Hyperpartisanship Continues To Ruin Our Political Culture And Our Country, And We’re Letting It Happen

The tragedy in Florida last week revealed once again how hyperpartisanship is destroying our politics and harming the country.

Commenting on Wall Street Journal editorial regarding the latest mass shooting at an American public school, Dave Schuler has a suggestion that applies to how people react not only to events such as this but pretty much any political topic:

Let me propose one additional idea: dial it down. Stop cranking the outrage to 11. Politics is not war. People with whom you disagree politically are not the enemy. When you raise the temperature high enough, it’s inevitable that some unbalanced individuals reach the boiling point and in a country of nearly 330 million people there are bound to be a certain number of unbalanced individuals.

As I note in a comment to Dave’s post, I’m not at all optimistic about the prospects for this happening at any point in the near future.

As the news about what was happening in Florida began to unfold on Wednesday afternoon, I found myself surfing through my Twitter timeline (yes, I know this was probably a big mistake) and it was apparent even before we knew the full scope of what had happened, and while the dead and injured were still being cared for on the scene as police continued to search the large campus that makes up the school that things were going to go about as you’d expect them to on social media. Almost immediate people on both sides of the debate that inevitably gets reignited every time one of these events occurs began taking sides, casting blame, and attacking each other in a pattern that has become sadly predictable. On one side, of course, are those who argue that events like this are a symptom of gun laws that make it far too easy for people who shouldn’t have access to weapons of any kind to acquire them legally as long as they can pass a criminal background check. On the other side are those who see any suggestion that we consider a seemingly reasonable idea like expanding background checks to cover situations they currently miss or banning items such as bump stocks that allow people to turn a standard semi-automatic rifle into something resembling a fully automatic weapon to be “gun grabbing” that must be resisted at all cost. As all debates on this subject inevitably do, it wasn’t long before I could see everyone who engaged in a debate in was falling into an all familiar pattern. I even fell into the trap myself to some extent the next morning when I posted what I thought at the time, and still consider it to be a perfectly reasonable question that got spread far and wide thanks largely to the fact that it was retweeted by, among others, CNN anchor Jake Tapper. In the days that have followed, we’ve seen the same reactions, anger, and accusations tossed about by all manner of pundits and politicians on cable news and by commenters on the Internet. Meanwhile, the parents and families of the children and teachers killed in Parkland are just beginning to grieve, and we’re no closer to an “answer” to the problem of mass shootings than we were before Nikolas Cruz walked into his former High School.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this, of course, and it predates both social media and, in at least some instances, even the rise of cable news in the 80s and 90s. In recent years, though, and especially over the past two decades, its a phenomenon that has clearly gotten worse and only seems destined to get worse as times go on.

Perhaps its first incarnation in the social media era, though, occurred in January 2011 when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and seriously injured in an incident that killed six people and injured thirteen others. Within less than an hour, after news of the incident began to spread across social media, people on both sides of the aisle began to assign blame even though they had no evidence to base it on. Among the first things that people jumped on was a map that had been produced by Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee SarahPAC that had spent the time before the 2010 midterms raising money for Republicans challenging Democrats in vulnerable districts, including Giffords. As part of that project, they published and mailed to supporters a map of the United States that included twenty districts across the nation they were concentrating on with targets over the general location of those districts. Giffords’ district was one of those districts, and the PAC apparently did give some money to the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged her in November 2010. As if on cue, various media pundits and others, mostly on the left, were posting the map and essentially trying to link the shooting to the map. As James Joyner and others pointed out at the time, though, the idea of a “target district” and the use of similar-looking map had been fairly common in political fundraising for a long time before Sarah Palin came along. Additionally, at the time the meme began circulating there was no evidence that the shooter had any political motive behind the shooting or that he had ever even seen the map prior to the shooting. As we learned in the days after the shooting, though, the perpetrator of that attack, Jared Loughner, had political views that were a bizarre mixture of far left, far right, and conspiracy theories. There’s was also anecdotal evidence that he was mentally disturbed, something that was confirmed as the case against him unfolded. Finally, it became clear that Loughner had an obsession with Giffords that existed long before anyone outside of Alaska ever heard of Sarah Palin. In other words, there was simply no evidence to support the idea that there was any connection at all between Loughner, the shooting, and the map produced by SarahPAC. As I said a few days after the shooting, “Sarah Palin is not responsible for what happened in Tuscon on Saturday, she neither pulled the trigger nor said anything that comes even close to incitement to violence.” Nonetheless, the pattern was set and we’ve seen it erupt time again time after time in response to similar shooting incidents. As such, it was inevitable that it would happen again in the wake of Wednesday’s tragedy.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to the gun control debate, of course, any more than it is unique to the era of social media and cable news channels that have discovered that putting up pundits from two opposite sides will bring along with it the types of argument that drive up viewership and ratings. One can point to any number of other political issues where this phenomenon has existed for longer than it has in connection with the gun debate, including abortion rights and others social issues and even debates over seemingly run-of-the-mill policy issues such as economics, foreign policy, and other topics that one would have thought would be far too boring to raise passions so highly. It’s also a phenomenon that gets cranked up to eleven during election season, and in that case it’s hardly a new development given the fact that we can point to elections that predate the era of the Internet, television, and even radio that were far more divisive, such as the Election of 1800 and, of course, the Election of 1860, one that proved to be so divisive that its result ended up being the match that set the nation toward a war that remains the bloodiest in our history. Finally, the most recent Presidential election has set off battles and caused divisions that are likely to take a long time to heal even if Donald Trump ends up being only a one-term President. In that sense, I suppose, this kind of hyperpartisanship is as American as apple pie. The problem is that it seems to be getting worse and threatens to get even worse as time goes on.

