Criticize the Excesses, Not the Principles

In 2003, Sen. Norm Coleman grotesquely asserted that “God answers prayers by providing leadership, “and we have that in George W. Bush.”

This kind of idolatry is, of course, anathema to rational discourse and democratic governance.  America wasn’t founded on the Divine Right of Republicans, or even of Presidents.

Given how absurd rhetoric like this appears to most Americans today, only four years later, it seems to me that we’re living in an era of changing political center of gravity, a bit like the 1970s.  Back then, the excesses and unintended consequences of the War on Poverty were prominent in the country’s consciousness.  While the War on Poverty was greatly successful in lessening poverty, it also coincided with high taxes, deficits, and a rise in crime.

The rise of the GOP was based on an awareness of the limitations of government power.  The problem was, they took that insight, and extrapolated it all the way to an irrational endpoint.

Awareness of government’s limitations degenerated into hostility towards government, of the kind President Bush has shown in his senseless, rigidly ideological objection to Congress’s proposals regarding the SCHIP program.

So while Democrats need a Newt Gingrich, a street fighter who isn’t genetically predispositioned to cave on issues of importance, we need to hew close to the facts.
Sen. Coleman’s comment that our current president is divinely ordained with certain inalienable prerogatives is lunacy; but less partisan and more humble appeals to the divine have a long history in this country.

Fortunately, there’s no sign that the Democratic Party, or the netroots, are falling prey to the self-satisfied extremism that has taken hold of the GOP.

People like Ezra Klein and Glenn Greenwald rose to prominence on their wonkish mastery of detail.  Atrios, for all his snarkiness, is actually an accomplished, well-credentialed academic, as opposed to the Gingriches and Armeys that provided the intellectual heft, such as it was, for the 1990s GOP.  I think we’re a much more, well, reality-based political group than the anti-government, anti-civil rights coalition that the GOP rode to victory.

It’s important to keep it that way as Americans reject the knee-jerk nationalism and inane “nanny state” rhetoric of the GOP, and seek practical solutions to real problems from the other major party.

Of course, there’s no guarantees that the reality-based portion of the political commentariat will get too close to the levers of power in the Democratic Party.


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