Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The "polarizing figure" canard

I sent an e-mail to Andrew Sullivan, in response to this post, in which he quotes Larry Sabato:
Let's suppose Mrs. Clinton wins in November 2008. Democrats would have to live with the consequences. There is simply no question that Senator Clinton would be the third deeply polarizing President in a row, following her husband's divisive and partially wasted tenure and George W. Bush's deeply disappointing turn at bat. We bet that she would have a short honeymoon and would be unable to convince her millions of critics and detractors that she had changed - or was different than they long ago concluded she was. At a time when the nation could use a unifier and a healer - to the extent that any President can perform those roles - partisan warfare would be at fever pitch from Day One.
Here's my response:
While I agree with Sabato and others that Senator Clinton would be a highly polarizing candidate, I highly doubt the right wing will sit mutely on its megaphones and allow any Democratic president much of a honeymoon. Sen. Clinton seems like the most polarizing candidate now, because she's already been demonized (not that there aren't legitimate reasons not to like her; she's the least favorite Dem for me right now). But once the Democratic nominee is chosen, I think whoever it is will get the same treatment. Are all the talk radio hosts and Republican political operatives who make a living attacking Democrats going to stop if Clinton doesn't get the nomination? Not likeley. They'll just turn their guns on the new target.

In 2004, Democrats thought they could diffuse the right-wing attacks by nominating a decorated war veteran like Kerry, but that strategy failed. The smears happened anyway. Maybe this time the Democrats will nominate a Southerner (Edwards) or someone who talks about faith alot (Obama) or someone with an impeccable resume (Richardson). One would think these people would be well positioned to unite much of the country. But would any of these people get a pass from Rush Limbaugh, the Christianists, or the torture apologists? I don't picture it. I think Clinton hatred is more a symptom of this country's polarization than a cause of it. James Dobson is not going to allow anyone who doesn't share his agenda to be a "unifier and a healer", and secular leftys like myself are not interested in "unifying" with those we consider to be peddling hatred. We want them to stop and change their ways, or failing that we want to defeat them politically.

-Zachary Drake


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