This also isn’t an issue new to the pages of OTB itself. I’ve discussed several times before  — see here, here, and here for just three examples — and, as I’ve noted each time the dangers of this hyperpartisan approach to politics for both the nation and the culture are rather obvious. Any political philosophy where, by default, you view the people you disagree with not just as opponents in a political debate but as evil, wrong, and stupid is one guaranteed to create the conditions that make accomplishing anything pretty much impossible. In a nation of more than 300 million citizens and roughly 235 million people who are at least eligible to vote there are inevitably going to be issued on which people disagree, and in many cases there are far more than just “two sides” to a given issue. Additionally, the people who do vote are going to be influenced not only by what they see on television and read online and elsewhere, but also by any number of other factors. In that kind of environment, the idea that any one of us have all the right answers and nothing to learn from people who disagree with is is both dangerously arrogant and unrealistic, but incompatible with the pluralistic representative democracy we live in. Nonetheless, in many respects, this is what modern American politics has been reduced to, and it only seems likely to be getting worse before it gets better.

The divisions that this hyperpartisanship is rooted in are endlessly reinforced by pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle who eagerly turn their opponents into enemies who must be ridiculed endlessly and destroyed. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump excelled in this particular skill, especially during the race for the Republican nomination that during which openly attacked a wide variety of groups and people and, attacked his opponents not based on the merits of their ideas, but in exceedingly distasteful, personal ways that seemed more appropriate for a fight between two children on a playground than a Presidential debate involving adults with wide experience in the political and business worlds.  Trump wasn’t doing anything new, of course, he was just bringing out onto the debate stage and the speaking circuit the same political vulgarity that, by 2016, has become such a common part of America’s political culture. In that respect, while Trump’s victory in 2016 was something that surprised political analysts and pollsters, it shouldn’t be surprising that he succeeded because he was speaking the language of modern American politics better than his opponents did and he used it to his advantage that nobody had before. Unfortunately, his success means that others are likely to engage in similar actions in the future.

The dangers of this kind of hyperpartisanship should be obvious. A world where the people you disagree with are targets for venomous and quite often highly personal attacks is one where that kind of behavior is likely to spread further into our culture and make a political compromise on even the most milquetoast of political issues. Perhaps the best example of that came at various times during the Obama Administration after the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives when the nation was brought to the brink of a serious financial crisis because of the fact that hyperpartisanship was leading a significant number of Republicans in Congress to refuse to move even an inch on issues that clearly should be easy to resolve under normal circumstances. The best examples of this came, of course, can be found in two examples that fell just over two years apart. In the summer of 2011 the battle over raising the debt ceiling, something that had largely gone without consequence or rancor in the past, turned into such a standoff that it led the rating agencies to downgrade the rating of America’s debt for the first time in history. Two years later, Ted Cruz and others on the right held the budget for the new Fiscal Year hostage to the impossible to achieve the goal of “defunding” the Affordable Care Act as part of a last-ditch political effort to stick a knife in the back of the President’s signature piece of legislation. That standoff, of course, led to a sixteen-day government shutdown that only ended when it threatened to run into another debt ceiling deadline that forced Congress to act whether it wanted to or not. Both incidents and several others that occurred during the Obama Administration demonstrated quite succinctly the practical results of a hyperpartisanship fed by talk radio, cable news, and politically biased websites disguised as news organizations. One would have thought that our experiences during those eight years would have taught us something, but it clearly didn’t.

None of this is to suggest, of course, that every opinion is equal, of course. When someone’s approach to politics is rooted in racism, xenophobia, and bias and hatred for those different from them, it’s entirely legitimate for political opponents to point this out and use it as a point of attack. The same is true of policy ideas that amount to nothing but discriminating against people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other factors that are, in the end, not relevant to the discussion at hand. In those cases, I’d submit that it is perfectly legitimate to believe that these ideas have no place in the public square. One of the dangers of a politician like Donald Trump, for example, is the fact that he has normalized many of these opinions and made the people who hold them feel free to openly say things that they might have only said among their own kind in the past. The best example of that, of course, can be seen in the President’s incredibly inexcusable response to last summer’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which many on the far-right saw as a signal that their racism and violent rhetoric was okay because it was being endorsed and excused by the President of the United States. People are free to hold and express these opinions, of course, but that doesn’t mean they should expect or deserve to be immune criticism for their beliefs. Indeed, in most cases, it is the duty of each one of us to call these people out and to make sure that their hatred doesn’t go unanswered.

