stoop to name-calling when it comes to political disagreements–though that does seem to be a feature of American politics. It not only alienates a person who could be a potential ally in the future on a different issue, it reduces one’s stature in the eyes of any disinterested third parties, making it that much more likely that they’ll treat one’s opinions and arguments with disdain.
And yes, opprobrium can be found on the right-side blogs as well as the left, but the difference is that for the most part those commentators on the right aren’t members of the first rank, whereas on the left they are.
Here’s an exercise for you. On any give day, compare the commentators at The Corner with those from The Daily Kos. Based purely on tone, which authors would you rather dine with, or have a beer in the company of?
The Corner’s John Derbyshire is about as far to the right of me as Markos Moulitsas is to the left, but based on his tone, I’d be much more inclined to listen to his pitch for a candidate, and I would choose a drink with him over Markos for the simple reason that, when dining with Derbyshire, it seems less likely that spittle will end up in my ale.
In the election of 2004 the American voter was the disinterested third party, and they chose the polite Republicans over the potty-mouth Democrats. Given the tone of the defeated party, there’s no reason to think they won’t do so again in 2006 and 2008.
What that means for the future is, while Oliver Willis and the other pundits of the Left can hate George Bush and curse at each other all they like, the simple act of doing so in public increases the chance that they’ll have to live with the President’s–or a Republican successor’s–policies in the future.
I wonder if they’ll think it was worth it?
Update: Other takes on the subject.
Daily Whim – Is it better to construct a takedown that diminishes your opponent with facts, high intellect, and scathing wit, or simply call them ?dumb-f*cks?? Do they realize how juvenile such rhetoric sounds to adults seeking answers, yet do it anyway?
Sandvick – I’m not sure it would have been enough to change my vote but certainly it was my impression that voting for Kerry would have made me a fellow traveler with complete jerks represented by the quotes cited.
Jeff Jarvis – “…there seems to be little awareness that this is in public, that people are watching how they — we, as a culture — behave when faced with tough questions, an awareness that everything they say could be quoted tomorrow in the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post. This is, after all, the transparent medium, isn’t it?”
And Kathianne of Teacher’s Ramblings reminds me of another example; the various racist emails sent to Michell Malkin. Contrast those responses with that of fellow UNC Blogger Eric Muller, who, though he strongly disagrees with Michelle, manages to keep a civil tongue in his head.