Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush’s victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.
Criticizing the GOP ain’t gonna build us a new national majority. But the process is brick by brick, or perhaps, brickbat by brickbat. We didn’t decide the rules of engagement, but that’s what they are and so we may as well start firing away.
I have heard this attitude many times, and it always seems to come from the Left. Not from everyone, mind you, but the people it does come from . . . let’s back up a bit here: we all know that many people on the Right and on the Left regard some or all of the other side as liars, cheaters, etc. in their conduct of elections and political debate. Leaving aside for the sake of argument who’s right about this and in what ways, it can be very frustrating to fight against people you regard as fighting dirty and cheating.
I’ve read or been party to plenty of bitter wallows after election defeats, from widespread debacles in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998 to more localized issues like Hillary Clinton’s senate win in 2000. I’ve seen plenty of examples of conservatives looking for ways to stop lies, election fraud and other sorts of wrongdoing by Democrats. I’ve seen conservatives willing to hoist Democrats by their own petards, most notably with the Independent Counsel statute and with he-said-she-said sexual harrassment claims (Paula Jones as revenge for Anita Hill). And yes, I’ve seen conservatives argue points that were just not true.
But I have never seen anybody on the Right argue that we ought to knowingly spread untruths or create false impressions to win political arguments. What’s disturbing about a lot of the reactions from people in the Left’s fever swamps and sometimes even in more mainstream venues is the notion that Democrats ought to imitate precisely those facets of Republican tactics that they profess to find offensive. What’s particularly damaging is the desire to imitate the GOP without really understanding why Republicans do the things we do and why they are effective, which is how you get what amounts to cargo-cult operations like Media Matters, which purports to be a complement to conservative outlets that decry media bias but instead spends most of its time just taking potshots at conservative pundits.