Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memo to Kathleen Parker

Just a few quick comments on your column today:

1) Yes, I'm sure you're getting angry mail from annoyed right-wingers. BUT, your response:

Yes, absolutely, let's start censoring people who entertain ideas and opinions that make us unhappy. Now there's a sure path to enlightenment!
while satisfyingly high on the snark scale, isn't accurate, and I think (hope) you know it. You're confusing censorship and criticism (or threats to boycott). Refusing to read your column and censoring you aren't the same thing. Not even close. If you make public commentary, you're going to have people who disagree with you. Why, even I myself have on occasion been criticized by regular readers of this blog--both of them. (In my case, I don't confuse censorship and obscurity.)

2) A bit of info. You write:

The most common complaint I've heard lately is that when people on the right criticize each other, the left uses that to its advantage. (The right would never do such a thing.)

You're quite right to be skeptical about the right not using disorganization of its opponents to its advantage. Yes, the left has its share of circular firing squads. But the right has been very skillful at exploiting them (anyone else remember Limbaugh's 'Operation Chaos'?).

Also, I'm told, the left doesn't eat its own the way the right does. . . . Whether assertions about the left's sturdier loyalties are accurate, I can't say.

I can. They're not. And this isn't new. Truman said, "I don't belong to an organized political party, I'm a Democrat." Remember the drama when David Geffen suggested Hillary might not be the one? Howard Dean becoming DNC Chair?

But one could argue that eating one's own -- that is, being willing to say what's true even when doing so is not in one's immediate self-interest -- is not a defect but rather an imperative that conservatives might wish to claim as their own.

Here, of course, you're quite right. One's commitment to the truth should be paramount, even when that truth is embarrassing or inconvenient. Alas, we live in an imperfect world.

Oh, and please walk down the hall and point out to Harold Meyerson that while some post-election schadenfreude is in order, and I'll admit to indulging a little myself, it's actually in our long-term best interest for the GOP to get its act together. (Jettisoning the Faux Noise wing of the party would be a first step, I agree, and a welcome change.) But: A healthy democracy needs a healthy opposition party. Today's GOP isn't it. As Meyerson points out, it's a regional, narrow, race- and class- defined party with strong elements of anti-intellectualism, Know-Nothingism, and xenophobia. They need to get their act together to force some discipline onto the Democrats, who certainly don't seem capable of disciplining themselves some day.

(Case in point: Why are we debating whether Lieberman should keep his chairmanship, after he campaigned for the GOP, questioned the competence and basic loyalty of the Democratic nominee, lied about the nominee's voting record, and did NOTHING during his previous term as committee chair? Because, apparently, expecting him to pay a price for misbehavior would make Lieberman feel bad, and that would make people all frowny.)

The Republican party can use this as an opportunity for soul-searching and rebuilding. If they follow the Democratic model, though, they'll have to lose another round of midterms and possibly a presidential election (Sarah in '12!) before they get serious about it.

In the meantime, while I can take some pleasure in watching them go through the process, I can only hope they get through the process relatively quickly.

No comments: