In her comment on one of my posts, a valued reader suggested that I "call out more on the left" and mentioned Oliver Willis by name.
For various reasons, I believe that I am better equipped psychologically to call out those on the right. Still, even the most devoted lefty can detect sloppiness in Willis' work, as well as a tendency to demonize those with whom he disagrees.
One of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama was his dedication to the principle that we disagree without being disagreeable. I was primed for it after a Rove-directed presidency propelled by the demonization of and refusal to negotiate with opponents as well as its commitment to assholery in general.
I know that I sometimes fail to live up this this principle. I am perfectly capable of being an asshole. It's something that one has to resist every time one thinks about politics or reads the blogs or tunes in to cable news. For example, during the health care reform debate, I was so frustrated with Republican obstructionism that I cheered on former Florida Representative Alan Grayson when he said on the floor of the House that the Republican plan for health care reform was to die quickly in the event of injury or illness. Too many Republican politicians, in my view, don't really care about reforming health care, but it is unfair to claim that they want people to die quickly. And surely there are some Republican politicians who are troubled by our health care system and want to reform it.
So it is clear that some lefties engage in assholery from time to time, myself included. Willis is no different. In one post, Willis presents the following passage from this story:
During his weekly news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner claimed that Mr. Obama has added 200,000 federal workers since he took office (a figure that has been disputed), and shrugged at the idea that Republican efforts to slash government spending would put many of them out of work.
“If some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it,” Mr. Boehner said. “We’re broke. It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money.”In response, Willis writes, "And with that, John Boehner tells the truth about what conservatives think about jobs." And that's it.
That's what conservatives think about jobs. Granted, Boehner is their leader in the House, but Willis is overgeneralizing a bit, isn't he? And the implication that Republicans in the House are opposed to jobs is unfair. Now, there is nothing wrong with taking issue with what Republicans tend to believe about the government's role in managing the economy. Those government jobs actually stimulate the economy by putting money in the hands of people who will likely spend most of it. But demonizing Republicans in general by implying that they're anti-job is unfair and over the top.
In "Write A Negative Story About The NRA, Get Racist Hate Mail," Willis quotes Michael Luo of the New York Times as writing the following:
In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?Luo tweeted that he received an e-mail in response to the story which read in part, "why don't you go back to where you came from?"
The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there is a reason for that. Scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off money for such work.
Willis characterizes this as "the response from the right," and ends the post with the statement, "They are who we thought they were."
What justifies Willis in painting all conservatives with the same broad brush? How is this any different than the bullshit one constantly finds at a right-wing blog like Lori Ziganto's, where it is suggested that all pro-choicers believe in abortion on demand and either support the activities of Kermit Gosnell or are not alarmed by them? We can all do better than this.
Another Willis post from February is entitled, "Republicans Really Hate America, Want To Shut Down Its Government." The post, in its entirety, is as follows:
That is the only rational way to view this joke of a budget passed by the House GOP. How bad is it? Even the conservative blue dog Democrats – many of them basically Republicans – passed on it. These same people who think that the Wall Streeters who caused the fiscal crisis should be rewarded versus punished, think that the people who should pay are the poor and infirm.Republicans really hate America, they seek to kick the neediest Americans right in the teeth, and they want to administer the killing blow, according to Willis. Now, it might be argued that Willis did not intend to say that Republicans know that their budget cuts would deliver the killing blow to the United States. Perhaps he intended to say only that they want those cuts but do not realize that they would kill the United States. But that interpretation doesn't cohere well with the title of the post.
The same people, who blanched at the financial reform bill that had already had most of its teeth taken out, seek to kick the neediest Americans right in the teeth.
Combine this with the assault on unionized workers in Wisconsin and Ohio, in addition to other, less high profile instances, and it is very clear that the Republican Party and the conservative movement that backs it isn’t very fond of this country.
The President and party they supported almost brought the nation to its knees for their 8 years of misrule. Now it seems they want to administer the killing blow.
We can’t let them.
Now, reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of deep budget cuts. I personally agree with the President's former plan to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans, and I'm tired of the Republican tendency to ask only the poor and middle class to make sacrifices. But the idea that Republicans hate America and want to kill it is ridiculous. I am sick and tired of hearing from right-wingers that I hate America simply because I'm a liberal. If I don't want to be the target of that shit, then why would I make others the target of it? Someone has to be the big person in this and respond to inflammatory rhetoric with dispassionate facts and reason. Can't Willis be that guy? Can't I?
Judging from the few posts I have read, Willis and I are often in agreement on political matters. But he should strive to set a better example and be a more honorable representative of those of us on the left. As should I.