When it comes to most issues and most political differences, though, it’s important to recognize that not everyone who disagrees with you on policy or philosophy is evil, stupid, or operating on some ulterior motive. For one thing, most Americans aren’t really “deep thinkers” when it comes to most political issues. They tend to vote based on things such as the state of the economy and their own personal financial situation. The emotional “hot button” issues that form the basis for the hyper-partisanship we find ourselves in the middle of now is mostly intended to appeal to the most ideological committed segments of the respective major political parties. Additionally, there is quite often more than one side to any political opinion, and many of us become guilty of tuning opposing voices out or ascribing the worst possible motives to people who disagree with us. This is as true of the gun control debate as it is when it comes to issues such as Voter ID, foreign policy, and even those “hot button” social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights. Unfortunately, it isn’t in the interest of politicians or the ideologically committed on either side to recognize this most of the time. They profit, both financially and politically, from fanning the flames of partisanship, and, quite often, we all end up helping them even when we don’t mean to.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Dave Schuler has chosen to stick his head in the sand and studiously ignore the greatest political crisis since at least Watergate.

    So, short answer: no. Because the rhetoric is not overheated on the anti-Trump side, none of us says anything harsher than what people like Gerson and Rubin and Will and Scarborough- all conservative Republicans – have to say. The President of the United States is a criminal, an incompetent, a pathological liar, a racist, a misogynist and rather stupid to top it off. And yes, he is a traitor. That’s not rhetoric, that’s description.

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  2. edmondo says:

    Hyperpartisanship Continues To Ruin Our Political Culture And Our Country, And We’re Letting It Happen

    That’s obvious to anyone who has read your Comments section over the last two years. Kettle, meet pot.

    3
  3. MBunge says:

    Physician, heal thyself. Has Donald Trump done ONE good thing in the last two years? Has any Trump critic done ONE wrong thing in the last two years? You wouldn’t know it by reading OTB.

    Instead you continue to feed the delusions and displaced anger of people like Michael Reynolds.

    I’ve posted this before but apparently I can’t do it enough. George W. Bush got hundreds of thousands of people killed for what we now know was no good reason. He authorized spying on Americans without warrants and torturing prisoners. He led this nation into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet through all that, and even when his approval numbers were significantly WORSE than anything we’ve yet seen with Trump, this place was never even half as negative about Bush the Younger as it has been about Trump.

    You don’t need to keep writing about hyperpartisanship. You need to stop practicing it.

    Mike

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    These are the descriptors I used above:

    criminal
    incompetent
    pathological liar
    racist
    misogynist
    rather stupid
    traitor.

    Show me the one that’s incorrect.

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  5. Kathy says:

    I hesitate to bring up accident investigations again, lest it be seen as a cure-all (which it isn’t), but there are lessons that can be applied here.

    Top-most is this: look for solutions that will solve the problem, not for people to blame, people to punish, people to scapegoat, or “solutions” that don’t solve the problem.

    For example: calling for better background checks, or more restrictive gun laws, is a valid plausible, albeit partial, solution. Yelling that any politician that has taken any money from the gun lobby is a traitor, a murderer, and an accomplice, is not.

    But in the first place, the whole phenomenon of mass shootings, school massacres included, has to be studied, in order to determine the various causes. Without that, you cannot adequately formulate solutions that will work.

    The goal is to eliminate or at least vastly reduce the instances of deaths, not to punish the people not directly involved in them, or to gain political advantage over the other party.

    4
  6. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @MBunge:

    You don’t need to keep writing about hyperpartisanship, you need to stop practicing it.

    While I disagree, that is my option to do so.
    In the meantime, let me make a modest suggestion:
    If it (OTB commentary) pisses you off so much, I suggest you change the channel.

    12
  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Yet through all that, and even when his approval numbers were significantly WORSE than anything we’ve yet seen with Trump, this place was never even half as negative about Bush the Younger as it has been about Trump.

    Want to know why? Because, even on his worst day (and there were many of those), I never doubted that GW Bush was doing what he, at least, felt was in the best interests of America. He got that wrong, no doubt, and in spectacular fashion, but his motives, his patriotism, his character I never doubted. I violently disagreed with his policies, and that was the extent of it.

    With Trump (again, a man whom I know, whose character I am intimately acquainted with in a way that you will never, ever be), I have had from the outset – and maintain now – ample cause to believe that the man himself, his most basic character traits, render him unfit for office. Frankly, they render him unfit to share the company of fellow human beings.

    Bush’s actions, his reactionary policy choices are what rendered him unfit for office. His basic character hasn’t been and still isn’t – from my perspective – in doubt.

    Trump’s basic character – the personality traits that define who he is as a human being – render him unfit for office. There is an enormous difference in those two scenarios.

    Seriously, though, why are you so scope locked on fellating Trump lately? What about the man do you find appealing? I’d really like to know.

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  8. @MBunge: I would gladly praise Trump if he did anything that you would reverse our foreign deployments, roll back the security state, and engage in fiscally responsible policies.

    Your critiques of Bush are fair. But Trump is doing nothing especially different. The only thing I can say is that, thank God, he has not started any new wars. We remain entrenched in Afghanistan. As the news this week shows, we are involved in Syria, and rhetorically Trump is more belligerent than was Bush in regards to North Korea.

    Trump has done nothing about the security state and, moreover, praises Guantanamo. There is nothing about this presidency that seeks to rectify federal overreach in these areas.

