Sunday, October 07, 2007

Democrats, Clinton, and "polarization"

I think some people are under the illusion that if Democrats don't choose Hillary Clinton as the nominee, then the right-wing hate machine will close up shop and go home. This is a ridiculous delusion. Kevin Drum has this to say on the subject:

But there's a huge difference here. A guy like Giuliani is polarizing because he actively chooses to be. It's part of his persona. He wants people to hate him

Hillary, by contrast, is polarizing not because she wants to be, but because the right-wing attack machine made her that way. She's "polarizing" only because a certain deranged slice of conservative nutjobs detest her.

And guess what? By this standard, Jimmy Carter is polarizing. Bill Clinton is polarizing. Al Gore is polarizing. John Kerry is polarizing. Do you see the trend here?

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose Hillary Clinton. But anyone who opposes her because she's polarizing is allowing the bottom feeders of modern movement conservatism to dictate who gets to run for president and who doesn't. If we want less polarizing politics, the answer isn't to oppose Hillary Clinton, who, outside the cartoon universe invented by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, holds almost relentlessly orthodox center-left opinions and expresses them in relentlessly garden-variety politician-speak. The answer is to send the right-wing rage machine back under the rock it crawled out from. Anything else is just caving in to bullies.

Digby adds:
Giuliani could theoretically be a transcendent politican in 2008. He's a rare northeastern blue state Republican with all kinds of signifiers that should appeal to independents and Democrats. He was mayor of New York City, for crying out loud. But the Republican base forces every candidate to become polarizing because that's what they like in a candidate. Indeed, that's why Giuliani is doing so well --- he's a nasty piece of work and they can sense it. Their movement is based upon rabid partisan hatred of liberals/Democrats/blacks/"immigrants" and whatever other "other" they've targeted today. It's their fundamental organizing principle.

I have no doubt that Hillary will be polarizing, but it will come from the abject hatred any Democrat inspires on the right (although the fact that she's a woman probably add a little frisson to their loathing.) Look at what they did the John Kerry. Hell, they impeached her husband, a centrist good old boy who advanced a fair portion of their agenda in the name of bipartisan comity. They will loathe and despise Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Dodd or any of the rest with just as much fervor. It's what they do.

(And, by the way, it doesn't matter whether any Dem moves so far to the right that they could give Inhofe a run for his money, the media and the right wing press will portray them as an "ultra-liberal" in thrall to the MoveOn communists. They do that too. There's no sense in changing positions on the issues to try to thread that needle. It's impossible.)
One of my frustrations with the Obama candidacy is all this "I will bring people together" stuff. I'm skeptical. He's less polarizing than Clinton now, because the smear machine hasn't focused on him yet. But if he's the nominee, it will. There is no one so patriotic, so red blooded, so full of the spirit of Jesus that the Republicans won't smear them. Democrats who are questing for such a person are on a fool's errand. Democrats should nominate someone who will be able to deal with the smears when they happen.

And given what Republicans have done and are doing to our nation, I'm not interested in being brought together with them. I am interested in defeating them, and undoing what they have done. Obama's lofty rhetoric of hope does have an appeal. And I like his status as someone more outside the current political village. But I am a lot angrier at Republicans than he seems to be. A lot of Democrats and independents despise Bush and have enormous contempt for him and everything he stands for. I wish the Democrats did a better job of channeling that frustration in a constructive direction. Instead, they seem afraid of the anger in their anti-Bush base. They don't want to appear "shrill", lest some talking head chide them on TV. But by doing this, the Democrats are cutting themselves off from a strong vein of energetic support.


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