Click Here North Star Writers Group
Syndicated Content.
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Page
David J. Pollay - The Happiness Answer
Cindy Droog - The Working Mom
The Laughing Chef
Mike Ball - What I've Learned So Far
Bob Batz - Senior Moments
D.F. Krause - Business Ridiculous
Stephen Silver
  Stephen's Column Archive

August 16, 2006

Our Crazies Aren’t as Crazy As Your Crazies


After Sen. Joseph Lieberman was defeated in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary by businessman Ned Lamont, the spin from the right was predictable: “The crazies have ‘hijacked’ the Democratic Party!” The counterspin from Democrats, of course, was just as predictable: “The crazies already have taken over the Republican Party!”


It all started with a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on August 8 by former Clinton White House lawyer Lanny Davis, who campaigned in Connecticut on Lieberman’s behalf. Davis wrote about some of the extreme rhetoric coming from Lamont supporters, including several anti-Semitic comments about Lieberman that were posted on liberal blogs.


This gave some conservatives an opportunity to make the entire anti-Lieberman effort look like a Jew-bashing conspiracy, with Bill O’Reilly, on his radio show, going so far as to ask why the New York Times and other media outlets hadn’t given the blog comments as much attention as they gave the similar, Jew-bashing rant by Mel Gibson.


That “Rim,” the Huffington Post commenter who accused Lieberman of belonging to the “Israel Lobby,” doesn’t have nearly the personal notoriety of an international film star seemed beside the point. But in these days of partisan warfare, this sort of stuff has become common.


The two parties are more hunkered down than ever and full of voices who blast the other side mercilessly, whether it’s from blogs, cable news, newspapers, everyday conversation or even the halls of Congress. And it’s an endless cycle: someone on one side can accuse members of the other of “mean-spiritedness,” “partisanship,” “name-calling,” and “personal attacks”- while, in the process, engaging in all four themselves.


Thus, we end up with an argument over which side has more crazies on it, how much power the crazies have and how close to the leaders of the party those crazies are. Millions of conservatives bought the latest book by that lunatic Ann Coulter – but the clearly crazy Howard Dean is chairman of the Democratic National Committee! Michael Moore sat next to Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention - but he wouldn’t have had the ear of the president in a Kerry Administration, while James Dobson does in the Bush Administration!


The Jack Abramoff scandal has ensnared numerous Republican members of Congress and other major conservative movement figures - but Democrat William Jefferson had $90,000 in bribes in his fridge! Mel Gibson was busted for drunken driving - but so was Patrick Kennedy! Democrats “politicize our national security” by talking about it on the campaign trail - but Republicans had a convention in 2004 that may as well have been subtitled “We Love 9/11!”


The debate over which side is more dominated by extremists is, at heart, a stupid one. Both sides have way too many people that argue in bad faith and traffic in hateful, partisan and extreme behavior and rhetoric.  And on both sides, those people have way too much power. But if one party is 20 percent crazy and the other party is 22 percent crazy, that isn’t a particularly meaningful distinction.


Not to mention, both sides are so eager to prove the other side wrong that they resort to straw-man arguments. This is why you see Fox News going after people like Michael Moore and obscure college professors. It’s easier to discredit liberalism by drawing an absurd caricature, as opposed to arguing with it as it is. Ditto for liberals who pretend that the obscure Christian Reconstructionist movement holds some sort of magical sway over the Republican Party. Or those who throw the word “neocon” around without knowing anything about what it means.


It also leads to layer upon layer of hypocrisy, which folds continuously upon itself. An intriguing new book, Jeremy Lott’s In Defense of Hypocrisy, attempts to get to the bottom of all this.


Some of this is an understandable temptation. To any committed believer in conservative principles, liberalism looks wrong, whether it’s the far left or mainstream liberalism itself. And it can be hard for a liberal to see the difference between the different types of conservatism, to see the difference between, say, David Brooks and Tim LaHaye. It’s all the “other” to most people who follow politics in this country. It should be incumbent upon every citizen to learn what everyone on every side really believes, and make electoral decisions accordingly.

© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS4. Request permission to publish here.