Thursday, September 16, 2004


The other day I was making sarcastic remarks about Bush to a right-wing co-worker, and he responded by asking me, "When did you go so far left? You didn't used to be like this." I just looked at him for a second. Not because he's wrong; that's generally an accurate statement. But because he really doesn't comprehend how one-sided our leaders have become and how angry that makes people who don't share their views. More importantly, he can't comprehend that people who gave W the benefit of the doubt on Iraq and "compassionate conservatism" -- including yours truly -- are angry. The only thing worse than being made to feel like a fool is being made to feel like a fool by a fool. This brings me to the reasons that I've become more partisan.

I'm far more liberal than conservative, but I truly believe that the correct path is often found in the middle. On any number of issues, I agree with some of the points that conservatives make. What I loathe is many of these conservatives themselves. Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney are extremist shitheels and nothing will convince me otherwise. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and "Douchebag of Liberty"** Robert Novak -- and the right-wingers in our daily lives who worship them -- spend so much time telling me I'm an idiot and a traitor, why am I going to admit when they have a point on a particular issue? I have plenty of intelligent points to make, and all they can shout is "Stupid liberal!" We've turned political discourse into an all-out war.

At some point after 9/11, when it became impossible to have a civil conversation about the complex issues of terrorism and U.S. foreign policy, I reached my limit. I felt pushed against a wall. I didn't feel hate, but I felt hated. I wasn't furious with Bush until he gave me a reason to be. I didn't like him in 2000, but I was at least willing to wait and see what he was all about. Even in 2003, I was tentatively willing to go along with the war idea if there were weapons of mass destruction. I really don't believe that most conservatives give Democrats this sort of benefit of the doubt. Yes, I think I'm being fair when I say the right started it. They started it with Clinton, the ultimate "third way" moderate, whom they hated for reasons unrelated to his policies. So, somewhere after 9/11, as Bush's hatchet men warned us to "watch what we say" and not question the government, I became enraged. Why should I compromise anymore? I was fine voicing my moderate positions until I felt that the right was not only in control, but also completely unwilling to consider both sides of an issue or tolerate fundamental American dissent.

So the bottom line is, I long for a time that we can talk about issues again without all the screaming and name-calling. I'll try to admit, in this space, when liberals are wrong. But it's very difficult when there is seemingly no one on the other side who will do the same. Very few people look at the facts anymore. You just stick to your team's script, whether it makes sense or not. One notable exception is Andrew Sullivan. I say this not because I always agree with him (I certainly do not) but because he takes each issue as it comes, and stakes out a position based on reasoned analysis. He thinks President Bush is the right guy to fight the war on terror, but believes he's completely botched the post-war Iraq situation. He defends the Administration's positions on a number of foreign policy and economic issues, but thinks that when it comes to many social issues, conservatives are in the wrong -- and, on some issues, downright bigoted. Carefully considering each dilemma as it comes along seems so fundamental that it's depressing that I'm impressed by it. And how is Sullivan treated by the far right these days? As a "traitor," who is not to be trusted because he won't parrot all the party-line talking points. It's all about winning, and loyalty at any cost. And it's damn discouraging.

** Jon Stewart's name for him

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