Every President has had his contingent of seemingly-professional haters, sometimes stemming from policy but sometimes stemming from the need to market an opposition persona, increase readership or an audience, or rally partisan followers to do battle to halt specific polices. The degree of hatred varies in both its intensity and justification.
Democrat Bill Clinton had his big share of professional Clinton haters (both prominent and not so prominent would say things such as “He’s not MY President…”) and Democrats decried it and some Republicans defended it. Then came Republican George W. Bush who got his share of haters, then Republicans decried it (the most typical defense was to try and go on the offense and lump those who’d strongly criticize the President on policy with the professional Bush haters as suffering from “Bush derangement syndrome” — a tidy way to try to discredit all critics suggesting they were all unreasonable and not having legitimate grounds for strong criticism) and some Democrats who decried the lack of respect for Clinton defended it.
But here in December 2008 we ‘re seeing a special kind of political hatred — way early in the game.
President Elect Barack Obama has not put his fanny in the Oval Office chair for one second yet, and there is an intensity now among some Republican conservatives to push frantically push hot buttons — a probable harbinger of what is likely to come. Amid reports that the economy is not just bad but is on the brink of tanking, their emphasis is not on policy but overt or slightly disguised overt political demonization. Using whatever they feel can stick to rally their audience and/or readership.
Believe it or not, they’re still beating the now-thinly-disguised drum over Obama’s middle name “Hussein.” Which they wouldn’t do if it had been Walker or even Schwartz. Isn’t it time to call THIS detailed in this post for what it is? It’s politics of hate couched in (barely) plausible deniability.
The good news: the bulk of Americans aren’t buying the idea that at a time when stores are pulling out all stops trying to attract frightened buyers but signs now point to it being the worst in decades, it’s time for not just politics as usual but an expansion of political hatreds based on party or personal background.
A new poll shows most Americans down on Obama even thought he isn’t even up in his office in the White House:
About 70 percent of Americans are optimistic about President-elect Barack Obama’s overall policies and believe he will be successful as president, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post opinion poll.
The survey released late Saturday indicated that more than two-thirds of those polled thought Obama would be able to make significant improvements to the health-care system.
About the same share of respondents expected him to implement policies to reduce global warming. And 64 percent said Obama will be able to end US involvement in Iraq.
More than half, 55 percent, think he is off to a good start dealing with the troubled US economy, the poll found.
Overall, 76 percent approve of the way he is handling the transition period. Even 59 percent of Republican respondents gave him a positive assessment, the survey indicated.
Note the last line.
Colin Powell’s point about GOP’s need to stop listening to radio talk show hosts (which earned him the predictable discrediting response) should be broadened: the GOP and the bulk of Americans need to reject those who try to spread a talk radio political culture that tries to whip up resentments and hatreds at a time of crisis when unity and serious criticisms of policy proposals and policies as they’re put in place is what’s needed. If the new administration’s policies are inadequate or incompetent, they’ll need to be so in specifics.
Question: Is the GOP’s long term goal audience share — or future electoral majorities?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.