Skip to comments.Sullivan: Bi-Polar Nation (Free Republic, which is sometimes just as outrageous . . as DU)
Posted on 11/11/2003 9:51:46 PM PST by Pokey78
I was searching around for a metaphor for what life is actually like as a politically interested person in the U.S. right now, and I'm not sure I've come up with anything that accurately conveys it. The term "polarization" seems a little too anti-septic. "Bi-polar" suggests serial ups and downs, whereas America's divisions are deep and simultaneous. The "red-blue" split - between blue coastal elites and red Middle America - has become an almost meaningless cliche; and it misses the fact that there are plenty of blue-style voters in red America and vice-versa. Evoking the deep divides of the Vietnam war is also rhetorical over-kill. We're not there yet. At the same time, the gulf between liberals and conservatives, broadly speaking, or between Bush-supporters and Bush-haters, between young and old, between South and North, has rarely been as profound or as bitter than now. The fact that the United States is also at the beginning of a long war against Islamo-fascism makes the divisions more acrimonious and emotionally fraught. You feel at times, in many conversations and interactions, caught between two magnetic poles, whose cultural power is so strong that maintaining any position in between them becomes harder and harder.
Just look at the best-seller list for starters. Top of the pops is Michael Moore - a fanatical, duplicitous Bush-hater. Close behind, another anti-Bush screed, by Al Franken. You can gather its reasoned tone by the title: "LIES (AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM)." Then right behind them comes Bill O'Reilly, pugnacious, intolerant host of Fox News Channel's most successful right-leaning talk-show: "Who's Looking Out For You?" Further down, "The Great Unraveling," by Paul Krugman, the New York Times' unhinged leftist; and "Bushwhacked," yet another anti-Bush tome from Texas liberal, Molly Ivins. Then at Number 5, there's a very popular memoir by ... Barbara Bush! And a best-seller from David Limbaugh called "Persecution." The Times explains the book thus: "The author of 'Absolute Power' argues that 'liberals are waging war against Christianity.'" Yep. This is debate in America. You're a Liar! You too! You Oppress Me! I Hate You! Don't! Do! Etc etc etc.
The difficulty of finding middle ground was highlighted last week in several ways. The election results showed the South gradually becoming monolithically Republican: the governorships in Kentucky and Mississippi both went to Bush's party; and the race in Louisiana is headed the same way. That follows elections last year that saw the Democrats losing governors' races in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Four Democratic senators from the South have already announced they will not seek re-election, adding to the Republican march, and almost certainly ensuring Republican control of the U.S. Senate for the foreseeable future. The Senator from Georgia, Zell Miller, a former ally of Bill Clinton, went so far as to endorse Bush for re-election, more than a year ahead of time, denouncing his Democratic colleagues with sarcasm and contempt.
Meanwhile, the leading Democratic candidate, Howard Dean, could not represent the Northeastern upper middle class liberal more perfectly. He's from Vermont, one of the home bases of what's being called "the Starbucks Metrosexual elite." His favorite singer is Jean Wyclef (no, don't ask me). He's for raising taxes, expanding healthcare, and withdrawing some forces from Iraq. Last week, he committed not his first gaffe with respect to the South. In a Boston debate, he was pummeled by arguing that the Democrats needed to appeal to Southern "guys with Confederate flags in their pick-up trucks." His impulse was right - the Democrats cannot afford to alienate Southern and conservative voters the way they long have done. But he enraged the Democratic base by referring to what many regard as a racist symbol of the Old South and he alienated Southerners by what seemed like a witless stereotype. Senator Miller remarked, "Dean knows as much about the South as a hog knows about Sunday." No, I don't know what that means either. But then I'm no less of a Southerner than Howard Dean is.