    Trump’s tax plan is the same kind of recklessness, in terms of fiscal policy, that helped get us into the Great Recession. Remember: all of Bush’s policies (tax cuts, Medicare Part D, the various wars) were debt-funded, just like this tax cut.

    I agree, this site, whether speaking for myself or for other regular contributors, was less critical of Bush.

    I think what you are seeing is that we learned a lot of lessons with Bush. I know I did.

    But, as HarvardLaw92 correctly notes, Trump has major deficiencies that go well beyond any of Bush’s policy problems.

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  9. michael reynolds says:

    We were kinder to Bush because he was just a dummy who made stupid decisions. Bush did not commit adultery with a porn star while his wife was recovering from childbirth and then arrange to have her silenced by his lawyer. Bush did not ridicule handicapped people. He did not offer words of sympathy for Nazis. He did not support a child molester as Senator from Alabama. He did not lie again and again and again and again about Russian interference, about Russian support for his candidacy. I could go on and on and on.

    George W. Bush was just a bad president; Trump is human garbage and a danger to this country and the peace of the world.

    20
  10. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Seriously, though, why are you so scope locked on fellating Trump lately? What about the man do you find appealing?

    @MBunge’s version of events was that he would take the brave, contrarian stand of supporting Trump and all we silly liberals would come to see how right he was and praise him. Instead it’s slowly beginning to dawn on Bung that none of that is happening. He’s been desperately trying to rejoin polite society, “Come on, guys, Trump’s not so bad. . . Right? Right?” He was so sure he was right. So sure he’d be vindicated.

    10
  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yea, he made that pretty clear here. We’re witnessing one gigantic fit of pique.

    10
  12. @HarvardLaw92: Indeed.

    4
  13. @michael reynolds: Quite frankly, I have never been able to fully understand where he is coming from. I get hints of anti-neoliberalism alongside criticisms of Bush (and a lot of HRC hate). He also seems to like Trump and the same time he sees him as a result born of a flawed system, and therefore Trump is punishment.

    Beyond that, however, exactly what the overarching point he is trying to make is lost.

    One thing is clear: I get under his skin. Why he keeps reading my posts (or, hanging around OTB in general) is beyond me.

    12
  14. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s the American contrarian nihilist approach to politics. Trump is Good because Hillary is Bad and Russian Hegemony is Good because American Hegemony is bad, and if the system collapses, a Utopia must follow. It’s childlike and pathetic.

    7
  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I don’t think @MBunge has an ideology or a position, he’s joined a cult of personality not a think tank. Remember the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh? Used to drive around in one of 93 Rolls Royces while insisting his cult members surrender all property? And of course he’d screw the more attractive acolytes. Bunge is to Trump as some idiot flower child was to the Baghwan. This isn’t about politics, this is religious devotion, idolatry. Politics is just the excuse for Bunge to surrender himself to the cult.

    He does seem to have particular dislike of you, which I assume is because of your academic accomplishments. I imagine they make him feel inferior, which is silly, when you think of it: he’s not just intellectually outclassed by a PhD poli-sci professor, he’s intellectually outclassed by a high school drop out kidlit hack.

    9
  16. Kathy says:

    One more thing, a bit of a disagreement: the outrage and anger need to be dialed up, not down. aimed squarely at the government, with a firm demand it had better start to do something about these mass shootings. The politicians aren’t even pretending to be looking for a solution.

    9
  17. Andy says:

    Yeah, the hyperpartisanship is really, really bad. Actually, I wouldn’t even say it’s partisan anymore, it’s taking everything over.

    I like conversation and debate. I like engaging with people who disagree with me. But most the time it’s a useless chore because there is so rarely an actual debate. In many forums (including, often, in this one), the first responses are strawmen or an attempt to impugn my motives or even personal attacks (or all three).

    Who has time for that?

    2
  18. Stormy Dragon says:

    Let me propose one additional idea: dial it down. Stop cranking the outrage to 11. Politics is not war. People with whom you disagree politically are not the enemy. When you raise the temperature high enough, it’s inevitable that some unbalanced individuals reach the boiling point and in a country of nearly 330 million people there are bound to be a certain number of unbalanced individuals.

    It’s easy to say this with regards to a situation where Dave Shuler is happy with the status quo. i’d like to see an example of him proposing “hey, let’s just calm down and take it” in a case where the status quo favors an opposing side of the issue.

    3
  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    MBunge is not a nihilist. I really wish people would stop using that term for anyone they disagree with politically.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    Re your tweet to which you link above asking that people who say we must do “something” state something realistic we can do:

    Vote for Democrats.

    8
  21. Mikey says:

    @Andy:

    Who has time for that?

    I’ve pretty much stopped engaging these issues on social media too. Nobody changes their mind. What’s the point? I just scroll by.

    Here I mostly just vent. Sometimes there are interesting conversations, for example I like talking with Pearce even if we disagree sometimes. I wish it still worked that way on the big social media sites, but it hasn’t for a long time so I’ve just given up on them.

    4
  22. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    One more thing, a bit of a disagreement: the outrage and anger need to be dialed up, not down. aimed squarely at the government, with a firm demand it had better start to do something about these mass shootings. The politicians aren’t even pretending to be looking for a solution.

    Why? What does more outrage actually accomplish? There’s ample evidence that outrage is a bad method for winning converts. Besides signaling that you really really care about something, how is it useful?

