There’s no disputing that the Republican Party is the party of anger these days. Tea party anger. Libertarian anger. Social conservative anger. Hate Obama anger. But Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is trying to brand the GOP as the party of hatred. In a fundraising email for his political action committee, he writes:
I was targeted by the Nixon White House, and the smears of 2004 were no picnic, but something’s happening right now in our politics that’s disturbingly different than anything I remember.
Hatred is a word mainstream candidates don’t use, period. But when Sharron Angle’s campaign announced her fundraising totals, they said, “This is a testament to the hatred of Harry Reid.” Scary words from a campaign of a candidate who said people would resort to “second amendment remedies” if the rightwing didn’t get their way.
Something’s afoot. Another Congressman said, “We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats,” while Michael Steele called on activists to “get Nancy ready for the firing line,” talking about the first woman Speaker in our nation’s history.
This politics is dangerous.
In my household, we teach the kids that “hate” is a big word, one that should be used sparingly. But there is plenty of Obama hatred out there—and it extends to Democrats and others. (Remember when furious tea partiers gathered at a Capitol Hill rally organized by the House Republican leadership to protest the health care reform law then under consideration by Congress, and the crowd, referring to Democrats, chanted, “Nazis, Nazis”?) Kerry’s point is sound: there’s plenty of over-the-top detesting going on in Republican and conservative circles. But the political question is, can Democrats and independents be whipped up to oppose Republicans by worries of rightwing extremism? What’s a more powerful motivation: hatred or fear?