The Politics Of Hate

Ken AshfordElection 20081 Comment

I think Dave Gergen is absolutely right when he says:

"There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence… I think we're not far from that."

The McCain campaign has been whipping the angry, far-right Republican base into a frenzy. We're hearing "Hussein" references, and campaign supporters shouting "treason!," "terrorist!," and "kill him!" during official rallies.

On Wednesday, during a McCain harangue against Obama, one man could be heard yelling, "Off with his head!" On Thursday, Republicans erupted when an unhinged McCain supporter ranted about "socialists taking over our country."

What is disturbing is the encouragement from the GOP candidates themselves.  They don't calm the crowd down.  In fact, in respose to screaming idiot, McCain said he was "right."

The Republicans want an angry mob, they need hysterical supporters, and so they've stoked the fires of hate, fear, and ignorance.

The Washington Post and the Politico have good items today on the explosive, enraged emotions at this week's Republican rallies. Slate's John Dickerson described the participants' "bloodthirsty" tone.

Not all GOP strategists enjoy this.  John Weaver, McCain's former top strategist said:

…top Republicans have a responsibility to temper this behavior.

"People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Senator Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Senator McCain," Weaver said. "And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive."

Weaver added that the Republican Party should be "ashamed" if it allows this to continue.

As well they should.  With assassination plots against Obama being in the news, the last thing we need is fuel on the fire.

It is also, I might add, bad campaign strategy.  Sure, it's red meat for the already-converted.  But reasonable undecideds, who are worried about their homes and jobs, are going to be turned off by the hysterics of McCain supporters calling (literally, in some cases) for Obama's head.

UPDATE:  Recommended reading: This Has To Stop

RELATED:  He takes a while to get there, but David Brooks makes an interesting point about the GOP.  He writes that over the decades, Republicans have turned anti-intellectualism into a mantra.  The result?  They lost educated people: doctors, lawyers, even bankers.  That may have been smart, creating a lower and middle class populism (you know, the people who listen to Rush).  Sarah Palin, Brooks writes, in the master of exploiting that divide, i.e. catering to the "Joe Six Pack"s while scoffing at the intellectual elite.

But then, in terms of policy, Republicans did nothing for those common people:

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.

I think that's quite right.

LATE UPDATE:  Message received.  McCain is telling his crowds to cool it and respect Obama.  But note how some of them "boo".

And there's this late report:

Indeed, he just snatched the microphone out the hands of a woman who began her question with, "I'm scared of Barack Obama… he's an Arab terrorist…"

"No, no ma'am," he interrupted. "He's a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements."