Friday, January 13, 2006

Atrios, citing this enumeration of some of Samuel Alito's more troubling opinions, asks:

Why is it that white guys who comb their hair, dress well, and mostly speak in full sentences are presumed to be "decent" no matter what the evidence to the contrary?

Good question -- but it isn't "white guys," it's Republican guys, and gals. John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Condoleezza Rice operate under a blanket presumption of decency that's challenged only out here on the wild fringes of lefty advocacy; the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, by contrast -- all but one of them white and male -- operate under no such presumption.

Some of this is a matter of style: Most Republicans have mastered the technique of using politesse to disguise relentlessness and sometimes viciousness. Then again, Charles Schumer is generally polite and soft-spoken even at his most dogged, whereas President Bush often can barely conceal his mile-wide mean streak -- yet it's Schumer whose character is frequently questioned and Bush who is seen as possessing an unmistakable decency at his core.

Why is this?

Because Republicans have mastered the art of persuading the public that Democrats, individually and collectively, are evil freaks, neurotics with malign intent. The New York Times may catalog failures in the Iraq War on its front page, but Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and the Drudge Report and the New York Post make it personal, snickering and recoiling in mock-revulsion at the unhinged perfidy of twisted yet powerful Democrats (and presumed Democrats) -- compulsive liar Al Gore, power-mad Hillary Clinton, sexual predator Bill Clinton, drunk Ted Kennedy, prissy traitor John Kerry, raving old coot ex-Klansman Robert Byrd, wacko GOP-basher Dan Rather.

This is a cancer on our politics, and it would be best if it disappeared from the scene, but it won't. So Democrats won't have a fighting chance until there's a comparable effort on our side.

Sure, we on the left do a good job of spreading negative impressions of Republicans amongst ourselves. But Republicans reach the middle -- mostly, I think, because they use tools other than snark and ridicule. The right-wing specialty is a fake tone of concern -- Bill O'Reilly is the master of this, Sean Hannity is quite adept at it, and even Rush, between infantile song parodies, regularly goes solemn while sounding the alarum bells about the crimes of Democratic and liberals. This is mixed in with relentless attacks on soft targets (e.g., Ward Churchill) and campaigns based on half-truths (e.g., stories about "the war on Christmas") to paint a picture of a vast, interlinked liberal/left/Democratic conspiracy of dangerous weirdos preventing the triumph of decency and of common sense.

It all plays in Peoria.

We might have won this thing if we had built a multi-tiered, self-referential advocacy/attack media that could persuade Middle America that Samuel Alito is an evil freak and so, for that matter, is the oleaginous Lindsay Graham; until we build it, we're going to get beaten over and over again. I'm not saying I necessarily want to live in a country in which we send as much poison into the political atmosphere as the Right. I'm just saying that may be the only way to prevent Republican rule without end.

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