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[Insert Name] Derangement Syndrome:
You've probably noticed that with the election around the corner, a lot of people are saying some very extreme things about politicians. Politicians they don't support are not just weak, or poor choices for office. Instead, those politicians are dangerous, illegitimate, and maybe even criminal. Anyone who supports them must be disingenuous or in denial. We've seen a lot of that kind of talk all around the blogosphere, in more modest forms even at this blog.

  Why? It's a complicated question, I think, but I wanted to offer some preliminary thoughts.

  I think the psychological need for moral clarity is the primary reason we see this kind of language. In a democracy, the citizenry chooses which leaders we will have. Because we have diverse opinions, we will always have disagreement about which candidates and which ideas they embrace are the best ones.

  The unfortunate reality is that we really don't know much about political candidates and how they will govern. No matter which way we vote, we're gambling. This is true not only of candidates as individuals but also of their policy proposals: While we may each have instincts as to which ideas will work and which won't, our instincts are normally just that, instincts.

  That sort of uncertainty is really uncomfortable for a lot of people. We want to see our side as right and the other side as wrong: We want certainty that we are correct. And the higher the stakes, the more anxious we are that we may be wrong, and the more we want to be — we must be — right.

  I think this leads to a human tendency to demonize political candidates we oppose and deify candidates we endorse whenever the stakes are high. If the politicians you don't like can be portrayed as corrupt or dangerous, then you never need to get to the difficult questions of what they are actually doing or the merits of their policy proposals. You can satisfy yourself that you are 100% correct at the outset very easily, because at least you're not supporting the candidate that is illegitimate. As a result, politicians we don't support aren't just good people who have bad ideas that we think on balance won't work out for the best. Rather, they are treated like they are illegitimate and maybe even criminal.

  I realize I'm painting with a very broad brush here, and as a result I'm lacking a lot of nuance. But a number of people have remarked to me about the tone of the election both in the blogosphere generally and at the VC in particular, and I wanted to offer a few thoughts as to why that may be. If you disagree, please let me know in the comment thread (in a civil way, of course).

Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Excellent post, Professor Kerr.
10.13.2008 4:02pm
Blue:
The dissonance has been most pronounced on the left, which previously lauded McCain but needed to find a way to demonize him. I think this explains a lot of the reaction to Palin--she could be used as an excuse to paint a centrist and committed bipartisan guy as a dangerous reactionary.
10.13.2008 4:07pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Blue:

You don't think that McCain has moved away from some of the positions that liberals have admired him for since 2000?
10.13.2008 4:11pm
Paul Gowder (whose name is attached to a forgotten account) (mail) (www):
Or it could be that some of these folks actually are evil... I mean, if the blogosphere were around back then, would people in the 70's have been speaking of Nixon Derangement Syndrome?
10.13.2008 4:11pm
pete (mail) (www):

But a number of people have remarked to me about the tone of the election both in the blogosphere generally and at the VC in particular, and I wanted to offer a few thoughts as to why that may be.


My main problem with this is that I do not think this is particular to this elecetion and that people tend to view past elections through rose colored glasses. From what I have read of american history there has always been a tendency to demonize your opponents, its just now we have the opportunity to casually read these denunciations from our PCs so it may seem that it is more common or worse than before.

From every thing from the Clinton murder list to claims Reagan wanted to start a nuclear war all the way back to the demonization of people like Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams by their opponents. Except for possibly George Washington I doubt that there has been a major presidential candidate not treated that way.
10.13.2008 4:19pm
festivus (mail):
> The dissonance has been most pronounced on the left,

Exhibit A.

Thoughtful post, Professor Kerr. A sentiment long overdue on this blog.
10.13.2008 4:19pm
Waldensian (mail):

We've seen a lot of that kind of talk all around the blogosphere, in more modest forms even at this blog.

Excellent post, although I would differ with the "more modest" language. Some of the posts at the VC have been ridiculously overwrought.
10.13.2008 4:24pm
just me (mail):
You don't think that McCain has moved away from some of the positions that liberals have admired him for since 2000?

I am not a liberal, but from the conservative viewpoint I don't think he changed all that much-at least with regard to position, and if anything I think he moved further left.

I think what ended the love affair is that McCain's position on Iraq while different from Bush's at times and critical of Bush's was never a position that involved withdrawal.

I think they would still be in love with him as the senate maverick had he stayed in the senate.

But I don't think he has changed that much-at least not into more of a conservative.

I would also say that I think when McCain was playing maverick and bucking his party on every Sunday Morning show the liberals ate it up, and I think they perhaps imagined him to be more liberal than he is. I think conservatives have done much the same with Lieberman. Outside of Lieberman's positions on Israel and the war on terror, he is pretty much a typical democratic politician-a little more left on some issues a little more in the center with others.

I suspect that if Lieberman ran for the presidency and won the nomination-he would end up with much the same criticism from the right-the whole "he wasn't the man he used to be" stuff. The reality is that maybe the left and possibly even some on the right imagine McCain to be something other than he is.
10.13.2008 4:26pm
josh:
Blue:

"The dissonance has been most pronounced on the left ..."

Exhibit .... Darn it. festivus beat me to it.

Great post, but I think you can go further. I know you weren't trying to invent the wheel, but an expanded post could include a discussion of Sunstein's Republic.com (discussing the echo chamber in the blogosphere); the recent study reported in the Post about how people tend to become more entrenched in their opinions when presented with refuting evidence; etc.

Perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon of the blogosphere I've observed over the last several years is the making of arguments by some with absolutely no sense that the very same argument ( in subject, form, structure, etc.) can and will be used against the maker down the road. Of course, I have my biases and see this more often on the Right. But the point can be made about the Left as well.

For example, people attacking Obama's associations have no comprehension that the same standards may paint their candidates now and in the future in a bad light. People attacking the war in Iraq often don't recognize that someday they may support an invasion of a threat that is potentially not existential (I don't agree with the latter criticism but want to make it to be fair).

As Prof. Kerr said, "We want to see our side as right and the other side as wrong: We want certainty that we are correct." The problem is that our urge to be correct in the blogosphere is often so short-sited, we don't realize that we're hamstringing ourselves to make an honest assessment of any number of issues later on.
10.13.2008 4:30pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
This sounds like leftist moral relativism.

Leftist collectivist, high tax, conscription for youth, prosecuting political opponants, etc. policies are clearly evil and destructive to a free society.
10.13.2008 4:30pm
Whining is really hard work:
Exhibit B:

EPluribusMoney (mail):
This sounds like leftist moral relativism.

Leftist collectivist, high tax, conscription for youth, prosecuting political opponants, etc. policies are clearly evil and destructive to a free society.
10.13.2008 4:32pm
OrinKerr:
EPluribusMoney,

To be honest, I can't tell if you are poking fun at unthinking conservatives who can't spell or you are trying to be serious.
10.13.2008 4:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
just me:

Consider:

1. He repudiated his support of his own immigration bill (the one that many liberals supported).
2. He voted to permit the CIA to continue using the interogation tactics he had earlier denounced as torture.
3. He flip-flopped and endorsed the tax cuts he had previously condemned as irresponsible.
4. He indicated that he no longer supported a mandatory cap on emissions, which had been part of his cap-and-trade proposal.

I understand that conservatives have their differences with the guy, but he has clearly moved away from many of the positions that liberals admired him for.

If I can make a broader comment here, I think a lot of conservative commentary about McCain has actually made the same mistake you have-- assuming he can run as a "maverick" while also pleasing the GOP base. In fact, he had to choose one or the other. He really could have run as a different kind of Republican, in the same way Clinton ran as a welfare reform and death penalty supporting hawkish Democrat in 1992. He chose instead to move closer to his base.

Now that is his right, but given that strategy, conservatives should not be surprised that he's unable to attract as many swing voters as he has in the past.
10.13.2008 4:34pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
I think it is also a function of the rise of talk radio and partisanship that no longer analyzes issues but serves as a cheerleading proxy.

I would posit that Blue's comment blaming it on the left is actually more symptomatic of the right - partisan dismissal of inconvenient facts as being partisan. See the Palin troopergate report. The left does it as well, but I see it blatantly encouraged on Fox ("We are the only channel bringing you coverage of the disturbing Obama/Ayers connection...")
10.13.2008 4:34pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
To me, the more interesting question is why such a large fraction of voters think so strongly in terms of "our" side and "their" side. In many other democratic countries, typical voters consider themselves much more like consumers, evaulating the main parties' candidates from a (possibly opinionated but otherwise) non-partisan perspective, and selecting the most attractive ones irrespective of affiliation.

