Sunday, March 11, 2012

Noise stage right

I've been hearing a lot of rhetoric that is incendiary and over-the-top in this election season, especially from political figures -- people who make a case for why we should elect them to represent us and run our governments. The more I hear, the louder it seems to be from the GOP. I'm not saying that Democrats never use incendiary rhetoric that's over-the-top. I'm just saying that it seems to be much more ubiquitous coming from The Right.

I heard Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, say "I'm worried about the war of this administration on the American tax payer" today. And it just sounded so absurd to me. I had this picture of President Obama ordering his generals to roll tanks down the streets, firing shells at tax payers as they go. It was just so incendiary and over-the-top. I don't even know what he meant by "war on the tax payer." Why couldn't the governor have just clearly stated what part of Obama's tax policy he disagrees with instead of equating it to a "war"?

Then when Democrat governor Martin O'Malley from Maryland responded, he said "I think these cultural -- don't like to use the term 'wars' -- these cultural, divisive, wedge issues; the roll back of women's rights; the rollback of women's access to contraception and health care; roll-back of voting rights; roll-back of workers' rights; all these things that take us back, are not strengthening the economy and creating jobs." He was just all-around more conciliatory and rational in his argument. And it struck me as to how representative this discussion was of the discussion I hear in the body politic at large.

Probably the most incendiary name-calling I hear is Republican politicians calling President Obama a socialist. The term is deliberately chosen to be derisive, yet I hear it all the time from The Right, in spite of the fact that it simply is not the truth. The money the government loaned to auto makers has been repaid and the companies are being run by the corporations, not by Obama. And the government didn't take over health care with the "reform" law, it turned health care over to private insurance companies by mandating that every American buy health insurance from them. Even Socialists themselves say that Obama is not socialistic.

I don't have any hard statistics or other empirical evidence about what direction the noise is coming from. All I have is what I read, see, and hear, which is clearly more incendiary rhetoric from The Right than from progressives. When a Democrat responds, the naturally tendency is to make a reasoned argument in support of a progressive position (Nancy Pelosi excepted). Perhaps it's because, all other things equal, there is a presumption to maintain the status quo. The burden rests on the proponent of change to demonstrate why a progressive position should be supported, and hyperbole does not make a convincing argument.

Am I the only one who sees the preponderance of over-the-top rhetoric coming from Republican politicians? If so, where would I find all these cases of Democrats using incendiary rhetoric?