Everyone knows politics is a volatile topic. In more genteel times, one was supposed to avoid discussing religion and politics at a party to prevent arguments and possibly losing friends.
This only makes sense. There are always issues that inflame passions, and none more so than a long war with no end in sight. Hot button issues are everywhere, from war to religion to immigration to the economy to the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution, whether your favorite rights are in the First and Fourth amendments or you are especially keen on the Second. The thing is, this hostility is usually reserved for sets of people who put themselves on different ends of the political spectrum.
Right now, vitriol can pour out over nearly any issue among people who generally agree on the major topics of the day. I wrote a few weeks back about some conservative blabbers putting the serious hate on John McCain. To their credit, the Republican voters paid little attention, decided on their best candidate, warts, cancer scars, bad teeth, bad memory and all. I have to wonder if Limbaugh and Coulter didn't promise to campaign for Clinton just to muddy the waters. Back in early February, it looked like the Republicans might still be bickering in April and the Democratic race was pretty much sewn up.
So much for conventional wisdom.
On the other hand, the rift between Dr. James Dobson and McCain seems real right down to the ground. Jerry Falwell is dead and Pat Robertson is largely irrelevant. Dr. Dobson is the strongest voice of the religious right today, and he doesn't like McCain. In his heart of hearts, McCain has little love for the good doctor, but knowing how important getting the religious right energized is for Republican candidates, McCain is having to send out emissaries and go cap in hand to the powerbroker in the pulpit. It's too early to call, but right now, McCain has almost all of the baggage Bob Dole had in 1996, with the added baggage of supporting an unpopular war come hell or high water.
A ludicrous literary catfight is now being waged on the liberal leaning Huffington Post. Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone, and his journalism definitely owes a debt to the style of Hunter S. Thompson. He does not censor himself or pretend to objectivity. Erica Jong is a novelist and poet. Her most famous work is Fear of Flying from the 1970s, which I didn't read, but was considered in its day both feminist and smutty. Good for her, I guess.
Taibbi, who has been writing on the campaign trail this year, has written pieces eviscerating many politicians, most notably Rudy Guiliani and Fred Thompson. His revulsion at Republican methods is very clear. Currently, with the Republican race clearly settled, he has been writing about the seemingly endless Democratic campaign. Here is part of a sentence he wrote about Hillary Clinton that recently ran in Rolling Stone: “…Hillmeister doing the dual flabby-arm raise on CNN, while gusts of confetti whooshed across the room…”
This set Ms. Jong off. Calling Clinton's arms flabby was an attack not on a single candidate, but on older women, on all women, on the concept of womanhood in general, and she suggested that maybe deep down, Taibbi wanted to have sex with his mother. No kidding. He hates all women and wants to screw his mom. Also, if Ms. Jong followed the rules of the internet, she would be asked to retire to a neutral corner because she has already compared Taibbi to the Nazis. Given her age, she may not be aware of this rule.
Taibbi responded and the feud continues. Go to the Huffington Post to read more if you like, but I don't recommend it and will not include a link.
This level of intramural vitriol is not confined to the (kind of) rich and (sort of) famous. I have blog buddies who support Obama and others who support Hillary. Among these folks, it's some of the Obama supporters who are better identified as Hillary haters. They can go off like nobody's business on the woman, usually about her tacit support for Bush's policies. To be fair, both Obama and Hillary have made votes that have helped prolong this war, and no Democrat with real power has done much to curb the abuses of the last seven plus years.
Offline, talking to friends in the so-called "real world", I know people who have been lifelong Democrats who have strong animosity towards Obama. I don't think it's racial. One dear friend considers Obama a phony and a lightweight and can really work himself into a lather about the topic. It's painful to listen to it.
I don't want to pretend this has never happened before in history. When I was a kid, I supported Gene McCarthy in 1968. I was licking envelopes during the California primary and even went out and carried signs in the street. I thought Bobby Kennedy was a Johnny come lately to the campaign, since he didn't even declare until after New Hampshire. (Can you imagine?) I have several distinctions in my life that seem more remarkable in hindsight. One of those is that I heckled Bobby Kennedy not a week before he died. He had a motorcade in Oakland, and I held up a mocking sign above the crowd. The sign was visible in a picture that ran in the local paper; I was lost in the crowd. I've searched the internet for it, but so far no luck.
Maybe this feels very different, or maybe it feels sickeningly the same. If Democrats spend this much time hissing at each other, it's going to make the general election that much harder. I don't want to pretend I'll be happy if Hillary gets the nomination, but I don't want people to lose sight of the bigger picture. Right now, that which passes itself off as "mainstream Republican" is deeply committed to anti-American policies, hostile towards our rights as citizens, completely indifferent to our standing in the world and willing to sell out the prosperity of the public to the highest bidder, foreign or domestic.
(Note: Anyone who got the lyrical reference in the title, give yourself a cookie. Remember, this is being done on the honor system. And yes, purple is a hint. I want my clever friends to enjoy a cookie, if that's what they really want.)