America, though, seems like a slightly more peaceful version of, say, Jamaica or Lebanon, where parties have their own "territory" (typically divided along racial, ethnic or class lines), legions of "troops" that organize and to some extent control voters, and patronage and spoils systems that reward loyal constituents and punish opponents. The result of such systems is that the democratic process--to the extent that it functions at all--is often quite ugly, as Orin's observation illustrates. Would anyone care to speculate as to why Americans have chosen this hyper-partisan approach to politics?
10.13.2008 4:34pm
Sagar (mail):
After 8 years of Clinton-hatred and 8 more of BDS, was hoping for a change this time. But the turning point seems to be Palin's inclusion on the GOP ticket.

There is a deep Palin Madness Syndrome (including on this blog) and listening to some of the comments of rightwingers, there is an Obama-DS already built up as well. So, no respite for at least 4 years:(
10.13.2008 4:36pm
LN (mail):

If the politicians you don't like can be portrayed as corrupt or dangerous, then you never need to get to the difficult questions of what they are actually doing or the merits of their policy proposals.

Thank you, Professor Kerr.

To add to that, we live in a complicated world with a large number of different interests. All successful politicians must perform a balancing act when it comes to responding to pressure from these various interests; this is what politics is all about. I think there is a tendency to oversimplify and act as if politicians are just pure-minded actors who simply promote what they think is best for the "general interest." While the beliefs of individuals are important, the environment in which these individuals operate matters so much more.
10.13.2008 4:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
History shows that far more virulent forms of the derangement syndrome have been the norm rather than the exception. For most of human history, and in many places today, politics involved murder, war, theft, rampaging forces, etc.

The fact that we have been reduced to mere name-calling is a great stride forward. It should probably be encouraged.

There is one new aspect, though, and that's the blog. Until the last ten years, people had to shoulder at least some cost for their expression. If they stood on the corner and called people nasty names, their neighbors and collagues may have frowned on their general behavior and demeanor. But with anonymous comments there is no cost to the commenter. He can vent whatever lurks in his subconscious, regardless of its twisted nature. No argument is so stupid that he will have to pay any price at all.

(Note that I'm writing all this under my cat's name.)
10.13.2008 4:37pm
JoshK (mail):
IMHO, this is much more of a left-wing phenomenon. There is certainly craziness on the right, but it's not comparable. When the left is out of power, then the voices of revolution get that much louder.

A simple comparison. It's almost a given to expect a violent demonstration outside the GOP convention, but it is unlikely to see a violent one outside the DNC's convention (except from other left-wing groups).

Underlying left-wing philosophy is a sense of angry resentment at class, power, institution, etc.

I don't think you can make a fair analysis of this without acknowledging the differing levels of vitrol (and willingness to consider revolution) between left and right.
10.13.2008 4:37pm
Sagar (mail):
Obviously this was the case in wars - market the enemy as bad - but since the 90s this seems to apply to elections too.
10.13.2008 4:38pm
MarkField (mail):

Except for possibly George Washington I doubt that there has been a major presidential candidate not treated that way.


Washington very definitely was treated this way by opposition newspapers in his second term.

Let me offer two quotes from the Founding era in support:

Joseph Addison: ""A man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes that there is no virtue but on his own side, and that there are not men as honest as himself who may differ from him in political principles."

Alexander Hamilton (!): "So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy."
10.13.2008 4:38pm
Aultimer:
Good post. In addition, it's hard or impossible to measure the quality of most political decisions, even post hoc, so our cultural need to be winners or to be correct often necesarily boils down to the tangible measure of election results.
10.13.2008 4:49pm
Anon Y. Mous:

[Insert Name] Derangement Syndrome:

I want to push back a bit against the title you give the post. The way the Derangement Syndrome label has been used is for those who have far-fetched, loony theories and/or criticisms of the subject in question, not just that they may think someone is extreme or may be a dangerous choice for the country. Examples would be the 9/11 truthers who believe that Bush was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks or those that were certain that Palin's new-born infant was actually her secret granddaughter.
10.13.2008 4:50pm
A.S.:
But a number of people have remarked to me about the tone of the election both in the blogosphere generally and at the VC in particular

Tone of the election? Have those people been asleep for the past 8 years? (16 years, whatever.)

The tone of the election is no different than the tone of politics in America in the recent past. From the left's fantasies about the assassination of George Bush, to the continual epithets directed at the Bush administration, McCain and Palin, to the race baiting, the tone has been pretty horrific for at least the last 8 years. (If you want to continue on before that, be my guest.)

It sounds like Orin's correspondents are either not aware of the last 8 years, or are just phony partisans.
10.13.2008 4:51pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):

If the politicians you don't like can be portrayed as corrupt or dangerous, then you never need to get to the difficult questions of what they are actually doing or the merits of their policy proposals.


1. There appears to be a correlation for candidates between being behind/ or a close race and the use of "character assassination of opponent. I wonder if there is a similar correlation among supporters. i.e. the more you fear your candidate will lose or the race is so close every vote counts, the greater the hysterical denunciation of opponent.

2. You make the assumption that it is better to evaluate the candidates on the basis of policy rather than character. Is this actually preferable? Unforseen events can so constrain politicians that what they promise in campaign is irrelevant once they are in office.

3. Moreover, politicians have learned that there are some issues upon which you cannot be frank, and be successful.

Isn't it better to vote on the basis of character, than on the basis of the policy you desire, only to find that the politician does the opposite: eg. LBJ will not send ground troops to fight in Viet Nam. or for an example from north of the border. In the '70s with inflation rampant the main opposition party annunciated a policy of wages and price controls. The government, lead by Trudeau, ridiculed the policy, won an election on this basis and within a few months promptly introduced wage and price controls.
When like Burke, you tell the electorate

3. To use a historical example
10.13.2008 4:52pm
Angus:

IMHO, this is much more of a left-wing phenomenon. There is certainly craziness on the right, but it's not comparable. When the left is out of power, then the voices of revolution get that much louder.
Exhibit C and counting. Notice which side of the aisle these exhibits of derangement are all coming from.

I attribute it, like others, to the profusion of media outlets and the blogosphere. People increasingly get their news and commentary from one-dimensional, partisan sources where all the feedback is from the same perspective. Eventually, people come to conclude that if all the sane, rational, good people on (DailyKos, Democratic Underground, Hot Air, Free Republic, etc.) believe A to be true, then people who believe A to be false must therefore be insane, irrational, and evil.
10.13.2008 4:52pm
Obvious (mail):
What Orin points to is not new:

Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule. Both commonly succeed, and both are right.

-H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

But when OK raises concern that some people think "politicians are dangerous, illegitimate, and maybe even criminal" he is raising concern that some people are recognizing a political truism dating back at least to Machiavelli. As each President fades into history, secret papers are unearthed, and the history books write of them, it becomes clear that virtually all of them did engage in dangerous, illegitimate, and often criminal activities. Granted, most calling them criminal in this election don't know enough to articulate that viewpoint well, but I note even stopped clocks are right twice a day...
10.13.2008 4:52pm
Angus:

Examples would be the 9/11 truthers who believe that Bush was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks or those that were certain that Palin's new-born infant was actually her secret granddaughter.
Or, alternative, those who believe the Clintons had both Vince Foster and Ron Brown murdered. Or, more recently, those who claim that Obama's first book was actually written by Bill Ayers.
10.13.2008 4:54pm
Isaac (www):
@Dan Simon

Would anyone care to speculate as to why Americans have chosen this hyper-partisan approach to politics?


It might have something to do with the fact that the US political system is structured to maintain a permanent bipartisan incumbency. With two parties stably entrenched, citizens are more likely to form a stable tribal attachement to one of them than they are when there are a multitude of parties that rise and fall each cycle.
10.13.2008 4:55pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

I realize I'm painting with a very broad brush here, and as a result I'm lacking a lot of nuance.


Lacking nuance in a post that comes down to a comment on the lack of nuance in the partisans of a campaign touches on irony.

pete had it right when he wrote above:

My main problem with this is that I do not think this is particular to this election and that people tend to view past elections through rose colored glasses.


