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We Hate You – Vote for Us

Monday, 18 November 2002 12:00 AM

There is an interesting book titled "I Hate You – Don't Leave Me." It describes dysfunctional relationships where one partner can't get along with the other, but still hopes he or she will stay. This ambivalence reveals a serious psychological problem with self-destructive aspects.

But consider how this problem is reflected in politics. Consider how people can hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. Consider how we can hate a group, yet at the same time ask them to vote for us and give us more power.

Most conservatives feel liberals are mistaken, ill-informed and impractical. But most liberals feel conservatives are greedy, racist and evil. There are exceptions, of course, but at least in recent years, this generalization is regrettably accurate.

Republicans accuse Democrats of not understanding the nature of the terrorist threat, of being preoccupied with prescription drugs for seniors instead of homeland defense, and of being well-intentioned but naïve.

But Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to throw the elderly out on the street, taking lunches away from kids, being hostile to minorities and women, wanting to destroy national parks, plotting to establish a dictatorship, and planning a bloody war that's "all about oil."

If it were really "all about oil," we would imitate the French and Germans. We would pursue an anti-Israel policy, and crawl on our knees so as not to offend the Arabs. Instead, for strategic and religious reasons, we stand by Israel, which has no oil. And we pursue a firmer policy with the Arabs, especially Iraq.

No, it's not "all about oil." It's about principle – something most Europeans, and their American imitators, forgot about long ago.

In short, Republicans are accused of wanting to destroy our form of government, oppress our people, pollute the earth, and plunge the world into an unnecessary war.

That's not criticism – that's hate. And, of course, the hate comes from the party of "tolerance and inclusion."

In another burst of "tolerance," judicial nominees are interrogated about their personal beliefs on abortion. Bill Simon, Republican candidate for governor of California, was attacked because he is a Catholic and accepts his church's teaching on abortion. A leading candidate for Los Angeles police chief was removed from consideration because he is an Evangelical Christian.

Liberals study the Constitution and find a right to abortion, which isn't there. But somehow they miss what

Using religious beliefs as criteria for hiring judges, governors or police chiefs is both intrusive and unconstitutional. But it's "tolerant and inclusive," right?

Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to go back to the days of dangerous "back-alley" abortions. (What, exactly, is a front alley?) They accuse critics of Roe v. Wade of wanting to go back to the days when "hundreds of thousands" of women died from illegal abortions, a gross exaggeration. If Republicans are so viciously anti-woman, they really are (as a film star put it) between reptile and repulsive in the dictionary.

In fact, Roe v. Wade didn't "legalize" abortion. Abortion was already legal in several states. What it did was forbid virtually any laws restricting abortion. What it did was remove abortion from the realm of laws enacted by the people's elected representatives and place it in the realm of decrees handed down by unelected judges with lifetime jobs.

Regardless of how you feel about abortion, you must admit that three decades of bitterness could have been avoided if this highly controversial question had been left to the political process, rather than being usurped by elitist judges.

Liberals express contempt for conservative judges who can't find a right to abortion in the Constitution, though it mentions no such thing. But they express approval for liberal judges who can't find a right to capital punishment, which

That is, what the Constitution says isn't really there, but what it fails to mention

Are we conservatives free of hate? Of course not. During the impeachment controversy, some of our rhetoric went beyond criticism of Bill Clinton's lying under oath, and crossed the line into frank hatred. Besides being improper, such exaggerated rhetoric was probably counterproductive.

But today, the only issue where Republicans tend to express hatred is abortion. Some religious conservatives equate it to murder. The problem with this rhetoric is that extremists may use it to justify murdering abortionists. But almost all conservatives, including religious ones, want to convince their opponents that abortion is wrong.

In contrast, many Democrats don't talk about convincing Republicans of anything. They talk only about defeating Republicans. Their rhetoric is not that of political discourse, but that of war.

Democrats refer to "fighting" for abortion rights, "defeating" tax cuts, "beating back" proposals for school choice, "battling" for prescription drugs for seniors, and "combating" proposals for homeland security. The choice of words is revealing.

Democrats refer to Republicans as destroyers of the environment, enemies of women, Scrooges who want to take lunches away from children and medicines away from seniors, would-be fascists, money-grubbers, racists, homophobes, and warmongers of the bloodiest sort. But then Democrats propose that Republicans work with them to achieve "bipartisanship" and "reasonable compromise."

After all the hate-filled rhetoric, Democrats want Republican legislators to join them in voting for the Democrats' agenda, and Republican voters to support Democratic candidates. This is like saying, "We hate you, but give us more power, and everything will be fine."

Granted, exaggeration is common in political speech. Often people say things they don't really mean. But the critical thing is not what the speaker intends, but what the listener hears. Hate-tinged rhetoric may not be sincere in the mind of the speaker, but it can evoke real hate in the mind of the listener.

Unlike many older nations, America is not held together by racial or ethnic ties. We are held together by our shared ideas. But for two generations, some people have been doing their best to undermine the Judeo-Christian basis of our moral code. Sadly, they have had a good deal of success. They have removed all mention of God from public life, and removed the Ten Commandments from public schools.

Now some people are working hard to undermine the Founding Fathers' brilliant concept of a free people governed by elected officials according to a firmly established Constitution. School kids are no longer taught American History and Civics, but "social studies."

Rather than being taught to be proud Americans, children are now taught that American history is disgusting. How can kids learn to love their country when it is described to them as anti-environment, racist, sexist, genocidal and militaristic?

But without racial or ethnic ties, and with a weakening Judeo-Christian tradition, what remains to hold our nation together?

If we replace vigorous but restrained debate with hate speech, how long will it be before our nation comes apart at the seams? The English and French may be able to afford vitriolic political controversy – they have two millennia of nationhood and ethnic solidarity behind them. But we don't have that luxury. We are a much younger nation with an ever-changing ethnic mix. We need something else to hold us together.

We are held together by our shared ideas and ideals. Hate-filled controversy, vicious name-calling, and rabid partisanship are incompatible with the survival of America as a free nation.

We have two choices. We can restore our Judeo-Christian tradition and again teach Americanism in schools. Then we may be strong enough to survive hate-filled rhetoric. Regrettably, this is unlikely to happen.

Or we can moderate our rhetoric.

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There is an interesting book titled "I Hate You - Don't Leave Me." It describes dysfunctional relationships where one partner can't get along with the other, but still hopes he or she will stay. This ambivalence reveals a serious psychological problem with self-destructive...
Monday, 18 November 2002 12:00 AM
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