Thursday, June 07, 2007

If You're Not Angry...

There is a saying that I've found on bumper-stickers that says, "If you're not angry, then you're not paying attention." The meaning behind that statement is that society, social justice is moved by anger, by seeing injustice in the world.

There is some truth in that statement. I mean, to want to change things, you need to be upset at what you are seeing around you.

But as much as anger can move us to change, it can also be a poison that can hurt society as a hold. People on the political left and right are angry. On the right, all you have to do is listen to talk-radio and some right wing blogs. The political left has seen the sucess of the angry Right and has copied it, with left wing blogs becoming as venomous as their conservative counterparts. On each side, there is a lot of talk about how evil the other side is and how they can't be civil, when faced with such evil.

The problem here is this angry discourse have left us with no real answers to some of our most pressing issues and it has forced good politicians to basically whore themselves to the angry bases of both parties. David Broder has talked about how presidential candidates have basically unmoored themselves from the center and have tried to please their bases. Broder writes:

Democrats brushed aside concerns about the impact of their votes to cut off funding for the troops in Iraq or the larger implications of a precipitous withdrawal from that country. Republicans were casual about contemplating the use of nuclear weapons against Iran or the effects of foreclosing a path to citizenship for millions of people living illegally in the United States.

I have to say, just like the problem with the Republicans was that they never really thought through what it meant to invade Iraq, the Democrats are guilty of wanting to leave Iraq without really thinking through what that means for the Middle East and the world.

I agree with Broder that hearing the Republican presidential candidates talk so blithely about a nuclear strike against Iran made me think I was watching "Dr. Stranglove." It also saddens me that only John McCain showed any humanity in dealing with illegal immigration. Everyone else was trying to placate the nativist camp in the party.

In all cases, the candidates are please the angry extremes, that isn't concerned with policy, but with making the other side look bad. It's all emotion with no thought. Maybe in another time, leaders in Washington would come together to solve these problems, not in ways that please the bases, but in ways that would benefit everyone. On Iraq, yes, I would agree with many that we have to start thinking about leaving. But how do we do that without creating a bigger mess? Many on the far left don't seem to have an answer. They seemed to be more concerned about "ending George Bush's war" instead of trying to create an endgame that doesn't end up biting us in the ass.

Republicans have to face up to the idea that you aren't going to get rid of 12 million illegal aliens. So, how do we find a way to make them legal without just creating amnesty? And oh yeah, they need to remember that Saint Ronald was bullish on immigration.

I think we need less anger and more reason in politics. Yes, I am angry that President Bush got us into this war. But that alone isn't going to solve this mess. We need politicians that will "reason together" and find competent solutions, not simply something that will please the furious few.

I close with these words from Joe Klein:

the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party's bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh's show—where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates—has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.

What he said.

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