As anyone who is attuned to American politics knows, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has caused a major split in American Conservatives.
From what I can gather, a significant minority of Conservatives - mainly Evangelical Christians - support the Miers nomination. Nevertheless, a majority of conservatives are opposed to the nomination and "feel betrayed".
Indulging in as much schadenfreude as possible, the leftists are goggling on the sidelines, watching their political opponents weaken themselves at the very moment when polls show a serious decline in support for George W. Bush.
Lately I've been visiting the website of Hugh Hewitt, a conservative evangelical blogger. The guy is quite influential and has access to high-up members in the administration. This includes having phone calls from Karl Rove.
While I don't share in Hewitt's conservative ideology, I find his site to be informative and mercifully free from the "cheap shots" that can sometimes typify political blogs from both sides of the ideological fence. Besides, the guy is an Evangelical like me, so it's good to get to know the thoughts of someone who I will be in heaven with for the rest of eternity.
What is interesting in this split is the ease by which the two conservative camps have begun to attack and label one another. Hewitt has labeled the anti-Miers crowd as "Cornerites", after the right-wing website The Corner. I have yet to examine the other side of the conservative fence, but it is obvious that this split is quite serious.
So, given an external stressor (the nomination of Harriet Miers), conservative pundits have broken into two separate, opposing groups, and are using the same language and tactics they have used against their traditional leftist enemies upon one another.
Instead of trying to debate the issue peacefully, instead of trying to understand the other person's point of view, the split has simply led to enmity. It is as though the only solution to a problem is to fight against your enemy until you have secured victory.
This is a very sad state of affairs. I say this not because I have sympathy with the conservative side of politics, but because it reflects upon society generally, including leftists.
The language and tactics used by both sides of the ideological fence can, at times, be repugnant. I am not so blind as to believe that the leftist bloggers I read and enjoy are innocent of such activities. Take the recent photograph of George Bush writing a note about a bathroom break, or the "fanmail" that Harriet Miers and George Bush sent each other since they first met. To me these are irrelevant to the debate, but many leftists will use them as cheap shots against Bush. Not me - I don't care about them. They're not important. There are far more important things that I have against George W.
So what will happen if a hypothetical split occurred within the leftist punditry? Will both sides begin to label and attack each other with the same ease that the conservatives are doing at the moment? You'd have to be incredibly naive to believe that the left is somehow above such things.
So what should the left do? May I suggest that there needs to be a change in tactics against conservatives:
First of all, stop making cheap shots against your political enemies. It does more damage to you in the end, and no real damage to your enemies.
Secondly, occasionally speak in support of the good things that your enemies do. This may stick in your craw, but I have always believed that credit must be given where credit is due. Targeting moderate Republicans like John McCain for praise on a regular basis is a good idea.
Thirdly, stop referring to all Republicans/Conservatives as "the enemy". Some are worthy of criticism, but one person a whole party does not make.
Fourthly, give explicit kudos to conservatives who obviously take their beliefs seriously and who articulate them well - they may be diametrically opposed to you, but at least you can respect them for their stance. Conversely, savagely criticise any conservative who is not ideologically pure - they are obviously hypocrites who hold to conservative beliefs only for political purposes (Eg the very religious and ethical Tom DeLay).
Fifthly, stop saying "F*** Bush!!" on comments threads. It is incredibly boring and achieves absolutely nothing.
Sixthly, refer to George Bush in non-pejorative ways. Call him George, Dubya, the prez and so on. Calling him "The Chimp" and other epithets should be avoided. Name calling is juvenile.
But why do all this? Why should the left take a good hard look at itself and the way that it attacks their political opponents? Surely now is the time to stick the knife in good?
It may seem so - but remember, I am also concerned about the hypothetical split in the left that may occur in the future. If the left is restrained and intelligent in its criticisms of the conservatives, then any split that occurs is more likely to be dealt with in an objective and restrained manner. It will also show conservatives that the left is too proud to stoop to their levels.
From the One Salient Overlord Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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