And the comments that this is the most important election in history can only be made by people with very short memories and little knowledge of history.
10.13.2008 4:55pm
A.W. (mail):
Sheeh, Orin,

Here's why we talking about Bush Derangement Syndrome, etc... Because some of the people who dislike them are just off the charts crazy. Its not to say that there aren't rational reasons for it, but just that they aren't citing any of them.

For instance: Bush lied, soldiers died! A lie is a falsehood told knowing it was false. It is well documented that Bush was being told the truth was Saddam had the WMDs. Bush was wrong, at least in terms of the extent of the WMD stockpiles, but he wasn't lying.

Or look at shifting standards. Clinton listens into our phone calls and everyone is *yawn*; Bush does, and OMG, he is the KGB!

Clinton uses military power to prevent genoicide and is praised. Meanwhile Barrack Obama says he will leave Iraq even if there is genocide.

Or take Palin. In this very forum, I have actually heard people fault Palin for having their youngest child. When I pointed out that they might not have voluntarily become pregnant, he then suggested that they should have practiced a form of abstinence in the context of marriage. Faulting a married couple from acting like, well, a married couple, is about as deranged as it gets.

And as for McCain, my favorite running joke about him is that I am old enough to remember when McCain was the first choice for veep on the Democratic ticket. And I think really the demonization of McCain demonstrates very thoroughly what is at play here: democratic politics. The Democrats have cultivated two classes of people: the rabble and the rabble rousers. So the New York Times, from the second category, puts out a story pretending it is the first time in American history that a president has listen to our enemy's communications, and the rabble in turn mindlessly accept it. You have to assume the New York Times knows better, and the rabble, if taken seriously, are just in a never-ending fantasy world where evil republicans are always out to destroy democracy itself (while pretending that actual voter fraud is a myth).

How did they get to this state? One very interesting theory is that this is all a long-term example of 9-11 denial. They can't cope with the real enemy, so they conjure one in their minds. This allows them to feel powerful by taking on "the bad guys" even as South Park can't show even a cartoon of Mohammed.

But that's a theory, and I don't know for sure where it comes from, but it is plainly here.

And before anyone says that Republicans do the same thing with Obama, I will only say this. Obama is a radical and he is continually lying about it, which makes you wonder how much more radical he is, than we already know. Maybe it will turn out to be nothing, but when a man openly pledges to destroy an entire sector of the economy, that should make everyone pause.

Which is not to say there are no raving anti-obama types. But the truly unhinged are the minority and not being cultivated as a significant force, unlike say the Dailykos morons.
10.13.2008 4:58pm
OrinKerr:
To all those who are pointing out that this is not new, and that the phenomenon has existed in the past: Of course! I'm talking about human nature in times of stress, and I'm not claiming that human nature or times of stress were invented in the fall of 2008 .
10.13.2008 4:59pm
OrinKerr:
A.W.,

So if I follow you correctly, the other side is deranged, and your side is just realizing how dangerous the other side truly is?
10.13.2008 5:01pm
Ben P:
So it makes me strange that I'm willing to be uncertain and I really think either Obama or Mccain would probably be decent presidents?

I knew I was odd, ... but damn.
10.13.2008 5:11pm
Tek Jansen:
Orin, you should really note that this sort of derangement is mostly a phenomenon of the other side and not mine.
10.13.2008 5:15pm
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
Although I suspect that the candidates are rarely actually MALIGN (I am sure most have intentions they consider worth achieving, to get to the position they are in they have almost certainly had to compromise, deceive, and throw their weight around a bit.

The real mystery is not why we demonize the opposition - it is how me manage to tolerate our own side.
10.13.2008 5:15pm
Ed Scott (mail):
Does being a maverick equate to being a leader? What does a bi-partisan actually believe and stand for? Does a moderate have core values other than those related to self-preservation? How can a candidate make promises about taxes and expenditures when it is the Congress that makes such decisions? How does one trust a candidate with a concealed history?

Our government has degenerated into a combination plutocracy-oligarchy, a plutoligarchy.

We the People deserve a committed leader not an unknown socialist or a marriage counselor.
10.13.2008 5:15pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
Yes, but why do we see this same phenomenon in college football?
10.13.2008 5:17pm
EH (mail):
Ed: Following on from Orin's distillation, you're saying that We The People merely need someone who agrees with you, right?
10.13.2008 5:19pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
as someone who takes pride in calling himself the Patient Zero of Bush Derangement Syndrome, all I can say it that it may have taken seven years for the rest of the country to realize what I figured out back in 2000, but being right even when everyone else is hysterically praising Bush (see post 9/11 reaction) has been its own reward.

And since I was among the first to catch Obama Derangement Syndrome (he'll be to Democrats what Bush is to the GOP -- someone completely unsuited to the Oval Office who was foisted upon the nation by the media and a corrupt party organization, and who is going to make things far worse than they already are) I expect to be saying "I told you so" to a whole lot of people in the forseeable, albeit not immediate, future.
10.13.2008 5:19pm
Angus:
Zing! Point to Orin Kerr.
10.13.2008 5:20pm
KevinM:
Delivering results when in office is complex and difficult, but you can win elections by delegitimizing your opponent as a person: he/she is not like us, is not part of the "real" America, loves the terrorists, loves war for its own sake, revels in American casualties, wants the poor to starve. (I've tried to sample slanders of the left and right.) For the first time since the Red scares, we're hearing the word "treason" thrown around. Even a sort of domestic xenophobia has kicked in; I swear, candidates are now cricizing each other for being from, or having supporters in, some state or region of the US, as if we weren't a single nation. So yes, it's human nature; but it's also the clever and irresponsible exploitation of human nature without regard for the long-term damage to America as a community.
10.13.2008 5:21pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
To be honest, I can't tell if you are poking fun at unthinking conservatives who can't spell or you are trying to be serious.

And then there is the phenomena of internet trolling, where people say outrageous things, often in direct contradiction to what they actaully believe, just to provoke a reaction.

Sometimes it's an attempt agent provocateur , sometimes just mindless "fun". And sometimes it's so well done that you can't tell if it's real or not.
10.13.2008 5:22pm
Angus:

unknown socialist
If you know he's a socialist, then he's not unknown. If he's unknown, how do you know he's a socialist?
10.13.2008 5:22pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
But isn't there a need for moral clarity to be expressed when the moral issues are so clear?

From the democrats we have a politician who consorts with communist terrorists, who lists many communists as his philosophical influences in his own books, who promises to dismantle the finest healthcare system in the world and socialize it, and who has repeatedly accused opponents of being racists.

So why isn't this a time for expressing moral clarity? I get disturbed when people claim that such clear moral standpoints aren't clear. Where does such fuzzy thinking come from?

On the other side, those who want to institute socialist, indeed the precursor to communist, systems have a need to scream bloody murder to detract from the clarity and get their disturbing agenda enacted.

The danger is this: If one disagrees with the Patriot Act or other very bad laws enacted in the past 8 years, almost all of them can be undone quite easily through the ballot. This is not the same with what is threatened by the democrats. Once a socialist program is established it is never done away with.

Long after FDR is dead and gone for decades we still deal with social security. Once we get government controlled healthcare free to all, we will never be rid of that curse -- at least not within the projected lifetimes of anyone alive today.

So, yeah, we need more moral clarity. It's a good thing.
10.13.2008 5:24pm
Oren:

The real mystery is not why we demonize the opposition - it is how me manage to tolerate our own side.

Amen. As much as I vote Democrat, I can't stand the pink wing (responsible for much of the antiRKBA sentiment), the unions or mindless drones that demonize free trade.

