If I was going to dress as a Neo-Conservative for Halloween, I would wear an expensive pantsuit (complete with flag-pinned lapel,) carry the Bible under one arm, the Economist under the other, and arrange my hair in a humorless coif at the top of my skull. I would drape a crucifix around my neck and march around the neighborhood. I would glare at everyone with a mixture of suspicion and condemnation.
Instead of accepting candy, or as I would call them "heathen bribes," (because really, that's all a Snickers bar is,) I would ask people about their mostly deeply held beliefs. And when the answers inevitably came back to me in the form of unsatisfactory, stuttering, liberal lisps, I would scream at them until I was hoarse and the costumed children around me were all sobbing.
But that's only if I was going to dress as a Neo-Conservative for Halloween. I would only dress and behave these ways if I was imitating a small-minded, fearful, prejudiced individual so afraid of conflict that they resort to tantrums any time anyone disagrees with them. In previous years, I wouldn't have categorized Democrats in this school of "Yer With Us Or Yer With The Terrerists." In this election year, things are different.
Every peace-loving liberal knows the sting of being branded "weak," "soft on defense," or if you're being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, a "Communist," or "Nazi" (because we all know how much the Nazis loved peace). In 2003, it wasn't popular to be against the war, and a lot of Democrats took a lot of heat for having the courage to stand up and say: This is wrong. We're compromising too much here.
Now, Democrats are making the very same assaults against their own party members. When fellow Democrats express concern over Obama's shifting stances on a host of issues, or heaven forbid, an interest in hearing from a third-party candidate, all hell breaks lose. Criticizing Obama's policies and early moves toward triangulation earns one the label "traitor" from the Democratic community itself.
I have received a plethora of frantic e-mails from people across the country about how they've been ostracized from their parochial Democratic communities for daring to criticize Obama, or having the gall to suggest Ralph Nader has a place in a three-way debate. These letters read like the sender is being held hostage: "...Felt so alone...Please send help....So tired....so....tired." I can almost hear the hysterical weeping when I read them.
The assault isn't just coming from their friends and family. It's spouting everywhere from the so-called liberal media (the people who claim they're all for free speech). Take for example this bit of ridiculous: Eleanor Randolph's mind-numbingly stupid anti-Nader op-ed in the New York Times. It's short, probably because she realized her opinions were leading her toward a vast pit of despair and wandering premises, so she quickly wrapped things up before critical thinking entered the mix.
In Ralph Nader: Going, Going, Not Gone (GET IT?!) Randolph bemoans the fact that Nader is running for president again because she's just like SO totally bored with him! Then she she actually expresses confusion over Nader's anti-corporate greed stances and then goes on to claim none of the Presidential candidates are in the pockets of big business because, well, none of them have publicly claimed to be in the pocket of big businesses! After all, they would admit that kind of thing, people! An air-tight case from an ace reporter. I feel safer knowing this woman is sitting on the board of one of the largest newspapers in the country.
And this is a so-called journalist writing. At least, to her credit, Randolph doesn't dissolve into hysterical accusations. She admits that the evidence for Nader having lost Gore the 2000 election is weak, and she never accused Nader supporters of being traitors to their own party. If only this was the case everywhere.
It saddens me that the discourse has dissolved into baseless accusations within the Democratic party. The branding goes far beyond "traitor." To accuse Obama of betraying his base sometimes has far uglier results. The label "racist" is haphazardly catapulted far too frequently, which is all the more unfortunate because some people ARE making racist statements about Obama and his wife, Michelle. But every criticism of Obama isn't inherently an attack on his race. We're not all Geraldine Ferraro, thank you very much.
I believe the Democratic party is still the party of reason and compassion. I believe Democrats take pride in their party's tradition of engaging in open dialogs and discussing conflicting ideas in the hopes of elevating the party's collective ideologies to new, exciting places. This tradition invites not only their rival parties into the room, but also members of their own party, who for whatever reason, have veered away from the Main Candidate, and are looking elsewhere for answers.
Instead of shunning those who criticize Obama's handling of FISA and offshore drilling, or those individuals who are considering voting for Ralph Nader come November, Democrats should address the causes of these symptoms of anger and mistrust within their own party, all of which stem from an ideologically sick candidate, who has begun to play fast and loose with his principles.
These disillusioned Democrats aren't traitors, and don't deserve the burden of the unfair and immature dismissal: "Well, ENJOY President McCain, asshole!" Such digressions are why Democrats are forever on the defensive and the Republicans, year-after-year, are permitted to set the agenda. Democrats have an identity crisis and continue to publicly shun their brand as the progressive, peace-loving party. Worse than trying to mimic Republicans, now the party has turned cannibalistic and Democrats are attacking Democrats. Obamaniacs hate the Nader Raiders, and the Nader Raiders resent the fact that they feel ostracized for being too liberal and too progressive...whatever those labels mean nowadays.
A party is only as good as its ideas, and if the Democrats turn into the two-dimensional cartoon characters on FOX news, the screaming idiots that shout sound bites at each other from across the table, then they might as well sculpt their hair into humorless coifs, throw crucifixes around their necks, and call themselves Neo-Conservatives.
Cognitive dissonance (the uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously) is a good thing as long as there is resolution. Resolution comes when one ideology is cast aside because the other is deemed possessing a higher value.
Those Democrats disillusioned with Obama aren't lost causes. In fact, they're right to feel scathed, confused, and betrayed (a little bit) by their man, Obama. He redacted on his promises, and now he should be held accountable by his own party. Ya' know, the the same party claiming that politicians should be held accountable for their actions. That's a universal rule. Yes, even when it's YOUR guy who is lying, or "triangulating."
But the Democrats must keep talking and debating if they are to remain the party that likes diplomacy. They can't be so quick to label their own members as traitors the second things get really tough, Obama's shining star dims a bit, and he's revealed as a complex, flawed human being like all the rest.