Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is It Everyone's Fault?

(cross-posted at MyDD)

I'm going to get flamed for resurrecting the primary wars. Maybe I shouldn't, but with the recent influx of PUMA members, I figure it can't hurt - we're already back to attacking and arguing with each other, which is a real shame because we were doing so well for awhile there. Some of us - including myself - are being pretty rude to the people with whom we disagree, and I doubt it's helpful. Still, I'm disinclined to stop because I have little patience remaining for people who refuse to support (or even tolerate) Obama as Hillary so openly has.

The two warring factions - the PUMAs and the people who are supporting the nominee - tend to blame one another (and the other candidate) for the divisions within the party, but I've begun to think that everyone involved shares some of the responsibility for the rift. Hillary and Barack certainly contributed to it, and their supporters magnified each point of contention and kept it alive. Outrage fueled outrage, and somewhere along the line, everything spiraled out of control.

So how did we get here? Is Hillary partially responsible?

Absolutely. While I will never buy into the "Hillary is a race-baiter" meme (and please, let's not start that argument in the comment thread), I'll admit that she was very harsh sometimes. The "shame on you" episode comes to mind, though I agreed with her. She was occasionally unfair, and she hit below the belt - when she grabbed hold of bittergate and employed a Republican tactic by calling Obama an elitist, I shook my head in disappointment. When she released an ad invoking Osama bin Laden, I watched it with wide-eyed horror. When she piled onto Obama during a debate in which he was being attacked by the mods, I frowned and sighed in exasperation. She mocked him at one of her rallies. She contributed to the problem.

Is Barack partially responsible?

Sure. When he attacked Hillary's healthcare plan with a flyer that strongly resembled the Harry and Louise ad from the `90s, I was furious: I saw it as not only an attack on my candidate, but an attack on universal healthcare, which was my top issue. When his campaign sent out a memo about what they perceived as an "insidious pattern" of allegedly racially insensitive remarks, I saw red. When he called her "divisive" and said she would do anything to win, I clenched my teeth until my jaw ached. I considered his "You're likeable enough" joke mocking and rude. He contributed to the problem.

But here's the thing: They were both fighting for the nomination, and they were supposed to attack each other. It was inevitable, and though they both took it too far at times, it was not unexpected. It wasn't unusual, it wasn't unprecedented. So from whence do the vitriol and animosity stem?

I think the hatred comes from their supporters (though most people know nothing of the blog wars). For one thing, each of us supported either an African American or a woman, and we expected to see discrimination. Many of us were overzealous and hyper-vigilant - we were constantly on the alert for any hint of bigotry or sexism, and though both were unquestionably present, I think we began seeing them when they weren't really there. We manufactured our own controversies. We parsed every phrase, analyzed every word, and scrutinized every expression. Not everyone did, but enough of us engaged in it to create a great deal of division. We were cruel to each other. We stopped listening. Obama supporters ruled DailyKos, and Hillary supporters fled here and largely took over. We developed resentments not only against Hillary or Obama, but also against each other. We stopped communicating, and our dialogue often devolved into vicious ad hominem attacks. We called each other cult members, racists, Republicans, and sexists. For a long time, I was angry at Obama supporters in general and decided that theirs was a top-down mentality; my disdain for them was deeply ingrained.

But just as our candidates' supporters contributed to the division, in my case they healed it. On MyDD, I discovered quite a few Clinton supporters who had come somewhat unhinged - their vehemence disturbed me; as they offended my sense of fairness and moderation, they inadvertently helped me forget my anger. They accidentally opened my mind toward the decent and reasonable Obama supporters. Several of them listened to my concerns and treated me with respect, despite my loathing for their candidate. In particular, I began getting along with Student Guy, ragekage, brit, fogiv, thatpurplestuff, Kysen, Setrak, hootie, mady, Spacemanspiff, and map (pardon me if I forgot your name - there are a lot of you). Those people were always thoughtful and helpful to me. Ragekage did manage to shame me on one occasion, but he wasn't hateful about it. When I explained my anger to him, he listened and responded to me politely and intelligently. I remember thinking, "Brit supports Obama and cares about his candidacy. I must be missing something..." I believe he had a similar thought about Hillary. I came to like a lot of Obama supporters, and I got to know them better than Clinton supporters because our relationships required more compromising, talking, explaining, sympathizing, and sharing to maintain. As I got to know them, I began looking at their candidate differently; surely so many smart, funny, considerate people wouldn't be supporting a dud.

So who can we blame for most of the division in the party? It's hard to say, though at the moment I tend to blame PUMAs the most, but to some extent, both candidates and their supporters are at fault. I don't know how to go about unifying the party; I've tried to reach out to several Hillary holdouts, but they've universally rebuffed my efforts. I lose my patience with them quickly, so here I sit, unable to do for the PUMAs what so many Obama supporters did for me. Maybe it would help if we all tried to put ourselves in each other's places. Maybe we should try to walk a mile in our antagonists' shoes, as they say. Unfortunately, I seem incapable of properly doing so, and if anyone should be able to understand PUMA, it should be someone like me, who once claimed I could never vote for Obama. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for long-time Obama supporters to see things from those people's perspective. Maybe it would help if we all admitted we were sometimes at fault, maybe if everyone accepted some responsibility.

Or maybe we should just ignore people who can't be reasoned with and hope they come around in their own time. Sadly, that may be the only solution.


Anonymous said...

So maybe it is a little bit my fault. But I think I'm making up for it now.

But it's still mostly not my fault. ;)

Anonymous said...

Terrific post as always. Clinton needs to speak out against the PUMAs, defending her former supporters who are following her advice to work their hearts out for Obama. Clinton supporters who immediately started to work for Obama seem to be viciously targeted by PUMA on our blogger blogs or in group blogs
like MyDD. They hate us as traitors. The anonymous attacks on me removed from this blog were revolting and ageist, implying I was too close to the grave to have a right to political advocacy, that I desperately needed, but would never get, a man, that they laughed themselves sick at my profile. Given that these echoed the attacks made by the media and progressive blogs against HIllary supporters, I have to wonder who the PUMAs really are. Are they truly Hillary supporters or an army of Karl Roves in disguise. I feel a moral
responsibility to moderate comments on my blogs so such deranged fanatics can't spread their venom.

It makes me appreciate Obama supporters on mybarackobama, who in contrast now seem like cuddly little bunnies:)

Anonymous said...

I am sick about the whole situation. I certainly understand where the PUMA people are coming from. I just have to reread all my letters to my daughters and sons-in-law for the last year. I was totally demoralized that they were all supporting Obama and repeating all the right-wing demonizations of Hillary that had now been adopted by too many progressive blogs.I had dedicated 20 years of my life to nonsexist childrearing of my daughters, and now I was discovering they weren't even feminists.

Feminists and other progressives need to start a peaceful revolution for a family-friendly, child-friendly, elder-friendly, human-friendly America. Instead we squabble like little children. Wait, that isn't fair to toddlers I hang out with. The under threes I hang out with are far better behaved and cooperative.

The PUMA attacks on Clintonistas supporting Obama resemble the media and progressive blogger attacks on Hillary supporters. Are the PUMA trolls, not PUMAs as a whole, genuine Hillary supporters or Karl Roves in disguise?

On the other side, if you viciously attack Hillary supporters who are not ready to support Obama, you reinflict all the traumatic wounds of the primary season, reducing the possibility of healing that has to precede voting for Obama.

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