Sunday, February 13, 2005

(Un)Civics Lesson for the Left

Last night Peg at What If? posted something that disturbed me. And I've been trying to think of a way to respond to it that was better than just an angry screed. This is my attempt. You can judge for yourselves whether I achieved the "better than just an angry screed" goal.

Like Peg, I'm not going to exerpt anything from the offending document. I don't want that stuff polluting my site. It's that bad. If you care to, you can see for yourself here.

I'll just briefly summarize it as something that equates being Republican with hating all mankind. It was posted to the biggest lefty blog (well, more like of a blog/bulletin board) that exists. And judging by the gigantic comments section that followed, it was received with something bordering on fanatic glee.

Unlike Peg, I'm no longer surprised that this sort of thing comes from "a well-educated, thoughtful and essentially nice individual." I wish I was still surprised by that. Unfortunately, it has almost come to the point that I find the opposite the pleasant surprise.

I'm not going to name names, but I have heard and/or read shockingly similar sentiments coming from some of my own friends and family members. What's more, I know I'm not alone. If you're a conservative, you have likely already lost count of the times either you personally, or a pundit, or a political candidate you supported, was compared to a Nazi by someone you knew and (at least prior to that point) respected. And it wasn't a joke or an exagerration. They were being serious.

Like Peg's comments, it's not that I deny there are similar idiots on the right who talk about liberals the same way. It's the fact that on the right, these folks are intentionally marginalized by the mainstream. On the left that sentiment is becoming mainstream. And that is freaking NUTS!

You cannot have a functioning civil society when half the members of that society have decided the other half seriously intends to institute the equivalent of a new Nazi regime.

This stuff started as simple hyperbole, and both sides were equally guilty of using it. There's even a cute little Internet custom that says the first side who resorts to a Nazi analogy loses the argument. Ha, ha. Yet at some point a scarey-large number of people missed the joke. And then a scarey-large political party told those same folks to come on in.

It's not like the left has always been this way. And I'm not even claiming this is a common belief even now. It's just too d*mn easily tolerated by those who should know better.

When a political ally says, "I think President Bush is trying to make the United States just like Nazi Germany, so I oppose him," the proper response is not, "Well, that's a bit of a stretch for me. But since we both agree we don't want him elected, let's join forces." The proper response is "Get away from me you freaking lunatic! I don't want anyone mistaking my rational opposition with your nutjob ravings!"

Just this week I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Beinart, a center-left pundit I have policy disagreements with all over the place. He was a very nice guy, and had no problem whatsoever rationally debating with a roomful of conservatives, and I'm not just talking about the main event. He was happy to do the same with anyone who approached him. And not one single time did I hear him compare Bush with Hitler. I didn't even hear the word "fascist" escape his lips once.

Peter doesn't agree with the nutjobs in his party. He even occasionally takes the time to condemn specific incidents that go over the line. But here's my problem with Peter, and many others like him on the left. He doesn't take the problem seriously enough.

A growing body of opinion among any party that truly believes their opposition is composed of anti-democratic demons, will cause that party to stop engaging in responsible civil discourse with their opponents. You don't merely argue with fascists. You fight them to the death, because your life may very literally be on the line.

For whatever reason, the leadership of the left currenly tolerates as political allies those who remain skeptical whether Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to human freedom, yet are utterly convinced George Bush does. That is INSANE, and serious leaders on the left ought to treat it as such.

Allow me to quote a pre-election post from a blog called The Proud Duck, who stated it this way:

"Democracy requires that the side that comes in second has to be willing to accept the verdict of the voters. When you honestly think the other side is fascist, that's impossible. You don't accept government by Nazis, ever, democratically elected or not. Perpetuation of left-liberals’ conceit that theirs is the only respectable opinion is a real threat to republican government – a more fragile thing than I think many left-liberals assume"
That's the danger. And a desire to beat the other guys in the next election is not a sufficient reason to ignore it.


Blogger Peter said...

Great post - i agree wholeheartedly with everything you just said.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Bryn said...

In your post, you seem to say that if liberal democrats really believe republicans are fascist nazis, they should do something about it, up to and including revolt. The thing about many liberals, though, is that it would require them to put down their lattes and physically fight. Maybe even with GUNS! Yeah, that'll happen. The next best thing? A good old fashioned FU! Liberals are not a threat, they're a Godsend.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous too many steves said...

"You cannot have a functioning civil society when half the members of that society have decided the other half seriously intends to institute the equivalent of a new Nazi regime."

Certainly true but I would simplify this to say that you cannot have a functioning civil society when half the members refuse to be civil. How else, other than uncivil, would you describe that diatribe.

Excellent post. The solution, I believe is for each of us on the right to remain civil - as you did in this post - and to eschew or purge those members of our team who refuse to do so.

6:58 AM  

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