  23. gVOR08 says:

    Actually, Doug, I’ve come around to blaming voters on the other side a deal less. They are ignorant and gullible. That’s a constant in the human condition. As you point out, we’ve had hugely divisive politics throughout our history. I blame the Republican elites. They are supposed to lead. They’ve chosen to pander.

    Republicans depend on this situation to fire up base turnout. Without all this cultural crap they’d have to run on policy, which would get them the vote of the 1% and a few loyal servitors. There are partisan liberal media, left leaning think tanks, and radical web sites. But the left has nothing like the industry of FOX news, Breibart, et al; the wingnut welfare organizations; and the incredible swamp of RW web sites, now dug deeper by Russian bots. There are, of course, exceptions, but do you see Republican national office holders contradicting the nonsense? Do you see them damping down the crazy? The big example is McCain telling the crazy lady that Obama wasn’t born in Kenya. That was eleven years ago. What else you got.

    I used to have some fondness for Lindsay Graham. He was bad on policy, but he had a sense of humor and some sharp observations. I’ve lately come to hate the pandering little b**tard. Can you blame me?

    8
  24. Tyrell says:

    The toxic, acidic, negative, and corrosive atmosphere in Washington these days is a shame and not what I grew up with.
    I recall an election a few years ago (state office) in which both candidates were so respectful that they said that they would have voted for each other if they were not running for office. Both actually appeared together on election night and worked together on some activities afterwards. Try to find that nowadays in Washington. There has always been some poking back and forth at each other in public: Lincoln – Douglas, Reagan – O’Neil, Humphrey – Johnson. But behind the scenes, they got together for some nice drinks and good food – then worked things out and got things done. Give me the smoke filled rooms any day.
    One factor that has made things more divisive is the lobbying (money). There used to be an attitude of get together and get it done for the country.
    The other factor is the divisive, negative main stream news that seems to try and create sensationalist arguing and fighting – much like a Springer show.
    The commentators today berate and holler at each other and their guests. And the social sites that are being used for vicious attacks on people, salacious gossip, and spiteful comments: from politicians to 5th graders. This was not the original intent of the social media.
    I now go to news sites that are positive, give facts, and is educational. These sites do not leave me mad or depressed.

  25. Gustopher says:

    Hyper-partisanship got the Republicans where they are today — in control of the White House, both branches of Congress, and with a right leaning Supreme Court.

    Why would they stop?

    And why wouldn’t the Democrats emulate it, if only in response to it? How do you not find Rep. Devin Nunes to be actually offensive, rather than merely someone with a different view on where America should go?

    13
  26. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds: thanks for proving the point.

  27. bob@younsgtown says:

    @Andy:
    I, for one, appreciated our “conversation” on security clearances. It is interactions like that which draw me to this site.

    4
  28. Andy says:

    @bob@younsgtown:

    Agreed!

    1
  29. TM01 says:

    So what you’re saying is… Opposition to Obama wasn’t all rooted in racism.
    Trump isn’t Hitler. Trump isn’t a dictator. Trump’s supporters aren’t all racists or white supremacists. Altering decades of failed foreign policy is not traitorous. Tax reform is not paying off The Rich. The Koch brothers are not evil. BusHitler was dumb. Stop saying Faux News. Rush Limbaugh is NOT a big fat idiot. Paul Ryan does not want to push granny off a cliff. Republicans don’t want to see people starving on the streets. Mitt Romney does not want to ban tampons or kill Big Bird. There is no Republican War on Women. Cutting spending is not literally killing blacks, women, children, etc. Enforcing immigration law is not racist. Opposing “common sense” gun control does not mean Republicans like seeing dead children. The NRA is not responsible for school shootings.

    I could go on, but you get the point.

    2
  30. TM01 says:

    Stop saying “fellating Trump”.

    You’re part of the problem.

    1
  31. JK Brown says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I would gladly praise Trump if he did anything that you would reverse our foreign deployments, roll back the security state, and engage in fiscally responsible policies.

    So only if Trump were to be unlike any US President in the last 86 years? Got it. Even Reagan, the only deviation from the trend, couldn’t meet your requirements.

    Charles Murray used the opposite tact in the summer of 2016 in hopes of getting Republicans to vote for Hillary instead of Trump.

    Without getting into the comparative defects of Clinton and Trump (disclosure: I’m #NeverTrump), I think it’s useful to remind everyone of the ways in which having a Republican president hasn’t made all that much difference for the last fifty years, with Ronald Reagan as the one exception.

    All in all, fiscally and in growth of the administrative state, excepting Reagan, there has been little difference between Republicans and Democrats since at least Ike.

    Based on your other writings here, I would say you are not against the increasing interventionism and growth of the administrative state toward the “compulsory economy” form of socialism.

  32. Kathy says:

    @Andy: Outrage tends to be a good way to make demands. The American people ought to demand their government, at all levels, do something serious to stop or minimize these sporadic massacres

    4
  33. edmondo says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Why he keeps reading my posts (or, hanging around OTB in general) is beyond me.

    So only those who agree with you all the time are welcome? I have to admit that this is the first time I have ever seen a website tell their readers to “Fvck off” but I will definitely leave you to wallow in your self-reinforcing loop with Michael Reynolds and his ilk. Adios.

