Thursday, May 26, 2011

Damned Demagoguing Democrats

Are you as tired as I am of Republican pols and pundits accusing Democrats of demagoguing them?  Do they choose that word because it has a nice alliterative ring? I mean, why not save their breath, and just call the opposition a bunch of mean old DemDems?  Take the gog out of Demagogue, for crying out loud.  Just for the hell of it, I Googled "Demagoguing Democrats" and got over 700,000 hits.

Still not having anything better to do, I went to LexisNexis and typed in "Demagoguing Paul Ryan" and came up with slightly fewer results from the newspaper option. I was aghast and agog reading them, because it seems like these overpaid pundits and columnists and hacks are all getting their marching orders from some centralized Reactionary Word Bank.  Here are just a few of the gems, beginning with Chief Gemstone Paul Ryan:

The tragic irony is that if the Left succeeds in demagoguing to death the only plan that saves Medicare, this political victory will diminish any incentive to avert Medicare's imminent end. -- Paul Ryan, Washington Post op-ed, 8/6/10.

It is an important conversation starter... a broad and brave call for dealing with politically charged issues that Congress and Obama are studiously avoiding or demagoguing. -- unsigned editorial, New York Daily News, 4/11/11.

The Administration just needs to stop demagoguing and join the adult conversation. -- Kevin Ferris, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22/11.

Paul Ryan has just released a bold and serious plan.... Obama is demagoguing the Ryan Plan. -- Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, 4/8/11.

Now, I know the Democrats... they have been demagoguing the Republicans on Medicare. -- Donald Trump, via New York Times article, 5/3/11.

Next time you see a politician demagoguing Medicare, ask this: should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people? -- David Brooks, The New York Times, 5/11/11.

Now, can we (meaning you Democrats) just get past the demagoguery? -- Cal Thomas, USA Today, 2/24/11.

Democrats Demagogue Medicare: Liberals Play Politics as the Health Care Plan Goes Belly Up -- headline of Emily Miller op-ed, Washington Times, 5/3/11.

Interestingly, accusing the opposition of demagoguery has been a favorite tactic of conservatives in the past.  Case in point, according to a Wikipedia entry, "in the 19th Century, political reactionaries branded their opponents as demagogues and directed numerous reprisals and censorship against them. Representatives of the German Confederation of German-national and liberal groups were accused of Demagogenverfolgung, subversion and sedition.

A famous usage was by the aging Erich Luedenddorf, an early supporter of Hitler, but who later called him "one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation."

Since Hitler is still conventionally viewed as the greatest/worst demagogue of all time, and his name has become synonymous with the word, and an early tactic of the Tea Party during the health care debate was to carry posters of President Obama wearing a Hitler mustache, it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that the more genteel conservative pundits are deliberately and cynically using the demagogue word as code for something worse -- something extremely hateful.

It's all part of what is called The Big Lie -- some of the Republican pundits are taking their own demagoguery and deflecting it to the Democratic opposition. Again, from Wikipedia:

"The phrase (Big Lie) was also used in a report prepared during the war by the United States Office of Strategic Services  in describing Hitler's psychological profile. His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Hmm... methinks Paul Ryan and Co. are the real, neo-Fascist demagogues in the mix.  The Republicans refuse to compromise, refuse to negotiate, refuse to acknowledge that the deficit was caused by tax breaks for their rich friends and subsidies for the corporations, blame their one person at a time (Obama), even going so far as to question his citizenship and patriotism. And boy, can they ever whine when they don't get their own way.

"Mommeeeee... They Won't Stop Demagoguing on Me!"

The only thing left for Obama and the Democrats to do is to stop negotiating with these Repugnant Republicans and let their demogoguery nonsense boomerang right back at them.


4Runner said...

And worst of all is Lady DemaGaGa.

Marina said...

Great post, great photo--why the h**l couldn't the Times have hired you instead of Bruni?

