Meditations on a Wiener

Just a few thoughts on Congressman Wiener and his big reveal this past week.

Most defenders of Wiener have provided the baffling defense that what he did was legal, so it really isn’t our business. Who the hell cares about that? It’s icky. And as Megan McArdle points out – marriage norms are worth protecting with stigma. . . . → Read More: Meditations on a Wiener

Traitor to my Generation

I must be the only person in the world not enthralled by the middle-school choir at New York’s PS-22. Their teacher seems to be doing a competent job: they sing well! The songs they perform are of the same level of difficulty as those I remember singing in middle-school. But of course, they are unbearably hip. . . . → Read More: Traitor to my Generation

The People Love to Hate

My friend Conor Friedersdorf comes dangerously close to violating the Dougherty Doctrine. You see, Mr. Friedersdorf is an unfailingly polite, open-minded, sympathetic, empathetic, irenic, well-mannered guy. An utterly non-self-aggrandizing, calming, unflappable, gentle man. And over at The Atlantic he notices how unpleasant are those partisans that lack his virtues.

But if you spend time talking politics with people who identify as hard core progressives or movement conservatives, you’ll find that a significant percentage believe their ideology would prevail more often if only their partisans were more angry, their attacks more pointed, their operatives more ruthless. This is most often expressed via the use of metaphors that draw on the language of war and fighting. Usually it doesn’t make any sense. In war, the victor kills as many folks as possible on the opposing side. Political winners persuade more people to join their coalition.

Mr. Friedersdorf goes on to produce examples of negative campaigning that failed or proved ineffective, as part of his argument that irenic persuasion of the sort Friedersdorf (and I) prefer is a winner politically.

Unfortunately, he’s wrong. Politics may not be about killing your opponents (at least here it isn’t), but it certainly isn’t about gently persuading them. Politics is often about humiliating, discrediting, and shaming people and their ideas. Only rarely or at the elite margins is this done with argument. The reason words like “fascist”, “bigot”, and “racist” are an everyday feature of our discourse is because they are powerful weapons for marginalizing and shaming people.

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