That said, I don't really have any kind things to say about the GOP either.
10.13.2008 5:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Instapundit linked to a conservative who said he planned to do the ODS thing just as energetically as the BDS folks--and the dem party--had done. Payback's a bitch, he said.
I like the idea of revenge and rationalize it by saying it's a deterrent, as well as being deeply satisfying.
However, the additional problem is that BDS--Bush lied, as mentioned above, Bush is stupid, Bush is a fundie nutcase [he's a Methodist] and so on--became so basic a part of the debate that you simply couldn't say Bush didn't lie. The yelling would start, snorting in feigned disbelief. It was impossible to discuss issues. My guess is..that's the reason. The dems and bds-ers, to the extent there was a difference, were actually able to wear down and make wary those interested in actual issues. Probably, about 100% probable, because they knew they were wrong on the issues.
It was a version of "four legs good, two legs bad". It was so ubiquitous that it eventually had the desired effect of silencing rational debate.
So the issue discussion tended to be one sided.
Insty's correspondent will, if he manages to get some momentum, even out the debate issue.
Payback's a bitch, guys. Nobody who gets a faceful can claim not to have earned it.
But now we see calls for calm. I never anticipated that, nossir, ya betcha.
10.13.2008 5:25pm
JosephSlater (mail):
And before anyone says that Republicans do the same thing with Obama, I will only say this. Obama is a radical and he is continually lying about it, which makes you wonder how much more radical he is, than we already know.

Best. Exhibit. Yet.
10.13.2008 5:25pm
EH (mail):
Dilan: Would anyone care to speculate as to why Americans have chosen this hyper-partisan approach to politics?

I'm not going to speculate as to why Americans have chosen this approach, since I don't know that they've been given a choice where one might need to be offered explicitly.

But that's not my point. My point is something that prison guards have known for a long time: Turn them against each other. Prison guards tend to exploit racial tension (for instance) in order to protect themselves, since if the rabble are fighting amongst themselves they will be less likely to unify against the power that really determines their lives. I absolutely think this is operative in this election, with the additional evidence that the campaign doing most of the stoking is the one most in need of protection (e.g. Palin preserving her governorship and/or 2012 viability; McCain preserving his honor and dignity; both fighting against the first black President).
10.13.2008 5:26pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
[King George III Derangement Syndrome] = Declaration of Independence
10.13.2008 5:26pm
Angus:
Again, I'll repeat: look at this thread and see which side is responding thoughtfully, and which is not. Very illustrative.
10.13.2008 5:27pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Instapundit linked to a conservative who said he planned to do the ODS thing just as energetically as the BDS folks--and the dem party--had done.

I'm shocked, because the right was so civil and nice to Bill and Hillary when Bill was President. But now maybe some parts of the right will do things like invent murder allegations against the first lady. Oh, wait. . . .
10.13.2008 5:28pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Bill Harshaw wins a generally uninspiring (through no fault of O.K.'s) thread.
10.13.2008 5:29pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
(link)OrinKerr:
EPluribusMoney,
To be honest, I can't tell if you are poking fun at unthinking conservatives who can't spell or you are trying to be serious.


When you don't have a good answer, look for a typo and pounce on it!
10.13.2008 5:30pm
Andrew Maier:
From the democrats we have a politician who consorts with communist terrorists, who lists many communists as his philosophical influences in his own books, who promises to dismantle the finest healthcare system in the world and socialize it, and who has repeatedly accused opponents of being racists.

(emphasis added)

BAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH
10.13.2008 5:31pm
Isaac (www):
Richard Aubrey's corollary: "The other side started it!"

As if this sort of thinking wasn't hundreds or thousands of years old.

As if it's possible to ascribe a single, focused motive (payback) to a large population of tribalists.
10.13.2008 5:32pm
Cityduck (mail):
We are clearly seeing Obama Derangement Syndrome: Folks lke the woman at the McCain rally who said she couldn't trust Obama because "he's an Arab," the email campaign questioning whether Obama is the anti-Christ (and McCain's "the One" commercial), etc.

We are seeing very little of that with McCain or Palin. The attacks on McCain and Palin (like many attacks on Obama) are not based on whisper campaigns (other than maybe the National Enquirer articles), but are fact based or policy based attacks. They may well have a personal component (again like many attacks on Obama) that challenges McCain or Palin's judgment or ethics, but that is hardly an unprecedented or "deranged" attack.

Calling Obama untrustworthy because he's an "Arab," the "Anti-Christ," or a "Muslim" is deranged. Calling Palin unethical based on her political history with Troopergate is not deranged. Perhaps incorrect, perhaps not, but certainly not deranged. Does anyone here really disagree.
10.13.2008 5:33pm
Whining is really hard work:
Angus, we won't know until Angela Lansbury shows up with teh Queen of Hearts card and a sniper rifle for Mr. Sinatra.
10.13.2008 5:33pm
PC:
Sometimes it's an attempt agent provocateur , sometimes just mindless "fun". And sometimes it's so well done that you can't tell if it's real or not.

So that explains The Corner.
10.13.2008 5:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
More seriously, I think it's probably true that the "out" party is more angry/shrill/hysterical because they are . . . well, the out party. They are angry that they lost and the way they see the country as being run. So, a lot of Republicans said some awfully extreme things about Clinton, and more recently a lot of Dems said some awfully extreme things about Bush.

Now Repubs are saying awfully extreme things about Obama (see this thread), which I think indicates a certain anger and frustration with what most people on both sides believe the result of this election will be.
10.13.2008 5:37pm
Derrick (mail):

Payback's a bitch, guys. Nobody who gets a faceful can claim not to have earned it.
But now we see calls for calm. I never anticipated that, nossir, ya betcha.


Again, you would think that time started in 2001. The whole impeach the President, he's a drug smuggler and a pimp who assassinates his cabinet officials never happened in your alternative version of history.

It's funny how these arguments are coming from the Right on this thread, as they continue to make the same hypocritical on its face arguments. I can admit that some of my brethren on the Left went crazy during the Bush years, but it seems that a number of regulars have zero patience for self-examination to see that they did the same during the Clinton years. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have this continuous loop until a side is willing to put down their firearms.
10.13.2008 5:39pm
Lily (mail):
You think I'm 'deranged'? Obama promised this weekend (speaking to a plumber who was expressing concerns) that he was going to 'spread the wealth around'. I am pretty sure this means taking my income and 'spreading it around' to someone else. I can't object strenuously? Apparently I'm not neighborly or patriotic enough if I don't sit still and allow myself to be plucked like a chicken.

I've been thinking about John Galt lately. And I'm not the only one. We are not here to service our government.
10.13.2008 5:41pm
just me (mail):
As each President fades into history, secret papers are unearthed, and the history books write of them, it becomes clear that virtually all of them did engage in dangerous, illegitimate, and often criminal activities.

Well I can honestly say that to survive as a president or really in politics in general, they are all probably corrupt to some degree. Just some are a little more corrupt than others and some are better at hiding it.

I don't think the derangement syndrome is anything new-I could've cared less about anything political in the 70's being a young child, but in the 80's I remember the Reagan derangement syndrome quite well. I actually voted for Clinton in '92 and it didn't take long for me to regret the vote-but there were certainly those who were deranged. I think the nastiness since 2000 is at its worse. Maybe because I am more of a political junky now than I was then and see it more.

I lay most of the nastiness at the feet of democrats, but their excuse is they were the party out of power, much like those deranged about Clinton and Reagan were the party out of power. My guess is this won't get better.

I also think we have to be careful that we aren't calling anyone in opposition deranged.

It is not deranged to say one believes Obama has socialist tendancies and that concerns you.

It isn't deranged to say you don't think McCain is going to take us into more wars and that it concerns you.

I think the problem is that we have shifted the definitions of so many things that they have no meaning anymore.
10.13.2008 5:42pm
Angus:

Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have this continuous loop until a side is willing to put down their firearms.
At which point, they'll be shot by their opponents, which is the #1 problem with recent politics. I don't think either party really cares whether they fix any problems or not, as long as they win the elections and "beat the other guys." It's all a game. Unfortunately, us regular folk don't get to play.
10.13.2008 5:42pm
just me (mail):
We are seeing very little of that with McCain or Palin. The attacks on McCain and Palin (like many attacks on Obama) are not based on whisper campaigns (other than maybe the National Enquirer articles), but are fact based or policy based attacks. They may well have a personal component (again like many attacks on Obama) that challenges McCain or Palin's judgment or ethics, but that is hardly an unprecedented or "deranged" attack.

You must have missed the whole "Trigg is really Palin's daughter's baby, because there was no way she was pregnant bah blah blah" stuff.

Or maybe you missed the whole rape kit story that turned out to be debunked, but still showed up in the NYTimes after the debunking.

Or maybe the fake list of books Palin wanted banned.

There is definitely Palin derangement syndrome out there.

I don't think there has been much on McCain or Biden, but then they have been long time fixtures in DC-and their biographies inoculate them a little more I think-at least for the election cycle.
10.13.2008 5:47pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Isaac:

It might have something to do with the fact that the US political system is structured to maintain a permanent bipartisan incumbency.

