Salon’s David Sirota today offered an article instructing Progressives to “check their optimism” when it comes to President Obama’s inauguration speech and what it might bode for his second term. He stated that although Obama strung “together the most tried, true and poll-tested applause lines,” Sirota pointed out that no sentence “was as appropriate yet also dissonant as President Obama’s assertion that America should not “treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” Sirota states:
“On the appropriate side of the ledger, that line could be seen as a justifiable riposte to an Angry Right-Wing Hate Machine that relies on – and makes its money from – the business of slur….
However, after a speech that resurrected the themes he ran on in 2008 by rhetorically celebrating a progressive agenda, the president’s rejoinder against “name calling” seems to contradict his own deportment, considering how often his administration employs such name calling to berate the progressive movement.
Sirota accused the Right of using epithets like “socialist,” “fascist,” “Hitler,” “Magical Negro,” and “monkey” in order to “[gin] up popular anger and rais[e] money for the conservative media machine.” Yet he also points out that Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, called liberals “f*cking retarded” for pushing Obama to keep his promises on health care. As press secretary, the ever-gracious Robert Gibbs thought liberals “ought to be drug tested.” “It’s crazy,” he exclaimed.
Sirota reports Obama’s re-election campaign sent an email calling Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman “a political rookie” and “a Democrat close to Obama” called LGBT activists “naïve.” More from the Obama camp: “internet left fringe,” telling progressives “to take off their pajamas….” And the best was the slam on civil libertarians questioning the president’s extra-judicial drone war as “Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear”:
The list goes on and on – these are just a representative sample of a White House that often seems as eager to utilize obnoxious fact-free invective against progressives as the Angry Right-Wing Hate Machine.
Yet their insults for the Right are worse…those in government and out of it refer to the Right as “Nazis” with alarming regularity. I don’t appreciate anyone being called a Nazi since my dad was incarcerated in concentration camps by them. I know what the word Nazi means on a cellular level and it is not to be bandied about carelessly or callously.
This kind of name calling is painful and familiar for another reason. In 2008, many Hillary supporters were called racist with every dog-whistle the media and Obama campaign could muster: “Redneck,” “Archie Bunker,” “low information voters.” Sometimes we were called racists outright. The slurs against African-American Hillary supporters are too vile to put to paper.
Since my Jewish father was also used as slave labor, I likewise did not appreciate being told I was a racist just for supporting her and not him in 2008. I am the last person who wants to disenfranchise anyone. These accusations struck me, and many fellow travelers who had themselves fought on behalf of civil rights, as particularly cruel and unnecessary.
Pardon my dust using my family’s tragedy as a trump card, but it is but one illustration of the way both Parties and their media cohorts at MSNBC, CNN or FOX News and others play up their favorites and foam at the mouth against those whom they wish to discredit. Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews are but ugly mirrors of one another.
Sirota also seems to have forgotten this part of our recent electoral history when he fibs by saying that the left’s invective is a “bit less harsh and offensive,” than what is coming from the right. The name calling is just as bad no matter who does it. Nancy Pelosi likewise accused the Tea Party of “waving Swastikas around” at rallies (not that she would know, never having attended one). Ex-President Bush was referred to as Hitler regularly, so Obama is in good company there…
This advantages no one, except politicians and special interests who stir our fears to fill their coffers.
Sirota then goes on to justify the president’s behavior:
Perhaps, in short, it was a president who has previously asked citizens to “hold me accountable” now pledging to strike a wholly different and more constructive posture toward those progressives who do just that.
While Mr. Sirota posits that he may be guilty of “wishful thinking” via his statement above, he is correct when he decries the useless name calling that seems to plague our political debate today.
Since the President’s inauguration took place on Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday – a day in which we are reminded that the content of someone’s character is all that matters, particular attention should be paid to rebuking this behavior on both sides going forward.
After all, what kind of character is it when a man who is CBS’ New Director, John Dickerson, pens an article for Slate.com telling the President to “go for the throat” of the Republican Party, and destroy them? How can such a person then be relied upon in his own job to be an objective editor choosing the content and character of stories to be shared on a major network when he seems to be all but advising the President on a particular course of action?
I might advise the President to go for the jugular, too – but I might likewise advise legitimate conservatives, libertarians or independents to do the same with what currently passes for the Democratic Party today. There are far too many millionaires and career politicians on both sides with their hands in the pockets of special interests. When even liberal activist and actor Matt Damon feels compelled to exclaim “the fix is in,” you can be pretty sure we are out here on our own, flapping in the breeze.
There is much invective being used in the current debate on gun control, given the devastating murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School and at the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre. Yet all of the President’s Executive Orders and suggestions do not amount to a solution. And the NRA’s fear mongering and hysterics do nothing to help either.
We are distracted with name calling while the economy is still in the dirt. Both political parties seem far more concerned with kicking the can down the road than proposing solutions to the debt or spending that involve shaving more than 2% — and they still vote themselves raises while our wages remain stagnant, by the way. Economic solutions were not mentioned in the president’s speech yesterday. A job’s council was convened one year ago without one meeting being held.
I was grateful, however, that the President mentioned equal pay for women, marriage equality for all, an end to war, a solution to growing our energy sources, and altering a culture of violence – but we are not there yet. The best efforts will be meaningless if we allow pundits to dictate what we talk about rather than stomping our feet to demand (and suggest) real solutions – even if we are called names for doing so. Their strategy amounts to “Look over there! Squirrel!”
I will also remind that much of what pundits say is wrong. And I include news anchors in that condemnation, since they also feel quite comfortable inserting their opinions into the story.
Two years ago, if you recall, the Clintons were declared “over.” Meanwhile they have just been voted our two most popular politicians, with Hillary Clinton exiting her job as Secretary of State with an unheard of 69% approval rating. Bill Clinton (although I don’t get this one) was just named “father of the year” and was also arguably responsible for getting President Obama re-elected.
Beyond criticism, this is an appeal for all of us to demand accountability from each of our Representatives top to bottom. That also requires our refusal to allow ourselves to be distracted by the very invective the President cautioned us against yesterday. He is right – it is no substitute for reasoned debate – whether he is using it, or the Right is.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin: Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter’s Rude Awakening, now available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon — 10 weeks at #1 in Women in Politics Books.
“Will Hillary run in 2016? And how can we elect a qualified female president without deconstructing the sexist narrative plaguing women who strive to break the highest, hardest glass ceiling? One woman’s empowering journey provides the backdrop to this shocking exposé, traveling beyond Hillary Clinton’s historic 2008 run to reveal the media’s troubling influence over our electoral process and the brainwashing that does damage to us all.”