Civility for Thee

In 2012 Obama will hope that his polarizing politics, coupled with calls for bipartisanship, will trump his unpopular record.

Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

…the calls for a general toning down of rhetoric translate far more into a toning down of both an effective media opposition and a rising political obstruction to the Obama agenda. “Can’t we all get along?” in essence means, “Can’t we all just keep quiet and keep going on with the big-government, agreed-on politics of the last fifty years?”

Will that work? No.

First, Barack Obama is the most partisan politician since Richard Nixon. His brief Senate record, his health-care partisanship of 2009, his snickering amid audience applause after the “inadvertent” middle-fingering of Hillary Clinton, and his polarizing metaphorical speech (e.g., knives, guns, kicking ass, getting angry, getting in their face, hostage takers, trigger fingers, tearing up) all attest to that.

That Obama is a postracial mellifluent Chicago politician does not mean that he is not a Chicago politician. That he blasts the “fat cats,” the “stupidly” acting police, and the limb-lopping surgeons, or that his attorney general calls the American people “cowards,” is typical, not aberrant. For 2012, President Obama will have raised $1 billion in cash. He knows from 2008 (“cling to guns or religion,” “typical white person,” “gun to a knife fight”) that his own emotionalism and polarization both earn him cash and create the “them” against “us” (minorities, youth, gays, women) binaries that might draw attention away from an agenda that a majority simply does not want. Obama has always used polarizing politics, coupled with calls for bipartisanship, to great effect, and he surely — as we just saw again in October 2010 (“punish,” “backseat,” “enemies”) — cannot stop now…

…In sum, the new age of civility is a political response to an acknowledged tragic event that was apolitical. It is intended to tone down growing political and media opposition to the status quo in Washington. And bipartisan friendly dialogue cannot and will not be adhered to by those now calling for its implementation, since divisive language often achieves what an unpersuasive ideology cannot. The hate-filled rhetoric of a Michael Moore (who sat in Jimmy Carter’s reserved box at the 2004 Democratic convention) or a Cindy Sheehan (the darling of the press and Democratic politicians at Camp Casey in 2005) was cruel, lunatic, and illogical — and helped demonize President Bush as some sort of monster rather than the center-right moderate who had pressed for No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, called for religious tolerance, warned against anti-Muslim violence after 9/11, won two bipartisan congressional authorizations for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and implemented the largest medical-relief plan for Africa in U.S. history.

So I predict that 18 months from now the president himself will still be calling for a new civility in the manner of his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention — and will once again adopt the sorts of over-the-top metaphors, similes, allusions, and rough-stuff politics that got him elected senator in 2004 and president in 2008, and pushed his health-care legislation through in 2009. If anything, the language of division will be shriller even than in 2010, as the administration grasps that loaded language, coupled with calls for an end to rancor, must now do what a record of unpopular governance cannot.

Read the entire article at the National Review Online.

H/T Da Techguy

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