I considered that, but I'm generally skeptical of this sort of structural explanation for political behavior. Democratic electorates actually have enormous power to change systems that are not to their liking. But I see no sign that Americans are generally dissatisfied with their harshly partisan political structure. Many major American cities, for example, are much less structurally constrained than federal politics, yet are still dominated by "machine"-driven partisan politics. And political efforts to reduce the stranglehold of the two major parties on the system at higher levels never get any significant political traction. I can only conclude that Americans are comfortable with this kind of militantly partisan politics.
10.13.2008 5:48pm
just me (mail):
At which point, they'll be shot by their opponents, which is the #1 problem with recent politics. I don't think either party really cares whether they fix any problems or not, as long as they win the elections and "beat the other guys." It's all a game. Unfortunately, us regular folk don't get to play.

So true.

I think this is one reason congress almost always tries to pass the buck, when it comes to solving the hard problems. They don't want to risk their seat, so they decide to avoid the problem altogether. So what we end up is a congress that will work hard to pass a bill that declares May 21st Salmon day, but won't take on problems like Medicare.
10.13.2008 5:50pm
rarango (mail):
I think it was Pete above who said this mindless political garbage is as old as the republic..Abraham Lincoln was ridiculed for the size of his ears! (and speaking of ears, have you seen the weathervanes on that Obama dude? its going to take a bucket loader to give him an earful....)
10.13.2008 5:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The people who were supposedly victims of Arkancide were all dead, I believe. Some of the circumstances were suspicious. And beneficial to the Clintons. I suppose there are some dots to connect and some not. I have no idea, myself, but there were more dots there than McCain's supposed affair, more dots to Willey, Broaderick, etc. than to Palin's maternal issues.

However, as some general is supposed to have said, quantity has a quality all its own, which is another way of saying a sufficient difference in degree will amount to a difference in kind.

During the Clinton administration, one could actually discuss the issues such as Ron Brown's death, or the White House Travel office firings. The discussion was not drowned out by feigned surprise and outrage and disbelief.

I supported the Balkan interventions and was not shouted down as supporters of the Iraq war.

Big difference in degree, which means big difference in kind which means complaining that the repubs did it first isn't going to keep your pants clean when the stuff starts flying. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.
10.13.2008 5:54pm
Angus:

Obama promised this weekend (speaking to a plumber who was expressing concerns) that he was going to 'spread the wealth around'. I am pretty sure this means taking my income and 'spreading it around' to someone else. I can't object strenuously?
Absolutely you can object strenuously to redistribution of income. By all means refute the argument, while redistribution sucks, it is necessary at some level to prevent a total monopoly on prosperity by the few, which in turn will trigger a violent revolution. (This is what actually happened in many Latin American nations. Some would argue that it was redistribution that made the U.S. so stable, particularly in the Great Depression.)

However, refuting that argument is a far cry from merely chanting "communist terrorist" or "traitor".
10.13.2008 5:56pm
commontheme (mail):
Well, Obama is a Muslim terrorist, so people have reason to be upset about that!

And the posters above are correct, this derangement is primarily a left-wing characteristic.

On the right, we have moderate voices like Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Savage (who combined probably have an audience of 50M plus) to provide us with insight and balance without resorting to hysterics.
10.13.2008 5:56pm
Sarcastro (www):
Man, what a thread to miss cause of computer problems!
10.13.2008 5:57pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Of course! I'm talking about human nature in times of stress, and I'm not claiming that human nature or times of stress were invented in the fall of 2008 ."

Times of stress? When wasn't this the human condition?
10.13.2008 5:59pm
just me (mail):
During the Clinton administration, one could actually discuss the issues such as Ron Brown's death, or the White House Travel office firings. The discussion was not drowned out by feigned surprise and outrage and disbelief.


So why the difference?

I kind of agree with you that it didn't seem to be as nasty in the 90's-there were certainly angry people and conspiracy theorists, but I wasn't afraid to have a conversation about my political beliefs during lunch break, now I avoid any and all discussions of politics, because I don't want to deal with the nastiness.
10.13.2008 6:02pm
Hoosier:
For perspective, check out Teddy Kennedy's speech to the Senate explaining his opposition to Bork. Wow. Talk about Bork Derangement Symdrome.

(How many of Bork's opinions for the DC Circuit Court had been reversed by the Supremes? I don't think he is as great as many on the right believe. But the idea that he was some sort of neo-Nazi was an act of fabulism on Ted Kennedy's part.)
10.13.2008 6:03pm
Lily (mail):
while redistribution sucks, is necessary at some level to prevent a total monopoly on prosperity by the few, which in turn will trigger a violent revolution.
It is ABSOLUTELY NOT necessary to have the government steal from the productive and give to the unproductive. I don't want to see people starving in the streets, but I am against redistribution of the income of hard working Americans. Taxation w/o represenation has been the cause of revolutions before too, ya know.

Hey, by the way, the Government PROLONGED the Great Depresseion with its programs and policies.
10.13.2008 6:04pm
Krahling (mail):
I admire the straight-forward and unapologetic manner in which Red Sox fans chant, "Yankees Suck!" In comparison to much political discussion it's far more honest and just as well thought out.
10.13.2008 6:05pm
Hoosier:
commontheme: I just can't agree that O'Reilly is a "conservative" or "on the right." I know he's viewed that way. But he's--rhetorically at least-- a populist (I have no clue what he actually believes).

His schtick is "the Little Guy versus the Big Guy." I don't watch him much at all. But at least this is what I get on those rare occasions when he has a guest whom I want to hear.

Now I completely agree that he is not a voice or moderate reason.
10.13.2008 6:07pm
Hoosier:
Re: Ron Brown's Death

Were there actually rumors about that? If so, that's one nutty theory that I was spared.
10.13.2008 6:08pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Orin Kerr:
That sort of uncertainty is really uncomfortable for a lot of people. We want to see our side as right and the other side as wrong: We want certainty that we are correct. And the higher the stakes, the more anxious we are that we may be wrong, and the more we want to be — we must be — right.

I think this leads to a human tendency to demonize political candidates we oppose and deify candidates we endorse whenever the stakes are high.


I would actually argue that the xDS practitioners seem to be remarkably certain that their target is evil and dangerous. Uncertainty is not one of their failings. I live in the liberal bubble of Austin, Texas and there are thousands of BDS practitioners here. In fact, I had one of them over for lunch yesterday. He was absolutely certain that GWB was to blame for yet another thing.

Plenty of people on the right loathed Clinton as well (I didn't like him myself). But I seem to remember that few people, even on the right, manufactured fiction and fantasy about him wholesale. Some things that come to mind were the Vince Foster thing, and some nonsense about drug running in Arkansas while Clinton was governor. But when he bombed factories in Sudan after the Africa embassy bombings, I distinctly remember the right actually rising to his support. And they weren't thrilled about his unauthorized and illegal war in Kosovo, but they didn't pillory him for it either.

The GWB years have definitely been different. And Sarah Palin seems to be a prime target.
10.13.2008 6:09pm
Andrew Maier:
It is ABSOLUTELY NOT necessary to have the government steal from the productive and give to the unproductive. I don't want to see people starving in the streets, but I am against redistribution of the income of hard working Americans.

If you would not like to see people starving in the streets, you have to make a sacrifice. You can't have them not on the streets just by magic. It takes redistribution of someone's money, and the unproductive people don't have money to redistribute. You can't have it both ways. Well, the government likes to think you can, but spending money we don't have isn't going to work in the long run.
10.13.2008 6:12pm
AlanW (mail):
With regards to the current round of derangement, I think Obama and Palin both generate more than their share because of their meteoric ascents and their charisma. Those qualities make them both less of a known commodity, more threatening to those inclined to be threatened and easier to paint as malevolent.

Going back a little further, I think Dems hated Bush mostly because of the 2000 election, combined with some genuine personal dislike. I think Republicans hated Clinton mostly for his character, but also for his charisma. I think Dems hated Reagan mostly for his policies, but also for his charisma. I think Reps hated Carter for his policies. Finally, anyone who didn't hate Nixon by the end doesn't love this country very much.

