While in Vegas, I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel of politicos discussing the role of the blogosphere on the left and right.

As the discussion turned toward the war, those on the left articulated that regardless what happened in the coming months in Iraq, the only notion of “success” they would acknowledge would be an immediate and total removal of American troops from Iraq.

That is, even if Baghdad immediately stabilized, the government gave themselves completely over to democratic rule, and all attacks ceased–that is, if heaven came to Iraq–the Democrats on the panel still insisted that it would still be a failure if our troops were there.

The left, to put it gently, is angry about the war. That anger has fueled their growth online, giving them an edge in online activism. But from this Republican’s vantage point, it seems their anger has slipped over into an insane nihilism that refuses to consider the possibility of success that isn’t “giving up” and denies that the facts on the ground–reality–should have anything to do with our policy. Even if we grant that America broke Iraq, the left will have nothing to do with putting it back together. And as such, if it does go well and Iraq stabilizes, the left will be able to take none of the credit.

The anger of those representing the left was palpable, and it was off-putting to this member of the right. But if one’s policy amounts to nothing–that is, if it rejects the possibility of constructive solutions to a difficult problem–then anger inevitably drowns out optimism and rationality.

(see also John Hinderaker’s perspective, as he was on the panel)

Update: I’m not the only one who sees things this way. Karl Rove recently said:

“My point is not that liberals swear publicly more often than conservatives. That may be true, but that’s not my point,” Mr. Rove said. “It is that the netroots often argue from anger rather than reason, and too often, their object is personal release, not political persuasion.”

Ht: The Corner

Update update:  Peter Berkowitz’s column in the Wall Street Journal is exactly right: hatred clouds the judgment and hence is corrosive on political discourse in America.  It’s a phenomenon, however, that is apparently not limited to the blogs.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I think that anger and refusal to acknowledge the possibility of success is really about the Left’s hatred of George Bush and its refusal to see anything good in him, his politics and his legacy. Hatred is the right word, unfortunately. To think that Iraq might turn out to be a conservative success story is more than most Democrats can bear.

    I can remember the same sort of visceral hatred by the Right of Bill Clinton, and I wonder what that says about the future of American politics, that Left and Right have split so completely into two warring poles?


  2. […] I hope (pray?) the left stops thinking this way. […]


  3. Matthew Lee Anderson November 14, 2007 at 12:32 pm


    I agree entirely.

    I think it says nothing good about the future of American politics. To be honest, even though I had read the vitriol from the left, I wasn’t expecting it to come through in person!

    In my experience, any time people who blog on opposite sides meet, they are able to be cordial to each other. While there were some pretty snarky comments made by conservative members of the audience, they weren’t angry in the same way the representatives of the left were. It was sad and disgusting–I walked out with a bitter taste in my mouth.


  4. Thanks for linking to Berkowitz’s excellent essay. I agree that it is terribly sad when political opponents have trouble setting aside their disagreements and coming together as friends. Mark Daniels at Better Living wrote a very good post on just that issue called Civility isn’t a bad thing in politics.

    Mark starts off with the example of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, two political opponents who forged a genuine friendship despite their very significant policy differences.

    Perhaps one of the ways that Christians can leaven politics is by showing love for our political opponents.


  5. Matthew Lee Anderson November 14, 2007 at 8:08 pm


    I had skimmed Mark’s article and so it didn’t come to mind while writing this. Thanks for pointing to it.

    I think my favorite example (though it’s not a political one) of people being friends despite significant differences is G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw (or HG Wells). They were more than cordial–they spent an extraordinary amount of time together having fun and dialoging, but they disagreed vehemently on every issue.

    I long to be that sort of person. Opposition should be true friendship.


  6. AZChas writes:
    I think that anger and refusal to acknowledge the possibility of success is really about the Left’s hatred of George Bush and its refusal to see anything good in him, his politics and his legacy. Hatred is the right word, unfortunately….

    I can remember the same sort of visceral hatred by the Right of Bill Clinton…

    I followed the political discourse of the 90s pretty closely and I think Bush-hate is qualitatively different than the old Clinton-hate. With the exception of conspiracy theorists like Larry Nichols, most of the right were disgusted by Clinton because he was a cad, he seemed to lie with impunity without consequences (pre-1998), and he was too charming, especially in comparison with Bob Dole. I agree that it became a visceral disgust over time, but I think it was in some ways an envious hatred, and obviously no one ever compared the president to Hitler as is already a cliche this decade.

    Even Rush Limbaugh, who was practically uncontested as the leader of popular dissent in the 90s, never attributed evil motives to leftists or the Clintons; rather, it was one of his repeated maxims that liberalism is motivated by good intentions. If a caller mentioned Larry Nichols, the “Clinton Chronicles” (the “Loose Change” of its day), or the supposed Clinton body count, Limbaugh never gave them air time because it was based on innuendo and though he was many things, Clinton wasn’t evil incarnate.

    This difference in assumptions about one’s political opponents has been frequently observed by Dennis Prager, for example:

    With a few exceptions, those on the Left tend to view their ideological adversaries as bad people, i.e., people with bad intentions, while those on the Right tend to view their adversaries as wrong, perhaps even dangerous, but not usually as bad.

    If this is an accurate generalization, then people of the Right would be willing to be friends with people of the Left, but when they try to make friends they are rejected by the Left, or else they are already too offended to try to make friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who assumes you’re not wrong but bad?

    Or, as Matthew Perry’s liberal character explained the culture wars to his conservative Christian colleague in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: “your side hates my side because you think we think you’re stupid and my side hates your side because we think you’re stupid.”


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