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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Richard Cohen Of WaPo on Dem Hate Mail

In a Washington Post column entitled Digital Lynch Mob, Richard Cohen sounds a bit like Dr. Sanity. He is complaining of the mail he received after writing that he didn't think Colbert's performance was funny:
Within a day, I got more than 2,000 e-mails. A day later, I got 1,000 more. By the fourth day, the number had reached 3,499 -- a figure that does not include the usual offers of nubile Russian women or loot from African dictators.
Truth to tell, I peeked into only a few of the e-mails.
When I guilelessly clicked on the name, I would get a bucket of raw, untreated and disease-laden verbal sewage right in the face.
This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle.
Hey, Mr. Cohen. I'm sorry. A person ought to be able to find a particular comedic performance less than funny without being identified as Public Enemy Number 1. But look at it this way - imagine what Senator Lieberman's email is like! They really, really hate Senator Lieberman.

Tommy of Striving for Average wrote about his reaction to encountering an article about possible 2008 candidates:
This article almost terrifies me for a couple of reasons. Primarily because it’s only May in 2006 and I’m not ready to think about the 2008 election, but with the election cycle we have now, it’s time for someone to start thinking about it. Some of the names listed are also disturbing. But I’m going to offer some advice, not that I expect anyone to pay attention.

Somewhere once I saw James Carville say that the purpose of a political party was to win elections, I’m not sure I agree with anything else he has ever said, but he was right about that. In the last two Presidential elections the Democratic party has been faced with having a President named Joe Lieberman, or some Republican, and we know how that’s turned out. Lieberman never had a realistic chance at the Democratic nomination because he was too far to the right. As a result he actually had a lot of appeal to the center, and even to some Republicans that weren’t overly fond of the choices from their own party.
Tommy goes on to observe that he expects the party able to nominate the more centrist candidate will win in 2008, and that is probably true. I don't know anyone, whether conservative or liberal, who agrees with every particle of the platform of their preferred party, and most of us realize that winning an election does not automatically turn the ship of state. Politics should be about a practical agenda, and not some mad purple-passion quasi-religious cultist war. The truth is that the dire predictions of disaster won't come true regardless of which candidate wins.

Sometimes I think the party hacks whip this sort of intense feeling up deliberately. Wouldn't it be a nightmare for those who make a tremendous income lobbying for special interests if in 2008 there were two relatively centrist candidates? Then it would come down to who had the strongest agenda that made sense to the electorate, wouldn't it? But if that happened, it sure would cut into the fortunes of those who make their living by delivering an impassioned two or three percent of voters in a particular election on the strength of a particular issue.

When I was in elementary school and into high school, the party conventions were more than publicity parties. The delegates would meet and vote on a party platform. The major speeches and party platforms were printed in even dinky little newspapers, and I was forced to read them by red-pen wielding teachers. A broader-based political agenda might take some of the fire and flame out of the debate. No party can succeed by talking only to its true believers.

I guess anger has always been used as a political tactic, but it seems to me that it is starting to be the preferred tactic.

Angry people usually make poor decisions.
A person ought to be able to find a particular comedic performance less than funny without being identified as Public Enemy Number 1.

Of course, if one is attempting desperately to deflect scrutiny of the CONTENT of the performance by suggesting to the millions of people rolling on the floor, clutching their sides and gasping for breath, that what they are doing could not possibly be "laughing," because one particular moron didn't join in, well then, he deserves avery bit of calumny that comes his way, for advertising his moron status.
Tommy, I think pure anger is a hindrance in politics almost always. It should be saved for the sight of bodies and mixed with sorrow.

Repack, that would imply that people should have lifted their eyebrows and laughed at him. It doesn't explain the anger, does it?

Some people don't have much of a sense of humor. It's like being tone-deaf. I don't know anything about the content of Colbert's performance and I don't care, but I just don't think that this merits fulsome anger.
So, why is there so much anger floating around, especially among those on the Left?

There are probably many reasons, but one of them is surely the growth of what I call the "intellectual lumpenproletariat." These are people who drank the academic kool-aid and got masters degrees or PhDs, and are now working at Barnes & Noble (or equivalent). They are furious that "society" doesn't recognize the value of their education..their anger might make some sense if it was directed at those who got them to make poor educational choices, but generally it doesn't seem to go that way.
Tommy is 100% right. One way or the other, we will see a more centrist candidate.

