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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

State of Hate

That big ball of hate consuming the right continues to roll along, gathering momentum in a truly frightening fashion.

The epicenter may well be South Carolina, home of Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson, presided over by the honorable Gov. Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford with strong leadership from Sen. Jim "Waterloo" DeMint.

Here's the latest from the land of tolerance:
“There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves,” the opinion article stated. “By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.”
The remarks are actually authored by two Republican Party county chairman, in a letter to the editor that, in their twisted minds, was congratulating DeMint with frugality. To their discredit -- and frankly that of the editor of the paper -- that age-old insult was supposed to be a compliment.

There has always been a seamy underside of America, a nativist movement that emerges during hard times. clearly spelled out by political scientist Richard Hofstadter in "The Paranoid Style of American Politics."

While Glenn Beck is merely the latest poster child, it has a long and sordid history in America, in traditions such as slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK. Some of its most prominent political practitioners have been George C. Wallace and Strom Thurmond.

At the risk of being guilty of stereotyping, do I detect a trend here?

While not every South Carolinian -- and certainly not every Southerner -- is guilty of embracing the politics of hate, it certainly seems the roots run deep below the Mason-Dixon Line. Let's not forget the "War of Northern Aggression," launched at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was in defense of the Southern institution of slavery.

We need politicians to start cooling the nativist passions, not inflaming them, starting with the authors, Edwin O. Merwin Jr., chairman of the Bamberg County Republican Party, and James S. Ulmer Jr., chairman of the Orangeburg County Republican Party, whose "apology" reflected the depth of the ignorance passing for political judgment:

The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported that Mr. Ulmer had e-mailed a statement explaining that the comment was one he had “heard many times in my life, truly in admiration for a method of bettering one’s lot in life.
I'm sure he heard it many times. But if he thought it was a statement of admiration, he obviously never read Shakespeare.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since the 1790s, during the Washington administration, the country's politics have been vicious. During the time the father of our country, during his presidency, was accused of being a monarchist.

That's a pretty laughable insult today but, if you were coming off of fighting the Revolutionary war, it got underneath your skin.

Fortunately, for all of us, George Washington was blessed with a first-class temperament and let the insults roll off of him like water.

Today, Republicans and Democrats hammer one another without any sense of tolerance and decency. And they do so because voters respond to these insults.

I'm in complete agreement that South Carolina Republicans shouldn't say or do anything that smacks of racism or any sort of intolerence. It goes against everything the country stands for -- equality for all. But please spare me the argument that South Carolina Democrats are innocent and pure when it comes to advancing their message.

The challenge every political consultant has is motivating voters. They've learned that people will vote for their candidate if they perceive the other candidate as being un-American, a Communist, a Facist, or some other sort of extremist.

So what's an informed, concerned, decent citizen to do? What's the citizen who cares about the issues and the state of the country, state or town to do? Especially someone who knows that what both sides are throwing out about the other side is garbage. What's the person suppose to do?

Well, I'd suggest they vote. But I'd also suggest that a group of them insist that political candidates start improving their level of discourse. Political candidates and their handlers need to make arguments that respect our intelligence -- not demean in it.

The problem, however, is that too many voters insist on being insulted. They eat up the weak, vacuous arguments made by their politicans and their handlers and vote accordingly.

Maybe it's time to take the advice of a poster that use to hang in my bedroom during my high school years: "Don't vote. It only encourages them."

October 21, 2009 7:04 AM  

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