Welcome to the hangover of slash and burn politics. We're gotten rid of George W. Bush. Karl Rove is reduced to a Fox News mouthpiece. The Democratic party will be running all three branches of government in just a few weeks time but the knee-jerk, over-the top-bickering that has characterized what passes for political discourse in recent memory are still with us; we don't even need Republicans any more.
I just got off the phone with Steve Hildebrand, whose piece A Message To Obama's Progressive Critics has caused a stir throughout the progressive blogosphere. David Sirota went as far as to call it a rant-ish and said Hildebrand's piece was "demanding the Dirty Fucking Hippies of "the left" STFU."
Of course, Hildebrand - who told me he considers himself 'way left' - said no such thing. Hildebrand's article isn't incendiary. He spends a good deal of his piece stating the obvious; that America faces some dire problems such as worst economic crisis in our lifetime and suggests that solving those problems has to be the first priority for all Americans. The tone of Hildebrand's piece isn't STFU but 'let's come together.'
I asked Hildebrand specifically where the line was on valid criticism and he was clear that it's not his call. "I wrote the article speaking entirely for myself, not anyone else. I certainly wasn't trying to control anybody. I'm not the arbiter of whether criticism is fair or unfair. I was stating my opinion, that's all."
It's Hildebrand's first piece for The Huffington Post. He says it came up a couple of weeks ago when he was talking to his friend Hillary Rosen, the political director at HuffPost. While talking about issues, Hildebrand mentioned to Rosen that he was tired of what he felt was 'sniping' and asked if she's be interested in a piece on the subject. He wrote something up, sent it to Rosen without showing anybody else and it was posted as he wrote it with the addition of the article's headline, which he didn't write. He stands by the piece and says that he's only received a couple of pieces of negative email but has been hearing about the firestorm it's caused.
But people hear what they want to hear sometimes and the politically charged atmosphere doesn't seem to have lost it's electricity just because No Drama Obama won in a landslide. Maybe after years of seeing dissent put down at every turn by the Bush administration, people aren't used to the idea that people can disagree without exaggerating the positions of other people, as Sirota's 'rant-ish' characterization clearly did. Far from telling Obama's progressive critics to shut up, Hildebrand was treating them like adults and explaining a different position.
Hildebrand said he understands the frustration of some people because he's felt it. "I was personally very angry at Joe Lieberman, for instance. But I'm proud of the way Barack Obama handled that situation because it was true to his pledge to put partisanship aside. I believe that was part of Obama's appeal to many voters. After two years of working for Obama, that's who he really is."
Speaking for myself, I wonder is it wrong to expect fair and calm discourse when liberals disagree with liberals? I sure hope not - because otherwise we're not going to do much better than the conservatives who've caused the trainwreck we find ourselves in.
I'm not telling anyone to shut up. I'm just asking everyone to live up to the liberal values of free, open, and respectful debate.
Lee Stranahan is a writer and filmmaker who recently called for Congressional hearings to look into needless layoffs by profitable companies. The petition is at StopLayoffs.org