Partisans, Demons and Right-Wing Tropes

The Confluence has been accused of heresy by other bloggers in recent weeks.  According to these purity trolls we “took up right wing talking points” which not only discredited our writers but also our commenters, our families, friends, former babysitters and the entire PUMA coalition.  Our accusers felt free to question our liberal credentials and suggest that we were really racist Republicans.

I’m not going to name names or provide links because these accusations are bullshit.  But these false allegations demonstrate a major problem in Left Blogistan.  That problem is the partisanship trap.  Left/right ideology has been subsumed into the competition between Democrats and Republicans and both sides have demonized the other to the point that rational discussion has become virtually impossible.

Once upon a time both parties had liberal and conservative wings.  Then, beginning in the sixties and continuing through the Reagan years, the GOP became identified with conservative ideology and the Democrats became the party of liberals and progressives.  Today, “liberal Republican” is a virtual oxymoron and although there are conservative Democrats they are a minority within the party.

As documented by John Dean in “Conservatives Without Conscience,” the demonization of liberals began in the years follwing World War II and became ascendant during the “Reagan Revolution” of the eighties.  Republican conservatism suffered a setback with the election of Bill Clinton but came back strong in 1994 with Newt Gingrich and the “Contract on America.”  Hubris and the ill-advised impeachment effort ended Gingrich’s reign, but the conservative movement came back once again to reach it’s peak under George W. Bush when it acheived political hegemony.

From Reagan’s rise through Bush’s fall the conservative movement repeatedly demonized liberals as unpatriotic, corrupt and stupid.  They were so successful at defaming liberals that the term “liberal” became a dirty word in American politics and many left-of-center politicians and writers began calling themselves “progressives” instead.  But among conservatives and their media lapdogs, “liberal” and “Democrat” became synonymous.

But during these dark years the “progressive” Democrats began to demonize their opponents as well.  In progressive ideology the term “conservative” became synonymous with “Republican” and both terms referred to a stereotype of a person who is racist, sexist, greedy, jingoistic and pro-war.  Conservative leaders are caricatured as evil while the GOP rank and file is seen as stupid and bigoted.

If you go to almost any site in Left Blogistan you will see posts on every conceivable issue that argue from the premise that there is no principled and informed rationale for supporting any Republican policy, proposal or candidate.  If you agree with or support anything that originates from the right you must be stupid, immoral or both.  Republican candidates are not only assumed to be lying they are also presumed to have nefarious motives for seeking office along with everything else they say and do.

I’m not here to justify Republicans or their ideology.  I’m here to criticize the mutual demonization and the partisanship trap.  Why is this a bad thing?  First of all it’s intellectually lazy.  One purpose of demonization is to rob your opponent of legitimacy.  If you declare that your opponent is a racist you don’t have to debate the merits of his argument because everything he says is invalid ab initio.

Secondly, it makes rational discourse difficult if not impossible.  PUMAs know that being accused of racism is not a persuasive argument and tends to inhibit further discussion.  Increasing the frequency of the accusation or the volume of your voice doesn’t help either.  Now this does not mean that we can’t condemn racism, sexism and other societal ills when we see them, but we should do so cogently and without presuming to know what is in the hearts and minds of our opponents.

The situation we have now allows any connection, however tenuous, to the Republican party or a conservative thinker to permit the declaration that the argument is a “right-wing trope” and therefore illegitimate.  It also permits the demonization of total strangers, individually and in groups.  It isn’t much of a step from arguing your opponent is a racist to arguing your opponent’s argument should be prohibited, and then a little further to using extra-legal means to stop him.  It’s a slippery slope, but since you have the moral high ground if shouting him down doesn’t work, then try beating him down.

Into this morass of partisanship steps Teh Precious.  Some of the brightest minds in Left Blogistan, fully aware of the sexism, misogyny and false accusations of racism, as well as the caucus fraud and other electoral misconduct, nonetheless argue that we must support Obama because he is a Democrat.  Others, even though they refuse to support Obama, declare that we must not vote for John McCain because he is a Republican and is therefore worse than Teh Precious.

The mere fact that he is a Democrat has allowed Obama to break his pledge on public financing, reverse himself and vote for the FISA bill, appoint a Vice Presidential nominee that voted for the AUMF and speak approvingly of Ronald Reagan.  The joy which greeted yesterday’s endorsement of Obama by a man who less than a year ago was persona non grata among Democrats demonstrates that partisanship trumps ideology among Obama supporters.

The demonization of political opponents also allows Obamanation to rationalize violent imagery and dehumanization.  Even some alleged feminists who support Barack Obama have either participated in or turned a blind eye towards the misogynistic treatment of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.  The PUMA motto is “principle before party.”  That motto is the key to escaping the partisanship trap.  Adherence to liberal principles must be a precondition to our support for Democratic candidates and the Democratic party.  No longer is it good enough that they are “better than the Republicans.”  Furthermore, let us use facts and cogent argument to win debates rather than allegation and innuendo.


13 Responses to Partisans, Demons and Right-Wing Tropes

  1. sportsone234 says:

    What a really great post. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I’m not quite sure how I stumbled onto your site . . . I’m glad I did.

    I never thought I’d be using words Reagan had used years ago, but here goes . . I didn’t leave the Democratic Party . . . it left me, and millions of others with no permanent home once the DNC selected Obama over HRC.