    1
  34. @edmondo:

    So only those who agree with you all the time are welcome?

    Not at all. But his comments indicate that he does not like me, or my opinions/view/analysis, so why does he read them? Plus, his complaints are both unhelpful and unoriginal.

    Life is short and the internet vast–why dwell here if it makes him miserable?

    8
  35. @JK Brown:

    So only if Trump were to be unlike any US President in the last 86 years? Got it. Even Reagan, the only deviation from the trend, couldn’t meet your requirements.

    How is that relevant? Especially in light of the comment I was responding to?

    He was making a contract with George W. Bush, as was I.

    Based on your other writings here, I would say you are not against the increasing interventionism and growth of the administrative state toward the “compulsory economy” form of socialism.

    You will need to elaborate on that.

    6
  36. michael reynolds says:

    Pleas for civility from people who deliberately elected the most toxic, nastiest piece of work they could find and put him in the White House.

    Amazing.

    15
  37. wr says:

    @edmondo: I’d explain how ordering someone from a site and wondering why he comes here are two very different things, but since that might stop you from going away and no longer leaving your trail of right wing slime I think I won’t…

    5
  38. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    Outrage tends to be a good way to make demands. The American people ought to demand their government, at all levels, do something serious to stop or minimize these sporadic massacres

    I don’t agree that outrage is a good way to make demands. When someone wants me to do something, and they act outraged about it, I’m actually less inclined to do what they want me to do.

    As far as the specific example of “doing something” about mass shootings, the outrage hasn’t worked.

  39. gVOR08 says:

    @JK Brown: I have no idea why you exempt Reagan from that screed.

    2
  40. Ratufa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But his comments indicate that he does not like me, or my opinions/view/analysis, so why does he read them?

    I think that is the worse single sentence of yours that I’ve read. It’s also an ironic thing to say in the context of a discussion about Schuler’s article bemoaning hyperpartisanship.

    There are various reasons why people might want to read opinions & analysis that they disagree with. For example, to be better able to argue against those views and understand their basis. Some people may even want to test how justified their own views are. The widely practiced alternative, only reading content that confirms one’s existing views, is terrible.

    Note that I’m not saying that one should take seriously the arguments of known coney catchers, such as Breitbart, Fox News, our Very Stable Genius in Chief, etc.

    1
  41. @Ratufa: Please note the context. I am not suggesting we should eschew reading things we disagree with. I am talking here about a person who, over the course of years (and especially the last two) has not been an honest interlocutor. I have tried to directly engage him (even as recently as today in this thread, in fact). Yet, he tends to respond to my posts in a fairly confrontational and nonconstructive way. There comes a point where you wonder what the point is of him reading what I write. He clearly does not respect my point of view but neither does he actively engage what I write. At some point he started mostly just posting these weird insulting diatribes that are vaguely patronizing. (I means, seriously, what was this even trying to say?).

    As such, it is not unreasonable of me to ask why he reads what I write. If someone tells you over and over again that what you write is wrong and pointless, it is not unreasonable to ask at some point why they read what you write.

    Quite frankly, I try to be a reasonable and patient participant in these discussions (although I will admit to getting cranky now and again). Still, at some point am I not entitled to ask why an nonconstructive critic keeps saying versions of the same thing to me over and over? (I mostly ignore him, to be honest).

    8
  42. Gustopher says:

    @TM01:

    So what you’re saying is… Opposition to Obama wasn’t all rooted in racism.

    Not all of it. No one ever claimed all of it was. But some of it definitely was.

    Trump isn’t Hitler.

    Correct. He is not as competent, among things. And has yet to set up gas chambers.

    Trump isn’t a dictator.

    He has strong authoritarian leanings, and threatens to use the power of the government against his political opponents. But, not yet a dictator.

    Trump’s supporters aren’t all racists or white supremacists.

    Unfortunately, many of them are. Not all Trump supporters are white supremacists, but pretty much every white supremacist is a Trump supporter.

    The Koch brothers are not evil.

    No, you’re wrong there. They are genuinely evil.

    BusHitler was dumb.

    Oh, god was that guy an idiot.

    Oh, you meant the phrase “Bushitler” itself. Yes, that’s dumb too.

    Stop saying Faux News.

    When they actually report news, rather than just claiming to report news, we can talk about this. Fox News viewers are the least informed about… well… news.

    Rush Limbaugh is NOT a big fat idiot

    Is he not big? And fat? And an idiot?

    Paul Ryan does not want to push granny off a cliff.

    He doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. He does support policies that will push granny into poverty though. Have we checked to see if he is investing in pet food companies?

    Republicans don’t want to see people starving on the streets.

    Correct. They want people to starve somewhere else, unseen.

    The NRA is not responsible for school shootings.

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. The NRA is responsible for the massive numbers of guns in our society, and the lack of restrictions on weapons designed for killing a lot of people in a short time.

    They haven’t actually gone out and shot children, or literally put the guns in the hands of other children, but they have ensured that children (and anyone else) will have relatively easy access to extremely powerful and effective guns.