The divide is deeper than geography. Take two events from last week. George W. Bush signed the "Partial Birth Abortion Act," which bans the late-pregnancy procedure in which an unborn child is pulled halfway out of the womb only to have its skull crushed. The opponents of the bill refuse even to use the term "partial birth abortion," and see this moderate restriction, supported by big majorities in the Congress and among the public, as the beginning of the end of legal abortion in America. A horrified New York Times opined, "With this legislation, Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress are clearly mounting an assault on women's reproductive rights." Within hours of the law passing, a judge had ordered a Constitutional stay on the matter, pending judicial review. Impasse. Or take the network CBS' production of a new miniseries on the Reagans. Produced with the help of the left-liberals who dominate Hollywood, starring liberal Judy Davis as Nancy and Barbra Streisand's husband as Reagan, the program was riddled with errors and anti-Reagan distortions. Even the head of CBS conceded that the movie was biased. It portrayed Reagan as viciously homophobic, and as having Alzheimers in his term of office - ideas that seem completely banal to the Coastal liberals. But the Internet and talk radio exploded in fury and the series was shifted to the cable channel, Showtime. Then it was the turn of liberals to be outraged. "Hallelujah! The Gipper is safe and the hated liberal media humbled. It's a big victory for the "Elephant Echo Chamber," the unholy trinity of conservative talk radio, conservative Internet sites and the Republican National Committee," wrote liberal pundit, Jonathan Alter, in Newsweek. Again, culture war deadlock.
The Iraq war has exacerbated the tension even further. Here's a bowdlerized version of an email posted on the Democratic Underground website last week. DU is a radical left publication, although it obviously uses the party name: "I Hope the Bloodshed Continues in Iraq. Well, that should bring the bats out of the attic with fangs dripping. I won't be hypocritical. It is politically correct, particularly in any Dem discussion to hope and pray and feel for our troops and scream "bring them back now"... I realize that not every GI Joe was 100 percent behind President Bush going into this war; but I do know that that is what an overwhelming number of them and their families screamed in the face of protesters who were trying to protect these kids. Well, there is more than one way to be "dead" for your country. They are not only not accomplishing squat in Iraq, they are doing nothing for the safety, defense of the US of A over there directly. But "indirectly" they are doing a lot. The only way to get rid of this slime bag WASP-Mafia, oil baron ridden cartel of a government, this assault on Americans and anything one could laughingly call "a democracy", relies heavily on what a hole Iraq turns into. They need to die so that we can be free." No, this is not representative of the left as a whole. But the fact that it exists at all shows how alienated some parts of the United States now are. And you can find similarly wacko views on the right on such websites as Free Republic, which is sometimes just as outrageous in the other direction as Democratic Underground.
Some of this can be attributed to the psychological strains of a difficult war. Some is a replay of the acrid tensions of Vietnam, through which prism the baby-boomer generation tends to see everything. Some may also be due to the fracturing of the media in which cable and the Internet and talk radio have given every constituency its own echo chamber. When that happens, the ability to frame arguments in order to persuade, rather than simply to rally the troops, becomes atrophied. Some is also generational, with the under-30s showing the highest levels of support for president Bush and the over 60s expressing the most severe discontent. But after a while, the rancour becomes self-reinforcing, with both sides using the other side's bitterness as new fuel for their own. When you add the profit motive - and the extremist books have been selling phenomenally well - the combustible mix is complete.
Politically, however, it strikes me that much of this curdling of discourse might actually help president Bush. He is a deeply polarizing figure in some quarters but he is the president. And as the president, his rhetoric has been studiedly non-inflammatory. He has rewarded his far right flank not with fiery language but with constant contact, judicial appointments and kinder, gentler Christian boilerplate. This low-key style ensures that although he will never win over that third of the electorate that despises him, he seems more appealing to the middle than the angry left that is now galvanizing the Democratic primary season. He is not a uniter of all; but he is a uniter of what is almost certainly a plurality. Through the fog of a polarized, divided country, he has somehow managed to cobble together a majority. It hovers around 55 percent. And the more the Democrats assail him personally, the shriller and less electable they seem. Perhaps even Bush will come acropper in this difficult terrain - especially if he nominates a real extremist to the Supreme Court or backs a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage. But so far, he is still the relatively calm voice in the middle of the increasingly raucous and uncompromising crowd. The warring words fly over his head. And if Bill Clinton survived the hatred, why on earth should this president not?
Site an example
Like that will cost him any votes he hasn't already lost. Dream on Andrew
Even those of us who are tolerant towards gays are beginning to feel as though the unholy alliance of a degenerate media and a Leninist legal system are forcing us into being the unnamed kneeling extras of some gay-porn cinematic extravaganza.
Great point! But we have our share of outrageous comments here. Isn't that a good thing though? America is not of one opinion.
Shyah. Doug from Upland's ass.
Interesting....Sean Hannity said the same thing yesterday. But there are many Bush haters right here and there is no need to go to the DU to find them.
Ummmm.....speak for yourself!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.