His remarks re Lieberman are on target. Lieberman would have made a damn fine candidate- and in fact, he would have drawn many GOP voters because if nothing else, he has qualities that make him appealing- he's honest, smart, pragmatic and though he's been in DC a while, his origins are outside the Beltway.

That goes a lot farther in middle America than most people recognize.
I do hope that we have either more centrist candidates, or at least ones that can work in a bipartisan fashion.
Cohen has discovered what many of us have known for sometime. Anger has replaced reason for far too many denizens of the left (just as it did for the right a decade ago).

McCain or Frist vs. Lieberman? I'd really have to seriously think about voting for Joe.
Repack, that would imply that people should have lifted their eyebrows and laughed at him. It doesn't explain the anger, does it?

We only have Cohen's word for the anger, and he has already shown that he is a moron, so I wouldn't take it at face value. I assume that each of his correspondents identified the reason for the missive.

I can speculate on some of the reasons for anger, if any existed.

First, people do not like to be told that the sky is green, when they can see for themselves that it isn't. Cohen told millions of people who were laughing their asses off that the source of their amusement wasn't funny. They all thought differently and some told Cohen.

Until recently, morono-pundits like Cohen had a one-way street. They could tell millions of people what they were thinking, but they didn't want to hear what the people they were talking to were thinking. I suspect anger at moronic columnists has always existed, but the ability to communicate easily with them is new.

Last, Cohen goes on and on as though the only measure of Colbert's performance was whether the people he was exposing as toadies, incompetents and hypocrites thought it was funny. Obviously they did not, but it's been ten days now, and Colbert is still riding a huge wave, his ratings increased by 37% in ONE DAY, millions of people are downloading the video, the blogs are running 50-1 in favor of Colbert, and his riveting performance has become a rallying cry for everyone who has been complaining to the unresponsive media for five years about the Emperor's nakedness.

Whether or not it was funny for Cohen that Colbert pinned the "kick me" sign on his back too, is immaterial, and someone had to tell him.
Cohen has discovered what many of us have known for sometime. Anger has replaced reason for far too many denizens of the left (just as it did for the right a decade ago).

Strawman. Just because people are angry, that does not mean that their anger is unjustified.

The corruption and incompetence in the White House, the lies that led us to war, the complete collapse of congressional oversight, abuse of the Fourth Amendment, Katrina, tax cuts for the rich, the failure to support the troops (that's personal, since I am a veteran) and the imperial presidency are all good reasons for anger. Those who do not wish to confront the actual issues describe opponents of White House corruption, insanity and incompetence as "angry," as though anger at malfeasance is a bad thing.
Well, Repack, I have seen the braying anger that Cohen seems to be talking about at forums like Democratic Underground.

It seems as if it's "my way or the highway" for many people. For example, they really seem to hate, hate, hate Lieberman. It does seem completely extreme to me. I generally try to pay attention more to my own reps than those of other states.

Do you get angry at people who don't agree with you generally? People who generally are on the same side?

To me it seems as if a small percentage of extremists have lost all perspective about political matters. It's one thing to disagree with someone. It's another to cuss a person out and imply that he or she is evil because of a disagreement.
GM, I am pretty sure I would pick Lieberman over McCain. I respect McCain's service to the nation, but I think Lieberman is a much more stable character. McCain seems to me to be far more likely to run roughshod over the Constitution than Bush has.

I don't think a Bush-McCain sequence of presidencies would be good for the country at all.
I think I would also pick Lieberman over McCain. I'm suspicious McC's ideas on "campaign finance reform" and I also think he is way too arrogant, and probably not terribly smart.

Interesting comments on Lieberman by former CEO Jack Welch, who is a Republican: "a man with more integrity and intelligence--in particular, emotional intelligence--than you can shake a stick at. What a terrific person!" (Welch did raise issues about energy, ability to energize, and ability to execute. This was in early 2004, as part of an article on the leadership styles of the various Democratic candidates)
Arrogance, yes, definitely. I don't feel qualified to comment on McCain's intelligence. There is something about him that makes me acutely uneasy considering all the domestic and international circumstances.

My guess is that if the Republicans run McCain and the Dems run Lieberman, Lieberman would get 53-55 percent of the vote. There is a large libertarianish wing on the conservative side that is flat-out scared of McCain.

But does Lieberman have any chance of getting the Democratic nomination? Probably not. Does Lieberman even want the presidency given the conditions and the decisions that will have to be made? Maybe not.
Just because people are angry, that does not mean that their anger is unjustified.

That may, or may not be, but I'm not going to listen to them until they calm down. Angry people make poor decisions and this is far too important for that.
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