Peter Berkowitz has an excellent piece looking at the anti-Bush vitriol that’s become commonplace in American political culture. He reminds us of why such unbridled hatred is bad for American discourse:
In short, Bush hatred is not a rational response to actual Bush perfidy. Rather, Bush hatred compels its progressive victims–who pride themselves on their sophistication and sensitivity to nuance–to reduce complicated events and multilayered issues to simple matters of good and evil. Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent.
That’s why so much of the left-wing blogosphere is unreadable. It’s not about analysis of policy or understanding issues, it’s about turning the other side into demons. It’s not that conservatives are wrong, it’s that they’re evil. Once you go down that route, you’re no longer engaging with the real world. Once you start painting the opposition as emblematic of all that is wrong you’re not being objective, and you’re not making arguments.
Of course, the right side of the blogosphere isn’t immune from that sort of thing—not by a long shot, but when one looks at the list of the top center-right bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Ed Morrissey or the Power Line crew you see a group of people who are taking sides, but not trying to constantly tear down their opposition. It’s about ideas, not attacks.
Contrast that with Atrios/Duncan Black, firedoglake or Think Progress. For one, notice one thing about the content of these sites: all of them are almost entirely about President Bush. Every political issue seems reducible down to one individual. In fact, the term “Bush” appears 38 times on the homepage of Think Progress. Every issue, from Iraq to taxes are personalized.
The problem with all this anti-Bush hysteria is that it degrades the quality of discourse in American politics. If everything boils down to either hating George W. Bush or supporting him, then there’s no room for reason, compromise, or discussions of underlying values. Why bother investigating the shades of an issue when it all comes down to disliking one individual?
Berkowitz is right: this obsession is an unhealthy one. The world is bigger than a referendum on any one person, and to reduce every issue down to personal attacks is to put ideological blinders on. Such a thing is deeply corrosive to democratic discourse.
As the old saying goes, great minds discuss ideas, medicore minds discuss events and small minds discuss people. What does it say about the state of American political discourse when so much of it seems so small-minded?