Bill Bennett, that paragon of moral virtue, was the first to explain that "national healing" is just another word for "culture war":
- Having restored decency to the White House, President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal ("The Great Relearning," as novelist Tom Wolfe calls it) -- no less in legislation than in federal court appointments. It is, after all, the main reason George W. Bush was reelected.
A little palingenesis, anyone?
Just when I got done saying that one of the important things that distinguishes movement conservatism from genuine fascism was the lack of any major push for national renewal and purification … jeez.
Well, let's face it: Republicans have a history of taking a peculiar view of bipartisanship anyway. All this talk about comity and national healing and getting along sounds great, but I'm not buying.
Not when we just got through a campaign where conservatives were openly wishing death on their opponent and arguing against allowing him to take office, even if he won the election. Not when their fellow conservatives looked on and said nothing.
It's not getting any better. Here's Adam Yoshida's idea of "building bridges":
- Let’s face a hard truth: this was the bitterest Presidential campaign in living memory. The Democrats and their allies staked everything on the defeat of this President. All of the resources they had accumulated over a generation of struggle were thrown into this battle: and they have failed. Despite all of their tricks, despite all of their lies, the people have rejected them. They mean nothing. They are worth nothing. There’s no point in trying to reach out to them because they won’t be reached out to. We’ve got their teeth clutching the sidewalk and out boot above their head. Now’s the time to curb-stomp the bastards.
Wanna bet no conservatives will even flinch at this, either?
Now, I know that everyone who read Ron Suskind's piece in the New York Times on the Bush "faith-based" style of governance was fascinated with the now-famous "reality-based community" quote (justifiably). But there was another passage in the piece that really jumped out at me:
- . . . And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community.
That, folks, is what Election 2004 was all about.
This attitude of utter hatred and contempt for fellow citizens whose politics differ from yours obviously exists on both sides. And it's obviously harmful. It plays out in large acts and small, warping the fabric of our lives and poisoning the community well-being.
I was struck by a passage from one of the many e-mails I've gotten this past week, from a woman named Mary B. who lives in a rural Southern town:
- My 11 year old daughter in the 6th grade was the ONLY student to wear a Kerry/Edwards button to school, out of 729 students in her middle school. Her classmates ridiculed her, told her to get the hell away from them, and kicked at her desk all day to separate her from them. They even told her she was not a "Christian" because she supported Kerry. They told her that Kerry was gay because he supported gay marriage. Today was even worse. They gloated, jeered and sneered at her from the minute she stepped out of the car to the minute she was picked up from school. They did not have to kick her desk because she intentionally moved it away from them.
I think we know what we're all dealing with here. If it becomes pervasive, there won't be any point in pretending that fascism hasn't descended on us.
So I'm not terribly interested right now in all this talk of "building bridges" either, because it has a distinctly hollow ring.
Sure, I understand that liberals got nasty this year. But then, Republicans have always been eager to dish it out and unable to take it. Let's not kid around: We all know where this fight started.
But I'll tell you what, all you conservatives who want us to bow and scrape at the altar of your newfound civility. I'll maybe start thinking you're sincere about "restoring civility" and "turning down the hate" when I stop seeing and hearing the following -- not just from the bottom feeders like Adam Yoshida, but leading conservatives like Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter:
- -- That liberals are the root of all evil.
-- That liberals are innately treasonous.
-- That they are internal enemies on a par with Al Qaeda.
-- That they are responsible for conservative failures.
-- That electing a liberal president would bring the end of the republic.
-- That the nation would be better off if liberals were just eliminated.
I'll start to believe you're sincere about civility when I'm no longer reading books with titles on these subjects, and seeing them reach the bestseller lists.
Most of all, I'll think there might be something to this civility thing when I see actual conservatives start standing up for basic human decency -- which at one naïve time in my life I actually believed conservativism stood for -- and publicly repudiating these people.
But when I read and hear these things, and I look around for supposedly decent conservatives to say something, what do I hear?
That speaks all the volumes that need be spoken between us. And will be, for the foreseeable future.