The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

Oct 30

The penultimate paragraph of your last missive reminded me of something I've been wanting to talk about ever since I read this post by the dean of liberal blogdom, Markos Moulitsas, titled "Crush their their spirits." He said:
[W]e have an imperative to take advantage of a historic opportunity to break the conservative movement's backs and crush their spirits. In the White House, that means getting Obama a broad popular and geographic mandate for change. In the House, that means annihilating the Republican caucus and working toward a 100-seat Democratic majority. In the Senate it means getting to a 60-seat filibuster proof majority.
For the last six years the efforts at Daily Kos have been an extended exercise in standing up to the bullies in the Republican Party by trying to punch back, rather than pleading for the referee to come in and punish the other guy for fighting dirty. They're willing to go toe to toe and even throw the occasional low blow themselves. (Though I don't want to suggest a mainstream media-style false equivalence between the worst of the right-wing blogosphere and sites like Daily Kos or Media Matters. There's a difference between fighting hard and sometimes committing a foul and shredding the rule book entirely.) (Bonus NBA fan/nerd analogy. Right wing blogs=Bill Laimbeer, Daily Kos=Andres Nocioni.) That said, the tone and tenor of engagement is a mirror image of the opposing side, in the same way that Keith Olbermann really has become the liberal Bill O'Reilly. Olbermann may have facts on his side, but the subtext of the two broadcasts is essentially the same, "nothing the opposition has to say is worth anything because they're lying, un-American shitheads." , I already explained how that particular approach makes me a little squeamish, deep in my pusillanimous liberal soul, that I felt like there's a limited utility to fully embracing this attitude and that surely the future seeds of destruction are found there. Following that post I received an email from a former professor of mine who offered a mild dissent and said, "I'm happy to be pissed." Dare I say it, I detect just a smidge of this in your last letter, though it's obviously tempered by your gentle midwestern soul. It's hard not to let a little glee leak out at the thought of the complete devastation of the Republican Party and their trailing caravan of morally bankrupt sleazemeisters. They're getting what they have coming, at a minimum four years too late, and I think those of us who have suffered in opposition deserve at least some time to stand over the bloodied carcass and gloat. But what's amazing is that throughout this entire campaign, a winning campaign, Barack Obama hasn't really succumbed to this temptation to fight fire with fire. Even now, as the final desperate smears are being hurled Obama's way, he laughs them off, rather than feeling the need to volley back. It's not like there aren't plenty of targets, but what seems clear is that with his campaign, Obama wants to set the tone for governing, not just winning elections, something Karl Rove never understood or more likely cared about since he was interested in creating a "permanent republican majority." Instead of tit for tat, Obama's method of combat is to step out of the way while McCain swings wildly and hits the canvas. I'd hate to start another Obama is a closet Muslim rumor, but it's like Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope. Check out what is, I think, the most devastating political ad of the election: The execution is brilliant, hoisting McCain on the petard of his own ignorance with his own words, and then finishing with the infamous Palin wink. Rich Lowry of the National Review might've seen little starbursts in that moment, but judging from her dropping approval ratings, more people get douche chills. It's a hit, but it isn't nasty, it's your buddy turning to you and saying, "can you believe that?" before the two of you share a rueful head shake. It may be a negative ad, but the tone is positive, not hectoring. It trusts the audience to make their own conclusions. The phrase "permanent republican majority" scares me shitless, but to be honest, the phrase, "permanent democratic majority" causes a little quaking in the bowels as well, particularly if we're talking about achieving it in the same way that the republicans have clung to power. Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping for a nice long exile, one that leaves the James Dobsons behind, but I don't really want to see anyone crushed. I want Obama to win approval through the force of his correct ideas. I think he's shown that it's possible to leave the negativity and fear behind and win a campaign. It seems equally possible to govern this way. If we're going to have a permanent democratic majority, I'd rather see it come about that way.

TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner

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