Anathematization as a Strategy

Rather than engage in civil debate, Democrats increasingly make ad hominem arguments against those with whom they disagree. They have become the party of personal destruction.

Every Republican president is portrayed in popular culture and most media outlets as not just wrong on the issues – that much is assumed – but evil. Each one is literally Hitler, until he is out of office. Then they are ignored until they die or criticize another Republican, at which time their images are magically accorded some semblance of dignity. Also, most Republican presidents are stupid; that’s a given, too.

Republican Supreme Court nominees? They must be stopped – or, at a minimum, deprived of their dignity. The defeat of Robert Bork’s 1987 nomination may seem like old news, but it set the template for the way Democrats treat Republican nominees. Teddy Kennedy – an actual, serial predator – famously led the attack on Bork, one of the most distinguished jurists of his era,  with the following preposterous statement:

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens …”

So unprecedented – and successful! – was Kennedy’s line of attack, grossly mischaracterizing Bork’s record, temperament and judicial inclinations, that the strategy has since come to be known as “borking”. The general idea is to find a pretext, however flimsy, to characterize Republican nominees as misogynists, probably racists and having innumerable other character flaws, then watch Republican Senators flee the possible image of their supporting such presumed evildoers.

Republican Supreme Court nominees are thoroughly bad people, you see – and doubly frightening because (unlike Republican presidents) they’re uniformly highly accomplished, and therefore undeniably intelligent. Democrats may or may not be able to vote down their nominations, but they can anathematize these nominees and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over their decisions. Evidence of past misdeeds? None needed! Any old accusation will do.

Justice Thomas? Can’t treat a conservative black man with dignity, can we? Definitely not. Justice Kavanaugh? Let’s just see if he’s still welcomed as a coach of his daughter’s basketball team or as a teacher at Harvard. Not gonna happen.

Has anything comparable to the Bork, Thomas and Kavanaugh character assassinations been practiced by Republicans on Democrat nominees? No. Is that because Republican nominees have less personal integrity than Democratic ones? Also no. (It’s also noteworthy that even the most ideologically partisan Democratic nominees – including Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor – have received huge numbers of Republican confirmation votes, whereas since the nomination of Justice Alito, no Republican nominee has received more than a few Democratic votes; the Republicans are working for comity; the Democrats are looking to destroy the reputations of their ideological opponents).

Democrats know that it’s much easier to characterize an opponent’s motives as evil than to debate the finer points of whether or not a given policy is wise (or, in Supreme Court jurisprudence, properly Constitutional) – and that any desire to reduce the influence of government in our lives can be characterized as racist in effect and probably purpose. Democrats see bigotry everywhere – in Republicans.

The worlds of academia, Hollywood and most mainstream media are the Democrats’ allies in the calumnization of Republicans’ policy motivations. Colleges have brought forth theories of systemic, intersectional bigotries, some of which may not even be consciously known to the presumed evildoers, excuse me, “deplorables” per Hillary Clinton, or “the dregs of society” per Joe Biden; not only have these leading Democrats written off half the country, they want to make it clear that unless you and I accept their prescriptions for ever-more-centralized governance, we are to be read out of polite society.

Just try to defend the Trump administration at a coastal cocktail party – or, more seriously, to gain admission to a prestigious graduate school (or work for a company like Google or Facebook) if you’re open about not signing on to the political agenda of so-called Social Justice.

Academic theories of implicit bias of both the systemic and personal varieties, like Ms. Blasey-Ford’s accusations, and those of Anita Hill before her, are impossible to disprove. They are the political equivalents of asking somebody whether he has stopped beating his wife, and demanding a yes or no answer. Either you support the Democrats’ proposed solutions to problems that they have defined, or you’re presumed to be guilty of crimes of moral turpitude.

Hollywood is only too happy to provide Republicans-are-evil plotlines, and most “mainstream” media – certainly The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, CBS and MSNBC no longer see themselves so much reporting the news as shaping their preferred, statist narratives. Which of these institutions has looked into who leaked the Blasey-Ford letter, or given serious coverage to the glaring inconsistencies in her story? None of them; they don’t want to know, let alone report.

Ironically, the Democrats’ ad hominem anathematization strategy is the exact opposite of Michelle Obama’s famous dictum that “when they go low, we go high.”

Hillary Clinton may be the Democrats’ worst politician, but she showed a refreshing candor in this ( CNN interview yesterday. She asserted forthrightly that civility is off the table until her party retakes control of Congress.

So much for the Loyal Opposition.


M.H. Johnston

3 comments to Anathematization as a Strategy

  • Ron Cypers  says:

    Mark – thanks for helping to expand my vocabulary, I had to refer to Websters a couple times while reading your post. Seems there could be just one other conservative choice for a Supreme Court justice who wasn’t a party boy in high school and college. Both parties acted poorly in this case. That’s politics in America today, very, very sad for our country.

    • Anonymous  says:

      Lock them up!

      • M Johnston  says:

        Um, … lock who up, and on what basis?

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