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Self-Delusion at the Times

James Traub, in this morning’s New York Times Magazine, takes up the question of why liberals are so full of hate for President Bush. His answer? Bush deserves it. Well, to be fair, Traub fingers a second villain: Newt Gingrich: “Our political culture has not been infected by some virus from outer space, or from TV. The carrier was Newt Gingrich. Now, I know perfectly well that Democrats like Teddy Kennedy did a fair job of dehumanizing Robert Bork in his 1987 Supreme Court hearings. But Gingrich brought delegitimation to the core of G.O.P. strategy.”
Other than this passing reference to the borking of Judge Bork, on Traub’s telling the Democrats’ infatuation with hate started just six months ago and was brought on by President Bush, who, among other hate-inspiring acts, had the temerity to “ma[k]e a theologically inspired conservative, John Ashcroft, his attorney general.” Liberals, though, should avoid going too far:
“Buying a book that has ”Bush” and ‘lie’ in the title, or even shaking your fist at a Howard Dean rally, is a deeply cathartic, ideology-affirming experience. It’s satisfying; but I don’t see how it can be a good thing, either for public debate or ultimately for the electoral prospects of the Democrats, to have liberals descend to the level of rabid conservatives.”
Can a party so self-deluded prosper? It’s hard to see how.
DEACON adds: Excellent analysis, Rocket Man. David Frum reviews Al Franken’s book Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them in the latest issue of Commentary. He notes that during the last period of Republican ascendency, Democratic governors like Bill Clinton were figuring out what the Democrats were doing wrong and how to correct the errors. In most instances, the remedy was to moderate, or at least appear to moderate, Democratic positions on certain key issues. This time, instead of engaging in any introspection, Democrats are blaming their problems on Republican lying and election theft.
Republicans during the Clinton era fell somewhere in between. Many conservatives devoted lots of psychic energy to hating Clinton, but we kept our bearings well enough to nominate non-angry, relatively mainstream candidates, thus avoiding a blow-out in 1996 and winning (however fortuitously) in 2000. I take great comfort from the apparent inability of the Democrats to act similarly. Every purchase of Al Franken’s book is a small victory for our side.

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