So, I think genuine policy disagreements combined with petty envy and personal greivances account for most of this (Nixon excluded). I don't think any of this crap really persuades anyone in the middle, it just turns them off of the process and/or makes them less informed about the actual issues.

Neither of those things are likely to be negatives for the partisans slinging the mud.
10.13.2008 6:15pm
Angus:

It is ABSOLUTELY NOT necessary to have the government steal from the productive and give to the unproductive.
I guess I can safely ignore the long debate in economics literature and history about the merits and drawbacks of such policies. Even most conservative economists agree that a "safety net" is necessary to prevent unrest, and a "safety net" is redistribution of wealth. So while the rest of the world debates about how minimal or how expansive they should, you can continue shouting the absolutist position in all caps.

Would you not see the potential for revolution in a hypothetical country where 1% of the population had 99% of the wealth and did nothing to aid the rest?
10.13.2008 6:18pm
Hoosier:
Finally, anyone who didn't hate Nixon by the end doesn't love this country very much.

Sorry. I don't think one needed to (needs to) hate Nixon. Someone with his "issues" ought never to have been president. I regret Nixon. But hatred is another thing entirely.
10.13.2008 6:19pm
PC:
But when he bombed factories in Sudan after the Africa embassy bombings, I distinctly remember the right actually rising to his support.

I vaguely remember "wag the dog" being bandied about.
10.13.2008 6:20pm
Angus:

Were there actually rumors about that? If so, that's one nutty theory that I was spared.
Yeah, the same guy who wrote the "Bill Ayers was the ghostwriter for Obama's First Book" column also wrote a book arguing that the Clintons arranged for Ron Brown's plane (with 34 others onboard) to crash in the Balkans. Or some such thing.
10.13.2008 6:20pm
Paper Nuncio:
I'm no Obama fan, but I find the comments that this is more on the left pretty ironic since for the last few weeks the McCain campaign has shifted from substantive talk to what appears to be nothing more than hatred rallies where we talk about the traitor/terrorist Barrack Hussien Obama, and the crowds simply cheer (or worse).

But I'm sure that it's well reasoned, and even nuanced cheering for the substantive issues. And I'm sure that politicians on the right wouldn't play to such emotional issues as do those on the left. They're just right. The gays in their black helicopters shall destroy us all!

On the other hand, one of the biggest turnoffs about Obama DOES seem to be the Koolaid Feedback Loop that seems to go on at places like DailyKos.

Yes I'm an independent voter. There are lots of fruitloops on both sides. Some of them are even running for public office.
10.13.2008 6:23pm
Federal Dog:
"The attacks on McCain and Palin (like many attacks on Obama) are not based on whisper campaigns (other than maybe the National Enquirer articles), but are fact based or policy based attacks."

This is a telling exhibit. Palin has been accused -- as "policy-based attacks?" -- of (off the top of my head):

(1) Wearing a "pregnancy suit" to fake a pregnancy to cover for her teenaged daughter;

(2) banning and burning books;

(3) trying to force rape victims to have children resulting from rape;

(4) refusing medical attention while pregnant, thus causing Downs Syndrome;

(5) forcing rape victims to pay for rape kits to block them from getting contraceptives (that rape kits do not contain);

(6) demanding that ID be made science curriculum;

(7) supporting the Nazi party;

(8) concealing the fact that her youngest child was the product of incest between Todd and Bristol;

(9) declaring the Iraq war a holy crusade;

(10) believing that dinosaurs walked the earth with Adam and Eve (granted, I think that Matt Damon and Maureen Dowd were alone in buying this one);

(11) Trying to enact legislation to ban all abortion.


This stuff is just not based on fact or policy. It's just deranged.
10.13.2008 6:24pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
Let's not forget there are psychic rewards for being "moderate." Perhaps moderates have a need to think of themselves as "independent," "above the fray," "responsible," "objective," etc.

If the facts suggest that one side in the debate is substantially more deranged than the other **cough**pallingaroundwithterrorists**cough**, then chalking competing claims of derangement all up to psychological biases is not virtue.
10.13.2008 6:27pm
Elliot123 (mail):
When a derangement practitioner makes an accusation ABC against Mr. X, it's instructive to ask exactly what Mr. X did to cause ABC. Most have no idea.

A good current example is the financial situation. Many say this was due to deregulation, but have no idea what regulation was removed that caused the problem. Their derangement appears to be an attempt at inclusion in a group which will approve of what they say.
10.13.2008 6:27pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
Or even a virtue.
10.13.2008 6:28pm
Hoosier:
Elliot: Their derangement appears to be an attempt at inclusion in a group which will approve of what they say.

Have you ever considered a career in academia?
10.13.2008 6:32pm
A.W. (mail):
Orin

I always hate this "false balance" approach. It hate to tell you something, but sometimes one side is right and the other is wrong.

Yes, Obama is a radical.

He is radically pro-abortion to the point of fighting against a law outlawing infanticide. Even Hillary Clinton wouldn't go that far.

He wants us to have $4 a gallon gas (he only complained that it rose to that price faster than he would like).

He wants us to retreat from Iraq even if there is a genocide in our wake.

He wants to bankrupt the entire medical insurance industry (and my only question is whether he understands his plans will lead to that—or if he is merely too stupid to understand how insurance works).

He is associated with election fraud thugs from Acorn.

He and his supporters have intimidated and threatened those who criticize him, including suggesting that criminal consequences would follow.

He has advocated a return to the "fairness doctrine" (insert joking reference to Orwell) and the end of secret ballot elections in unionization.

His rogue's gallery of friends includes convicted felons, racists and terrorists.

And finally and most disturbingly is the way he has come clean about virtually none of this. Which leaves us all wondering how much more there is, and how much more we would find out if he was only subjected to half the scrutiny the republicans have been.

Does this mean Obama is dangerous? No, but it is a lot more rational to fear an Obama presidency than a McCain one.

Can you say anything factually true that is even half that bad about McCain? Or Palin for that matter?

So yeah, there is a lot to raise your eyebrows about, with Obama. And even then the anger, the fear, etc. is not half as much as the democrats have toward McCain, and even more so toward Palin.

Sorry, Orin, reality is not balanced. Newton's laws do not apply: there is no guarantee of an equal and opposite reaction. There is no guarantee that for every nutty democrat, there is a nutty republican.

Or let's get empirical. Who is more likely to believe in UFOs and ghosts? Democrats. (Source.) Who is more likely to think Kennedy was killed by Oswold, acting alone? Republicans. (Source.) Who is more likely to be a Truther? Democracts. (Source.)

Yeah, clearly there is an even distribution of rationality between the parties.
10.13.2008 6:33pm
Arkady:
@Orin:


To all those who are pointing out that this is not new, and that the phenomenon has existed in the past: Of course! I'm talking about human nature in times of stress, and I'm not claiming that human nature or times of stress were invented in the fall of 2008.


I think it may be typical of democracy as a form of government. Just read Aristophanes and you'll see that demonization, or at least vicious caricature, was a high art in 4th century Athens, e.g Socrates, Clouds (Plato went so far as to blame Aristophanes in part for Socrates's death). Cleon, one of Aristophanes's favorite whipping boys drew the poet's ire for, among other things, accusing him of foreign birth (hmmm). I don't see any reason to suppose that the kinds of pronging Aristophanes displayed in the theatre didn't take place regularly in the agora, though, no doubt, with much less art. I do think all this goes to the uncertainty that Orin talked about, to the contingency that democracy, as a governing paradigm, reflects. That's our reality, and, as another poet said, "human kind Cannot bear very much reality."
10.13.2008 6:34pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

If you would not like to see people starving in the streets, you have to make a sacrifice. You can't have them not on the streets just by magic. It takes redistribution of someone's money, and the unproductive people don't have money to redistribute. You can't have it both ways. Well, the government likes to think you can, but spending money we don't have isn't going to work in the long run.


granting that its a social good to keep people from starving, is the only way to accomplish this through government redistribution?
10.13.2008 6:36pm
Angus:
Federal Dog,

I was going to do a long analysis on your post, but don't want to waste the time. So I'll do a short one: a few of those things are at least partially true, most are false, one only existed as an off-hand comment on SNL parodying the attacks on Palin, and a couple I don't think existed until a VC comment posted at "10.13.2008 5:27pm"
10.13.2008 6:38pm
Andrew Maier:
Tut tut, A.W. The rules are only one exhibit per person. You're hogging.
10.13.2008 6:39pm
pete (mail) (www):
<blockquote>
And the comments that this is the most important election in history can only be made by people with very short memories and little knowledge of history.
</blockquote>

Yeah, i actually do not think this is the most important election in even recent years. In my lifetime 1980, 84, and 2004 all seemed more important since they all involved major differences in foreign policy between the two candidates in ongoing conflicts (cold war and Iraq).

