As I know because I spent the majority of my life on the Democratic side of the political divide, the conservatives still can’t shake the reputation as haters that they picked up during the 1950s, thanks to the John Birchers. Interestingly, the conservatives also got tangled in the reputation of the Southern racists, even though those haters were Democrats. The Northern Democrats, with their continuum of liberal, progressive and Marxist politics, effectively merged the Republican John Birchers and the Democratic KKKers in public mind and there they’ll remain, forever entangled.
But there is a new generation of haters coming along and it’s not the conservatives. The hatred on the further Left reaches of Democratic politics is beginning to frighten the moderates. Lanny Davis, a Clinton stalwart, writes a plaintive article describing the scary venom that came his way when he worked for Joe Lieberman’s campaign:
My brief and unhappy experience with the hate and vitriol of bloggers on the liberal side of the aisle comes from the last several months I spent campaigning for a longtime friend, Joe Lieberman.
This kind of scary hatred, my dad used to tell me, comes only from the right wing–in his day from people such as the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, with his tirades against “communists and their fellow travelers.” The word “McCarthyism” became a red flag for liberals, signifying the far right’s fascistic tactics of labeling anyone a “communist” or “socialist” who favored an active federal government to help the middle class and the poor, and to level the playing field.
I came to believe that we liberals couldn’t possibly be so intolerant and hateful, because our ideology was famous for ACLU-type commitments to free speech, dissent and, especially, tolerance for those who differed with us. And in recent years–with the deadly combination of sanctimony and vitriol displayed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Michael Savage–I held on to the view that the left was inherently more tolerant and less hateful than the right.
Now, in the closing days of the Lieberman primary campaign, I have reluctantly concluded that I was wrong. The far right does not have a monopoly on bigotry and hatred and sanctimony.
Davis then gives facts to support his conclusions. While those facts may have come as a surprise to Davis, they’re not a surprise to any of us who spend time in the blogosphere. I’ve been mercifully insulated here because, almost without exception, my visitors have respected my rules about civility. Disagreements are strong, but politeness dominates, something I very much appreciate. I do worry, though, that something ugly and disturbing will appear here one day, and I do wonder how it will affect me as a blogger.