    7
  43. Kylopod says:

    @Ratufa:

    There are various reasons why people might want to read opinions & analysis that they disagree with. For example, to be better able to argue against those views and understand their basis. Some people may even want to test how justified their own views are. The widely practiced alternative, only reading content that confirms one’s existing views, is terrible.

    If you seriously believe the main problem posed by our conversations with MBunge is an insufficient willingness on our part to listen to what he has to say, you haven’t been paying attention. If anything, the people here engage him far more than he engages them. For example, last year when he described Trump as “one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history,” his comment provoked several eloquent replies dismantling his argument. How did he respond? He didn’t. He made no further comments to the thread at all, and pretty soon he was back in a new thread acting as if nothing had happened. Furthermore, a few months later he was making precisely the same point that he had already seen being taken apart, showing no evidence of even having read the rebuttals.

    This is not an aberration. This is how he always behaves, again and again and again. And when he does engage in some back-and-forth, it is usually by ignoring the most substantive replies and focusing instead on the insults.

    MBunge stands out here only by his peculiar point of view, but his behavior is echoed by numerous right-wing commenters here, including J-E-N-O-S, JKB, Guarneri, Jack, Jake, and several others (as well as a few weird supposed lefties like The_Q). Yes, some of the liberal commenters here are quick to resort to insults (and even I get a little tired of the “He must be a Russian bot” trope), but for the most part the people here are more than willing to engage these commenters, but they don’t get the same in return. What happens is that the commenters make some false or outlandish claim, the other people here bring evidence decisively destroying their argument, and then the commenters simply flee the thread, with neither apology nor rebuttal–then before long they’re back in a new thread acting as if nothing has happened.

    What we’re dealing with here is a level of delusion so extreme that these commenters remain oblivious to the fact that the only thing they ever accomplish here is getting their asses handed to them, over and over and over. They’re relentless and persistent but have no idea how to actually defend their arguments against factual and rational objections, because they’re so rock-certain of the truth of their own views they think that by simply asserting them they’re automatically blowing us all away. Nothing that we say gets to them because they retain the unshakable conviction at the outset that we’re all a bunch of sheep docilely following the herd. And the reason they believe that is, to a large extent, because that’s what they’ve been told to believe.

    It should be obvious that people like this have forfeited the right to be taken seriously. That’s not being closeminded. On the contrary, it is a fundamental rejection of closemindedness. If anything, the people here have bent over backwards to engage people like MBunge in conversation when he’s demonstrated numerous times he has no intention of returning the favor.

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  44. grumpy realist says:

    As many of you know, I’ve been taking a hiatus from US politics to read a lot on the whole Brexit mess in the U.K. and sadly enough, it’s just as bad over there, if not worse. A lot of it is egged on by the tabloids, who take positions which are sadly biased, headlines which are even more biased, and a total unwillingness to accept that any criticism of what they say isn’t the work of Fifth Columnists (the dreaded “stab in the back.”) Britain has basically been divided into two, and I don’t see how they’re going to come back together again without something like a full economic depression or even a civil war.

    When people get sucked into a mindset of self-pity and I-deserve-X, it’s far easier to find someone else to blame for your problems when it all turns turtle, rather than admit any of it being your own responsibility.

    I have friends who are trashing their own lives the same way–self-pity and an unwillingness to admit that they might have anything to do with the situation.

    I just hope we survive Trump.

    3
  45. An Interested Party says:

    Even Reagan, the only deviation from the trend, couldn’t meet your requirements.

    Oh really? Reagan reversed foreign deployments, rolled back the security state, and engaged in fiscally responsible policies(!!!)? I’d be curious to know what dream world you live in…

    6
  46. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod: in a sense, Trump is highly accomplished. I mean, how many people in history have bankrupted a casino from the house side of the table?

    If Trump had really been lucky, his dad would have put the fortune into a trust, which he wasn’t allowed to touch the principal of. Then he wouldn’t have gone bankrupt five times, and would be much richer than he actually is, and wouldn’t be beholden to illegal Russian money.

    1
  47. Lit3Bolt says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The common thread is Murdoch. The new William Randolph Hearst for our new Gilded Age. Murdoch is utterly amoral and indifferent, and this has infected all of his consumers.

    3
  48. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m sorry. I’m just chuckling with amusement at the “who, us?” response this post has provoked from a commentariat that routinely describes mainstream Republicans as sociopaths, racists, uncaring monsters, greedy, selfish, stupid and anti-science. Just this week, the left wing commentariat has been saying the GOP is literally willing to let children get murdered in exchange for campaign donations. Never for a second is it contemplated that maybe Republicans honestly don’t believe that gun control works or is the answer. Look at any blog or website that has a predominantly liberal base and the most up-voted comments will be the most vitriolic, the most unsympathetic, the most vicious. Look at how often people praise someone like Samantha Bee for “eviscerating” Republicans by flagrantly misrepresenting their beliefs.

    And this is not something that just sprang up with Trump. As a libertarian/conservative, I have been hearing this for forty years. People may *now* describe Reagan, Bush or Romney as decent people. At the time, they were war-mongers, murderers and sociopaths who didn’t care if the entire country starved as long as their rich buddies did well.

    The Great Conservative Myth is their belief in their own moral superiority; that their positions come from a place of much more profound moral uprightness than non-conservatives. You would think electing Trump would break that myth, but apparently not. The Great Liberal Myth is the belief in their own reasonableness. I see no reason to buy into either of those myths.