There are other issues that are important too from judges to the budget, but would a Dole administration have been that much different from a Clinton one, especially relative to a Carter vs Reagan where we know for sure how both governed.
10.13.2008 6:39pm
Andrew Maier:
granting that its a social good to keep people from starving, is the only way to accomplish this through government redistribution?


Certainly not. But it's a delusion to think that it can be done without sacrifice on behalf of people who are productive to the point of getting more than they need to survive.
10.13.2008 6:41pm
Dick King:
I would like to share an observation.

I've generally said to my little circle of friends, acquaintances, and family that I didn't like the Republican candidate [and here's why], and that I also didn't like the Democratic candidate [and here's why]. So I would say that I'm either voting for the libertarian or for nobody. [As an aside, let me put in a plug for leaving the presidential race unvoted on your ballot, and vote the rest of the ballot, as a message to the pols that there are votes to be gained if they would present us with decent candidates. Voting Libertarian doesn't do that because neither party thinks it can collect the Libertarians, and I don't happen to like this one.]

Usually they listen, they're seldom convinced, but they talk to me like a person.

This year, one relative lambasted me for a half hour, for not supporting Obama. That's never happened to me before. People try to persuade me, but in my reasonably rational circle they don't yell at me for a solid half hour. In his honor I'm actually considering voting for McCain and sending him a cell phone picture of the display on the voting machine.

I have two points to make with this story...

1: something is categorically worse than it used to be

2: if this is common, maybe there's a problem with polls. Never mind the Bradley effect; if people are feeling beleaguered for not supporting Obama or gasp supporting McCain, maybe they don't have the nerve to tell the pollsters the truth.

-dk
10.13.2008 6:42pm
Angus:
granting that its a social good to keep people from starving, is the only way to accomplish this through government redistribution?


As far as I can tell, there are only 3 possibilities (maybe someone else can point out more):
1. the market
2. government
3. charities

The market doesn't work in such a way, as it is not concerned with social good or policy. Government can do it, unquestionably, though there is debate as you say of how much government should do it. The final choice is charity, but in times of economic stress private charities on their own would be overwhelmed without government assistance.
10.13.2008 6:49pm
Cornellian (mail):
If you know he's a socialist, then he's not unknown. If he's unknown, how do you know he's a socialist?

Maybe he's The Unknown Socialist.
10.13.2008 7:07pm
Brian K (mail):
This stuff is just not based on fact or policy. It's just deranged.

the stuff is also believed by a vanishingly small number of the electorate. compare that "obama is a muslim/terrorist" which is believed by ~10% of the electorate (or something like that, according to data given in other threads on this site).

this fact, in addition to many of the posts above, including yours, should give one a pretty good idea of which party is more deranged. it certainly doesn't seem to be the democrats this time around.
10.13.2008 7:09pm
PC:
A.W. is going to be pissed when he finds out they don't serve pudding in the FEMA camps.
10.13.2008 7:11pm
geokstr:
The right has some very good reasons to fear Obama, based on his explicit positions and actions and those of his party, not on any "derangement" syndrome.

Obama and the democrat leaders in congress have all stated they will move to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine", which will be the death of conservative talk radio. However, this will not apply to the networks, the newspapers, the news magazines, nearly all of which are already to the left.

Obama's campaign and surrogates have already moved to either intimidate and/or threaten legal action and call for IRS investigation of conservative bloggers and supporting citizen groups. Obama's campaign has directly instigated swamping the phone lines of a popular Chicago talk show because they had critics of Obama on, and use the word "racist" to rebut any criticism of Obama, even those with no conceivable connection to race whatsoever.

If you have followed the kangaroo trials of Mark Steyn and MacLean's before the "human rights commissions" in Canada for the temerity of accurately quoting imams and ayatollahs, and the progress of so-called "hate speech" regulation and "political correctness" on campuses and in the media here in the US, you would know the hell that can be caused by such pressures, which all comes from the left.

The old-line media have been left of center almost monolithically for a long time, and their cheerleading for Obama this election cycle is obvious. The left seems to have some antipathy to allowing a conservative opinion to be voiced - period. Should we not be fearful that one side's freedom of speech is about to be curtailed if Obama wins?

I will be happy to moderate my position on this if someone can point out similar actions by the right against Obama and his party to curb their speech. If there is not the diversity of ideas, we will be in a lot of trouble as a civilization no matter how diverse we are in melanin content.

Please note I base the above not on some nebulous emanation from the penumbra of a rumor, but on the actual actions and stated positions of the left. Someone above made the point that sometimes, i.e., Nixon, there really are positions and/or players that can be objectively be called "evil". Sometimes paranoics do have real enemies.

How would the argument in the original post have fared in cases in recent history? Oh, hell, both sides will murder tens of millions of innocents, so who are we to judge Hitler and Stalin and Mao? All of them successfully gained monopoly control of the means of communication and opinion making machinery in their countries as well.

If either the right or the left gains such control here, it will be abused. That is only human nature. The left is poised to gain such power due to a fortuitously timed "crisis", and they have already indicated their intent to abuse it. Absolute power and all that stuff...

I'm certain there will be commenters who will pooh-pooh this concern, but that will say as much about which side of the aisle they are on as it does about anything else. If it was their ox about to get the goring, they might think differently.
10.13.2008 7:21pm
Ben P:
So have we gotten to Exhibit "AA" yet, or are we into the triples?
10.13.2008 7:23pm
PC:
The left is poised to gain such power due to a fortuitously timed "crisis"

That's a new one. The Democrats caused the financial crisis to get Obama elected.
10.13.2008 7:25pm
Brian K (mail):
I will be happy to moderate my position on this if someone can point out similar actions by the right against Obama and his party to curb their speech.

somehow given the tone of your post, you will deem any counterexample i give as "not similar enough" and continue to spout your hyper-partisan nonsense.
10.13.2008 7:28pm
Brian K (mail):
i should have read my response before posting:

somehow given the tone of your post, i believe you will deem any counterexample i give as "not similar enough" and continue to spout your hyper-partisan nonsense.
10.13.2008 7:29pm
Andrew Maier:
The left is poised to gain such power due to a fortuitously timed "crisis"

That's a new one. The Democrats caused the financial crisis to get Obama elected.


To be fair, that's not what he said. He put "crisis" in quotes to indicate that he was not convinced it was of crisis magnitude. His statement that it was fortuitous is true enough; Obama has gained political ground due since the crisis. Never in there does he say that the Dems caused the crisis nor do I think there is even enough fodder to say he implied it. As long as we're sitting here on the left saying the Righties are coming up with conspiracy theories, we might at least have the good will not to make them up for them.
10.13.2008 7:31pm
Andrew Maier:
Forgive me, make that "Obama has gained ground since the crisis", deleting the word "due"
10.13.2008 7:32pm
josh:
Prof Kerr

Do you ever feel like the fat kid in the made-up story told in "Stand By Me?" (movie of the novella "The Body" by Stephen King)

You just lay out the ammo and sit back and smile as you watch the puke-fest? I'll leave it to you which side of the partisan aisle is engaging in the most derangement in this comment thread.

Still, it's gotta be fun being you sometimes ....
10.13.2008 7:40pm
JohnRJ08 (www):
I believe there is another explanation for all the rage we're seeing at Republican rallies. It represents the fundamental differences between the two political parties. The Democratic Party, essentially, wants the government to play a larger role in our lives in terms of helping us do things collectively that we can't do individually. At the same time, it is supports personal freedoms and is a more permissive ideology. The Republican Party, on the other hand, wants smaller government, but fewer personal freedoms. More importantly, the right side of this party has a basic belief that it has the only answers, not only politically and economically, but also morally and spiritually. It is less inclusive, for that reason, much more suspicious of change. When Republicans see a candidate who doesn't look the Presidents on their currency, they get downright upset. They sincerely believe that, in order to survive, the country can only be ruled by people who are just like them. It is a de facto form of bigotry and xenophobia, which go hand in hand. A liberal can have conservative beliefs, but he doesn't demand that everybody else follow them. A conservative expects everybody to believe and act as they do, or else. That's what I think our two-party system has devolved into.
10.13.2008 7:47pm
LM (mail):
Where's Ace when we need him?
10.13.2008 7:48pm
LM (mail):
OrinKerr:

To all those who are pointing out that this is not new, and that the phenomenon has existed in the past: Of course! I'm talking about human nature in times of stress, and I'm not claiming that human nature or times of stress were invented in the fall of 2008 .

