Not Taking It

It has been truly fascinating, in a darkly humorous way, to watch Republicans whine about Democrats being “divisive” during this election cycle. Translation: “hey, you’re not supposed to fight back when we hit you!” As usual, they can dish it out, but they sure can’t take it. Bullies never can.

Kevin Drum put it extremely well in a recent post of his:

To use the historical analogy in contention here, isn’t this a bit like blaming Churchill for World War II because Britain started fighting back in 1940 — most especially after all that Blitz unpleasantness?

Remember, 2002 was quite a year. After a calculated display of bipartisan mourning for public consumption, the Bush administration thereafter refused to consult with or even take notice of the existence of an opposition party. Republican consultants advised their clients to use the war as a wedge issue in reelection campaigns…

And it worked: Republicans won the election. And Democrats finally woke up and realized that George Bush was more interested in using the war as a partisan club than he was in actually fighting terrorists. So they started fighting back. If the Republicans were intent on making it a partisan issue, after all, what choice was there?

I would use a different analogy, however. Grover Norquist famously described bipartisanship as “date rape.” Hm. In spite of George Lakoff’s wise and admirable attempts to reframe the parties as “strict father” and “nurturant parent,” removing the gender brand on the left, the far more widely used shorthand terms are “daddy party” for Republicans and “mommy party” for Democrats. I wonder which side is more likely to be victimized by “date rape.”

I cannot stress sufficiently that I do not mean to belittle the situation of battered and victimized women in any way. It is a real and very serious crisis in our society. The comparison is made because I feel there are genuine parallels. Over the last ten years, but most especially after September 11th, Democrats have consistently worked to reach across the aisle to their opponents. Republicans have been deliberately using vile, divisive rhetoric to attack them for approximately the same amount of time, starting with Newt Gingrich’s list of propaganda buzzwords and growing more vicious ever since. Up until the 2002 midterm elections, Democrats let themselves get hammered in an attempt to play nice. They made excuses for both Republicans and themselves. “Oh, they don’t really mean it.” “We can still work together.” “That’s just the way the political game is played.” Like an abused partner pretending there isn’t a problem, the Democrats simply refused to recognize that their rivals could really be as bad as the “radicals” said.

As is often the case, however, the strident friend trying to talk sense to the victim was the one seeing the situation clearly. With the truly despicable attacks of the 2002 election cycle, the morphing of Max Cleland into Osama bin Laden being only the most notorious, the Democratic party finally woke from its long somnambulance. There was a reason Howard Dean emerged as the front runner during the heart of the primaries. Democrats were hungry for someone who would fight back, who would refuse to submit quietly to the beatings from a leadership drunk on power and ideological insanity. When the other candidates began to speak up as well, the race evened out and eventually went to John Kerry, the candidate party members were most convinced could beat Bush. The point remains, however, that the so-called “divisiveness” of the Democrats is something much simpler and completely justifiable: self-defense.

Of course, the Republicans are the “strict father” party, a philosophy which mandates a wife that stays “in her place.” (Note the recent “strengthening families” initiative which encourages women to stay married, including in abusive relationships. This makes the analogy more appropriate as well as tragic.) Abusive partners almost always justify their actions as necessary or proper, whether as asserting authority, as deserved punishment, or simply as the man’s “right.” When the partner becomes assertive, the natural order is being overturned, so the victim is at fault. This pattern is clearly visible in the absurd, Orwellian outrage of Republicans at the sudden appearance of a backbone in the Democrats.

The Mommy party has had enough. Democrats are standing up for themselves. War or no war, crisis or no crisis, it’s about damn time, and the Republicans who whine about it only show their true colors by doing so. The Daddy party needs to be kicked out of the house and slapped with a restraining order. That order can be delivered with a Kerry victory, retaking the Senate, and perhaps most poignantly, with the ascension of Speaker Pelosi.

(/) Roland X
A woman’s place is in the House. With the gavel.

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