    3
  49. Ratufa says:

    @Kylopod:

    If you seriously believe the main problem posed by our conversations with MBunge is an insufficient willingness on our part to listen to what he has to say, you haven’t been paying attention.

    You’re arguing with a strawman. The context is that Steve Taylor asked why Mbunge reads his (i.e. Steve Taylor’s) columns if Mbunge doesn’t like the conclusions and analysis in those columns. I responded that there are lots of reasons why people may want to read things they disagreed with, and specifically mentioned that some people & news sources are not worth taking seriously. At no point did I say or intend to imply that our problem with Mbunge was that we don’t listen to him (Mbunge) enough.

  50. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    Physician, heal thyself. Has Donald Trump done ONE good thing in the last two years? Has any Trump critic done ONE wrong thing in the last two years? You wouldn’t know it by reading OTB.

    (1) Has Trump done one good thing? Yes, helped Puerto Rico by throwing rolls of power towels to the the disaster stricken people of the island.
    (2) Has any Trump critic done something wrong? I can think of 2 Trump critics who have done wrong: Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. Both have extensively criticized Trump, each has been strongly assailed by Trump, and yet both vote with him nearly 100 percent.

    4
  51. Mikey says:

    @Hal_10000:

    a commentariat that routinely describes mainstream Republicans as sociopaths, racists, uncaring monsters, greedy, selfish, stupid and anti-science

    Gallup last week had Trump at 86% approval with Republicans. If that’s not “mainstream,” what is? And even if most of those Republicans aren’t as you described, they support a man who very clearly is, so what’s the difference?

    This isn’t an instance of grudging support for a man who’s an imperfect human but decent President, this is full-throated and enthusiastic support for a President who is not only manifestly unqualified for the office, but is also a petty, bullying narcissist, and if he didn’t actively work with Russia to influence the 2016 election, is by all appearances willing to let them get away with it and do so again.

    1
  52. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I am so f**king tired of that phony claim that people accused Palin of inciting a killer with her map. Of course they were marksman’s target symbols but what she got criticized for was the tastelessness of using them when a political opponent had been shot. And being the spineless coward that she was, she took down the webpage and whined about how mean everyone was being to her. It was Rush Limbaugh who claimed that Palin was being blamed because lying comes as easy to him as breathing.

    2
  53. Kylopod says:

    @Ratufa:

    The context is that Steve Taylor asked why Mbunge reads his (i.e. Steve Taylor’s) columns if Mbunge doesn’t like the conclusions and analysis in those columns. I responded that there are lots of reasons why people may want to read things they disagreed with, and specifically mentioned that some people & news sources are not worth taking seriously. At no point did I say or intend to imply that our problem with Mbunge was that we don’t listen to him (Mbunge) enough.

    Fine–but your response to Steve still ignores the elephant in the room, which is that MBunge is clearly not acting in good faith. All he ever does is spew nonsense, ignore all the rebuttals, and then spew some more nonsense. He never engages anyone’s arguments. He isn’t “listening to points of view he disagrees with.” He may be reading, but he sure isn’t listening.

    That was the context of Steve’s question about why MBunge comes here. He wasn’t saying that people shouldn’t come here if they disagree with him. Indeed, it’s clear to anyone who’s familiar with these parts that there’s quite a bit of disagreement between the average commenters here (who are primarily liberal) and the hosts (who are generally right-of-center). The issue Steve has with MBunge isn’t that they “disagree,” but that MBunge does nothing here but bait and troll, and refuses to engage with what anyone else is saying.

    Let’s take another look at what you said:

    There are various reasons why people might want to read opinions & analysis that they disagree with. For example, to be better able to argue against those views and understand their basis. Some people may even want to test how justified their own views are. The widely practiced alternative, only reading content that confirms one’s existing views, is terrible.

    The idea that MBunge comes here to be “better able to argue against [opposing] views and understand their basis” is laughable. He’s a broken record who never appears to learn anything from his exchanges here, other than maybe honing his use of words like “butthurt.” It’s always a one-sided discourse with him not because others make it that way but because he does. As Steve noted in his response to you:

    I am not suggesting we should eschew reading things we disagree with. I am talking here about a person who, over the course of years (and especially the last two) has not been an honest interlocutor. I have tried to directly engage him (even as recently as today in this thread, in fact). Yet, he tends to respond to my posts in a fairly confrontational and nonconstructive way. There comes a point where you wonder what the point is of him reading what I write. He clearly does not respect my point of view but neither does he actively engage what I write. At some point he started mostly just posting these weird insulting diatribes that are vaguely patronizing.

    Yet you jumped down Steve’s throat as if he were the one being closeminded. I understand that you may not be as familiar with MBunge’s diatribes here as some of us are, but you focused on a single Steve sentence (“But his comments indicate that he does not like me, or my opinions/view/analysis, so why does he read them?”) and jumped down his throat, ignoring the context or who was arguing with that provoked his comment, when it should be obvious that he does not shut himself off from contrary viewpoints.

    4
  54. Erik Olson says:

    @HarvardLaw92: well stated sir

    1
  55. Bob@Youngstown says:

    comment