    Of late, I have visited numerous “conservative” sites and find myself agreeing with most of what is being discussed and I would characterize myself as a political moderate who just wants what is best for the country.

    BTW, only faux feminists support Obama and denigrate Palin.
    You know how to the edge the left has moved when Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and a host of others sound and look like centrists!

  2. Brian H says: will unconfuse you.

  3. djmm says:

    Well said. Senator Obama calls himself a Democrat, but his actions speak louder than words.


  4. myiq2xu says:


    I’m not confused.

  5. stxabuela says:

    This is a thought-provoking post. Left Blogistan has become a mirror image of Right Blogistan. We “dislocated” Democrats need to remember that many of the right-wing sites are as rabidly partisan as those on the left. Caveat lector.

    I think you’ve hit upon the real problem, which is assigning labels of good and evil to the two parties. One of the definitions of faith is, “Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Once a “Repent or die!” mentality takes hold in a political process, discourse almost automatically descends into irrationality. The “Racist!” meme is merely a symptom of the problem. SOME–not all, but some–backers of Obama have crossed the line from supporter to disciple. Religious fervor has no place in politics.

    The real question is, how do we reinject rational thought into the campaign process in the future?

  6. myiq2xu says:


    Principles before party. When you remove labels from people and look at them objectively, it’s easier to see that there are lots of sinners but no saints.

  7. stxabuela says:

    Lol–the PUMA movement would be hated by both parties. The last thing either party wants is–horrors!–objectivity. This year has taught me that a truly educated voter is almost always an independent, voting across party lines. You CAN teach an old dog-even a yellow dog Dem like me–new tricks.

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    We have learned so much from this tainted election season that it will be difficult for some of us to ever go back. Voting along party lines is no longer an option. We must fully root out what and where each candidate stands before casting that precious ballot. You have made crystal clear where the PUMA trend is going. Somehow, someway, we will prevail if democracy has a chance of surviving.

  9. Dave says:

    I am completely convinced that those in power on both sides are more than happy to continue the demonization of the “other side”. They work-up the electorate with such hatred. and while we continue the name-calling, finger-pointing and blaming, we are too blinded to see that they are systematically robbing us of our country.

  10. PIBoulder says:

    My view is that some of the Democratic Party’s own sins have been revisited on itself with the candidacy of Obama. The environment that Obama is swimming in now in Democratic politics has been built up for years. Conservatives and a few liberals saw it years ago, and occasionally noted it as a concern. Going back to the administration of Bill Clinton the “race card” had been used by some Democrats to silence opposition to their ideology and policies. It was recognized then that it was a tactic, pure and simple. There was likely no racism going on, just a difference of opinion. Yet those who disagreed with those Democrats would often feel cowed into silence by this charge. They saw those who got tarred with it, and were shunned. They didn’t want to join them. Searching my memory I didn’t see much use of the “gender card” (“sexist!”) during that time, except when it was warranted. The last time the charge of sexism had any sort of currency in the broader consciousness of our society was when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court (which had an added racial component). The Clarence Thomas nomination set the template for how women’s grievances would be resolved since then: Gender issues are not worth considering unless violence occurs, or the hint of it, whether it be sexual harrassement or assault. Otherwise, who gives a damn, right? The only analog to today’s racially charged atmosphere is it’s now considered taboo to call a woman the “B” word.

    Since Thomas, being charged a racist has been a surefire way to ruin one’s reputation, whether they deserve it or not. Let’s face it. In today’s society racism is considered the greater sin than sexism. The best I can do to explain it is that in our minds we’re still atoning for the racism of the past. For whatever reason we don’t see the need to atone for the era, which only ended in recent history, when on a societal basis, socially and legally, women were considered second-class citizens to men. The thing is in our popular culture this reality isn’t portrayed that much. More often than not, popular culture has focused more on our “multicultural” sins, how we took the Indians’ land, enslaved blacks, freed the slaves but then made them legally and socially unequal, brutalized and denied basic rights. That’s the narrative that predominates. The oppression of women is by and large a forgotten part of our history outside of universities, and N.O.W. Come to think of it, why didn’t N.O.W. come out in support of Hillary Clinton? They’ve remained silent until after the conventions, and now support Obama (and of course disparage Sarah Palin). Go figure.

    Obama IMO is the least scrutinized presidential candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime. His story, eloquence, academic achievements, and the superb PR campaign he’s waged have captured the elite’s imagination and hypnotized them. Policies schmolicies. What matters is getting rid of Bush and atoning for past sins.

    What the establishment likes about Obama as opposed to past black candidates is he’s never really talked publicly about these past sins, except for the Iraq war and “Bush’s policies”. I think what he understands that past candidates didn’t is we all know what those past sins were. He doesn’t need to point them out. We all feel sufficiently guilty about them. No need to rub it in.

  11. […] the first time Corrent has permitted some truly deranged posts and comments.  And as I said before, the partisanship trap is intellectually lazy and bad for our […]

  12. lightspeed says:

    This has been a very challenging and painful election season for many of us as we have had to learn to apply our objectivity in full force. We learned to become more aware. Zen Buddhism discusses about applying awareness to observe our surroundings. Many PUMAs had to shed their loyalties to the Dems and establish a new identity as an Indy. Many found McCain’s “Country First” slogan to be enlightening and adopted the the theme as their motto. For after all, as an American voting in any election, isn’t it our responsibility to ensure that our country’s needs come first?

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