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I always think of a demagogue as someone who stirs up a crowd (often to violence) by lying and appealing to prejudice, ignorance and frustration. The only demagogues I see are on the Republican side and are appealing to the Tea Party crowd. The psychological description of Hitler is scary because it reads like the Republican play book. Lies like WMDs, Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, John Kerry wasn't a hero in the Viet Nam War. Obama is a foreign born Muslim, Obama is like Hitler are a few of the lies that were repeated endlessly until they became accepted truth to many Tea Partiers and even mainstream Republicans. People like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Breitbart, etc. are demagogues. They lie and appeal to their irrational and frustrated viewers and direct them to a scapegoat to focus their anger upon.

But I have to call the Democrats out on this too. The Prez has the bully pulpit and he needs to name names and call people out on their lies - if not the Fox News crowd at least the politicians - so do all the Democrats. By not standing up for the truth, the Democrats are giving the impression that the lies are true – at least on some level.

I recall it was suggested that John Murtha was unpatriotic for his statement that it was time to pull out of the Iraq War. He came back with some fiery reply, "I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done. “ The next day Bush was all over himself saying something to the effect, that no one’s patriotism was being questioned. Calling people out on their lies works!

If Democrats like Obama don’t want to lose their temper and fight back, then they need to study Elizabeth Warren and emulate her. She stands up for herself and the truth, calls misinformation what it is, makes sure that the truth is out there for people to see, in simple and clear terms, and never loses her cool.

Janet Camp said...

VLT, you hit it again! Great post. I share your frustration with Obama, et al, not fighting back. I could never understand John Kerry not standing up for himself either. I understand that he preferred (being a gentlemen--what a quaint old term) to take the high road and refuse to even answer such absurd claims, but this simply won't work in our cable "news" mentality of a society. Good people will be vindicated in the long term, but many opportunities are lost in the short term.

John said...

Cool should be handled as carefully as fire. You youngsters love cool, even those of you who -- pardon my old fashioned phrase, which is here intended as a compliment -- thirst for justice.

A political campaign is an argument. College debaters know, or soon learn, it's not enough to lay down the facts, sit back and fold your arms. Art, timing and a steadfastness to argument are also important. Give me the hammering style of a Teddy Roosevelt any time, as distinct from, say, the Kerry/Obama above-the-fray response to an attack, fair or foul, personal or over policy, by their opponents. A champion with fire in his belly is not likely to give it all away before breakfast every morning for the sake of quiet. For the sake of cool.

Obama has the Art part (his eloquence) down perfectly. That alone does not make him a champion for justice or, if you prefer, for progressivism. What Obama does lack from my trio of debating qualities is hair-trigger Timing and a Commitment to stick by and push hard his side of the argument under debate. That last element, which deals with substance, is the most important quality.

I once supported Obama because of what he declared he stood for in the campaign debate. As soon as he attained office, he decided to step out of the debate mode. That moment was to have initiated the real debate, the one with consequences if won or lost. Three years into Obama's first term, I cannot think of one major commitment that Obama has seriously fought for in a timely way.

"By the sweat of your brow,,,," used to be accepted as the inescapable condition for getting anything worthwhile accomplished. Cool has displaced passionate commitment. Cool hides cowardice, laziness or dishonesty, but makes them acceptable. The opposite of cool is not a Fox food fight. Not all theater is fake and not all political theater is demagoguery. A fire in the belly just might yield results. Haven't we had enough of cool?

John said...

I forgot to add "Jay - Ottawa" to my plea for less cool.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

With the lack of a Recess Appointment of Liz Warren from Obama, and his cowardice at putting her through the appointment process in the first place, I have to assume Obama's "cool" stems more from cowardice and corruption than politeness. Disappointment doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I feel spurned and I am angry as hell about it. I feel like I am in the midst of the five stages of grief. Right now I hate Obama almost as much as I hate Clinton. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. They give us the illusion that they are on our side all the while cutting us off at the knees.