So Ron Brownstein, the longtime (now former) LA Times political beat reporter, has a new book out about our "polarized" American political scene: The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.
Ours is the age of "hyperpartisanship" -- left as well as right, as Brownstein sees it, according to the reviews (Sunday and today) in the New York Times.
Ain't it awful?
I don't mean to knee-jerk here, but what is so brain-bustingly tedious -- so thrashing-about-bug-eyed-with-fury demoralizing -- is the fatuousness of Brownstein's analysis. It is an analysis which I'm sure is widely regarded as "thoughtful." Which shows just how not up to the job our Big Media press by and large is.
Brownstein seems incapable of registering the reality of American politics: That the "partisanship" and "principles" of the right are turning this country from fairly working democracy into a looting shooting tyranny (oh do I have to fill in the details?).
The reality of the current Republican party is that it is...radical. But Brownstein -- and he has such dismally large company--seems to be arguing that if you call out Bush and co out on this, you are one rabid "hyperpartisan" dog.
The question I always want to ask these people of Brownstein's ilk is: What would they have said in Germany or Italy during the rise of fascism? Would you have called anti-fascists "hyperpartisans?" I'm just wondering.
Tacit in all this is Brownstein's underlying judgment of America and a radical government, to wit: It can't happen here. This is glorious high-principled America, runs the refrain, how wild and irresponsible to even conceive there might be a government which is -- say -- run by war criminals!
War criminals running America? Torturing, lying, tossing the Constitution in the trash? Here in Casablanca?
Off the Hook
Michiko Kakutani has been a surprisingly acute and sympathetic reviewer of books critiquing Bush and the Republican. But I think today she lets Brownstein way off the hook. She writes this without dispute:
"And in his dealings with both Congress and other nations before the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Brownstein goes on, Mr. Bush 'sought not to construct a consensus for a common direction on Iraq, but rather to obtain acquiescence for the undeviating direction he had charted in his own mind.'
"Mr. Bush's failure to build a broad coalition of public support would contribute to his precipitous slide in public opinion, as the war bogged down; and his administration's highly partisan approach to governing would fuel efforts on the part of liberal activists to push the Democratic Party into a more confrontational, adversarial stance as well..."
Boy, the way I remember it is: Bush and his merry band of mushroom-clouders lied the country into a war. And "liberal activists" tried to push the Democratic party into a more "adversarial" stance because they, for one, took exception to this, and to Bush's brush-cutting of the Constitution. Big lies and gross destructions that the big media guys, a la Brownstein, somehow failed so despicably to sound the alarm on, with some notable exceptions.
Nor does Brownstein make much fuss that Bush went after his partisan agenda despite being first elected with less votes than his opponent and only by the astounding partisan interference of the Supreme Court. And then immediately governed as if he had won a landslide. And then ginned up a war and used it continuously as a partisan hammer.
So what's a citizen to do, Mr. Brownstein? Outrage is off the books?
Finally, Brownstein, according to Kakutani, points to the "growing partisanship of the media with the ascendance of talk radio, Internet blogs and cable news channels like Fox News."
I guess "Internet blogs" here stands for lefty hyperpartisanship. Well, again (and again and again and again, is that what fate holds in store for us?): If the big press had done, and would do, its job and report the facts of what was, and is, going on in this country, the Internet blogs wouldn't have had to, and continue to, come to the rescue. But we have a media landscape nowadays where anyone who deals in realities is automatically called "of the left" -- as if an engagement with reality were a partisan affair, a polemic against faith and argument by lie.
So here's what I like to know, Mr. Brownstein, if this is all a "second civil war:"
Which side is the pro-slavery side?
Which side is Abraham Lincoln on?
Appreciations to Uber.com, where this piece ran on my blog Brain Flakes.
Also at smirkingchimp.com