Think of this as Volume 12, Number 38 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
The most urgent political task before America today is to remove the Haties from our political discussions, to exile them, to set boundaries on the right which politicians and the media dare not cross for fear of being marginalized.
Nixon and Agnew's great success, that is to say William Safire's and Pat Buchanan's great success, was to set such boundaries for the left.
Ever since 1969 the work of conservatism has been to push these boundaries inward. That's part of what a political thesis does. It channels what is legitimate and exiles those who cross the border to the margins of political life. It falls when this becomes bad policy, irrelevant to the times, and when it makes this obvious to the people, as conservatism did in the floods of Katrina.
This was pretty easy for Buchanan, for Safire, and for Nixon. The hippies of the late 1960s were never a serious threat. Their ideology was faintly foreign. They were, even then, just a fringe of the Democratic Party. George McGovern would never have gotten close to a Presidential nomination but for "the horrors" of Watergate that destroyed everyone to his right.
Unfortunately the Haties are buried deep within the Republican Party center. You can say they are its center. Until recently they were our rulers -- even when Haties have rejected George W. Bush as a person they have embraced his policies, including their excesses.
Before Katrina, I would argue, the Haties were the mainstream and the non-Haties were the exiled. The success of writing the Dixie Chicks out of our public life, of transforming Howard Dean into a screaming meamie, and of intimidating the media into printing the lies about Iraq without question, all attest to this fact.
So the first thing we must do is define a Hatie, as opposed to a reasonable conservative we can have a reasonable discussion with. Humor and ridicule work better for this than high dudgeon.
For this we are lucky to have the rhetorical skills of Atlanta's own Jeff Foxworthy:
- If you think the President is not an American, or that Hawaii isn't in America, you might be a Hatie.
- If you think Royalism and Feudalism are ordained by the Constitution, you might be a Hatie.
- If you think the 2nd Amendment protects your "right to rebel" with an AK-47 you might be a Hatie.
- If you think pointing out racism is racist and supporting the Confederacy is not, you might be a Hatie.
- If you think every foreign foe is out to kill us all, and can, you might be a Hatie.
- If you think Glenn Beck of Fox News is "fair and balanced" you might be a Hatie.
- If you think what I just wrote is hate speech, you might be a Hatie.
A second problem with America's Haties is that their ideology is not foreign, but home grown. You can see its echoes in McCarthyism, in Jim Crow, in the Confederacy, in the Gilded Age, in the Know Nothings, even in the hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson and the Anti-Federalist Papers. You can see it in old westerns and movies like Gone With the Wind.
Hatred of "the other" is bred in American culture. America is a Christian Nation, shout the Christian Haties. America is defined by wealth, shout the Economic Haties. America is surrounded by enemies, both without and within, say the Cheneyites.
To succeed, the Obama Thesis of Consensus must find a way to separate the Haties from some strain of Main Street Republicanism, to make the former anathema and to bring the latter inside a broad new consensus. So far the Hatie Wing of the Republican Party has succeeded in preventing this, partly due to Obama's success but also through intimidation of their own party's ranks.
The President, in other words, has no one to negotiate with. The Hatie Consensus so dominates the Republican Party that the only thing rational people can do is to become ardent Democrats. This is good for the Democratic Party but bad for democracy.
It is up to the President, and to his Administration, to draw the boundaries. What types of opposition are OK inside the consensus, and where are the bright lines that make you anathema? The people in the Netroots know, and they are prepared to be the President's "silent majority" in this effort.
But they have to be called to duty. They can't be triangulated, as Rahm Emanuel has sought to triangulate them. You cannot build a majority that excludes both the entire right and much of the left. You have to choose.
The elements for a new consensus exist. They exist in businessmen like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They exist in those elements of the Republican Party who wish to push the Haties away. They exist in those elements of the media who are allowed by their bosses to think for themselves.
It is up to the President, still, to call this new consensus into being, to write the Haties out of our politics in favor of the better angels of our nature. I am still waiting for him to do it. He wants to be John F. Kennedy, but Kennedy's only real success was in stopping a bullet, his political legacy written by his brothers, most especially Ted Kennedy.
President Obama must evolve, first into Nixon and then into Reagan. He must name the enemy, state clearly the new Thesis, and give his troops something to fight for.
To defeat the Haties, the dithering must end.