Orin Kerr hates the Founders, the Greatest Generation and all our other forebears who fought and dies for our freedom.
10.13.2008 7:50pm
rarango (mail):
I have been around along enough to understand the republic will survive either Obama or McCain as president--because the reality presidents do not have a heck of a lot of power except, as Richard Neustadt put it, the power to persuade.. Thats where the current president has failed miserably; should Barack Obama win, then it will be up to him to persuade. it will be left to see if he can do that. Assuming a democratic sweep then should they overreach they will face the same thing that brought on the Gingrich revolution of 1994. I think our process in this country, while messy and vituperative, is still the process around.
10.13.2008 7:51pm
Andrew Maier:
I believe there is another explanation for all the rage we're seeing at Republican rallies. It represents the fundamental differences between the two political parties. The Democratic Party, essentially, wants the government to play a larger role in our lives in terms of helping us do things collectively that we can't do individually. At the same time, it is supports personal freedoms and is a more permissive ideology. The Republican Party, on the other hand, wants smaller government, but fewer personal freedoms. More importantly, the right side of this party has a basic belief that it has the only answers, not only politically and economically, but also morally and spiritually. It is less inclusive, for that reason, much more suspicious of change. When Republicans see a candidate who doesn't look the Presidents on their currency, they get downright upset. They sincerely believe that, in order to survive, the country can only be ruled by people who are just like them. It is a de facto form of bigotry and xenophobia, which go hand in hand. A liberal can have conservative beliefs, but he doesn't demand that everybody else follow them. A conservative expects everybody to believe and act as they do, or else. That's what I think our two-party system has devolved into.


Let it not be said that the nuttiness is all right-sided. I mean, come on. Do you think a political party could hold half the country (give or take) and not be at least inclusive of its constituents?
10.13.2008 8:02pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
I think the psychological need for moral clarity is the primary reason we see this kind of language.

I think that this answer is what happens when lawyers believe they can be psychiatrists. Politician derangement syndromes are not about language. They are about people who have lost perspective. These people transfer their hatreds, fears, guilts, etc. onto the victim (a politician, political party, or political group). They are not achieving moral clarity; they are finding outlets for bad feelings. Spend some time (face to face, not online) with some people suffering from Politician Derangement Syndrome, and you will quickly disabuse yourself of the idea that they seek the noble goal of moral clarity.
10.13.2008 8:04pm
Jim Rose (mail) (www):
I'd go with Hannity Insanity Syndrome myself.
10.13.2008 8:06pm
Ed Scott (mail):
EH: "...you're saying that We The People merely need someone who agrees with you, right?"
No EH you are saying that. I did not. Your propaganda technique is called attacking a straw-man - a false statement of my comments.

Don't attribute Orin's words to me. I see the choice in this election as between one candidate who has had a long time association with individuals who have shown a definite dislike to America and whose campaign proposes a socialist solution to all the problems of We the People and a candidate who is more suited to be a marriage counselor.

EH: "(e.g. Palin preserving her governorship and/or 2012 viability; McCain preserving his honor and dignity; both fighting against the first black President)."
Be aware that you played the race-card not me.
10.13.2008 8:18pm
LM (mail):
Dr. T:

I think that this answer is what happens when lawyers believe they can be psychiatrists.

Aren't you being a little uncharitable over a layman's misuse of one of your professional terms of art? Projection, displacement, aggression, neurosis... does it really matter for this purpose, which I believe is just to suggest that "X"DS serves some psychological purpose having little to do with one's politics?

When my brother the shrink corrects my confusion between Kohutian and Kernbergain narcissism, I remind him that I'm the one with power of attorney to turn off his life support.
10.13.2008 8:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
BDS began during his first campaign for POTUS. That's when he was a fundie, a moron, a whatever and ever. Had nothing, directly, to do with his policies. IMO, it had a good deal to do with his policies. They seemed rational enough that the main stream of the dem party promoted the craziness instead of trying to argue against them.

Great Spirit, I can't tell you the self-righteous glee with which people with Ed BAs of average GPA tell me Bush is stupid. People who can't drive a manual transmission belittle his fighter pilot work. People who make themselves out to be very fine folk insult his family, his work, his intelligence. This is far closer to the mainstream than the anti-Clinton nuttiness was. And don't EVEN get me started on the feminists' views of him and his wife and children. I just finished dinner.
10.13.2008 9:44pm
PC:
This is far closer to the mainstream than the anti-Clinton nuttiness was.

Um, people were forming armed militias because of Bill Clinton. I'm pretty sure the militia movement will have a sudden resurgence if Obama is elected.
10.13.2008 9:59pm
Toby:
AsI recall, during the 200 election, all over town appeared the graffiti "Fear Bush". Nothing else. It was spray painted on the side of the car of the single mother working at republican HQ for the county (after they broke off her antenna) and spray painted on walls and on closed businesses.

Nothing more. No defense. No explanation. Just a simple "Fear Bush"

I have never seen an equivalent display by the other "team"
10.13.2008 10:23pm
jasmindad:
Geokstr said: "If either the right or the left gains such control here, it will be abused. That is only human nature. The left is poised to gain such power due to a fortuitously timed "crisis", and they have already indicated their intent to abuse it. Absolute power and all that stuff... "

The above is very nice. I remember your posting exactly the same sentiment all over the blogosphere, including Volokh, just before and after the 2002 congressional elections, postings in which you argued that due to the fortuitously timed "crisis" of 9/11, the right was poised to gain "absolute power," yes, I think that is the term you used in those wonderful postings. I think you also pointed out that they had announced their intent to abuse it by overreaching on tax cuts to the rich and on the unitary executive, and all that. So now it is only fair that you are warning the country against similar overreach by the left. A model of balance! Thanks.
10.13.2008 10:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC.
People were forming armed militias almost solely in the minds of the MSM. And it wasn't because of Clinton. The idea had been around as long as I can recall, beginning in the late fifties, early sixties, when some high school kids were thinking about it.
Some of it was about surviving the nuclear war, which in that era might have been possible, temporarily.
So, I guess the right response is, PC, wrong again.
10.13.2008 10:55pm
PC:
10.13.2008 11:35pm
David Warner:
Sarcastro,

"Man, what a thread to miss cause of computer problems!"

The environment's too target rich. You might sprain something.
10.13.2008 11:35pm
David Warner:
I think during a campaign, the various derangements are a good thing, as long as they're various. We let counsel for the plantiff/prosecution and defense duke it out for similar reasons. It's the least worst way to get to the truth. Checks and balances and all that.

Where it's a problem is when the campaign becomes perpetual and we risk becoming permanently divided, and thus more easily conquered.
10.13.2008 11:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC. Do I give a shit? I was there in the late fifties knowing people who were running around the woods with guns. They were not entirely consistent whether it was against domestic tyranny or Russion invasion.
The ADL has its agenda. I know what I saw.
10.14.2008 12:02am
PC:
Richard Aubrey, you made the claim that, "People were forming armed militias almost solely in the minds of the MSM". I provided a link that documents cases of the resurgence of the militia movement in the 90s. But "Do I give a shit?" seems to be a pretty good tactic for bolstering your argument. That and anecdotes.
10.14.2008 12:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC. ADL has its anecdotes, I have mine.
You mistake my purpose. I am not trying to convince you of anything regarding militias save that your point is known by more than you to be false. So, perhaps you'll stop wasting everybody's time.
I live in Michigan. I know about the Michigan Militia. They said relatively little about Clinton himself and more about the intrusive government. Which has been the case for fifty years, that I know of.
So, as I say, don't waste any more time trying to convince the rest of us. We know better, as do you. Which is the only thing I'm trying to get across to you.
10.14.2008 1:08am
egrim (mail):
PC, the ADL is not a credible source on the subject. Their funding depends on their being threats. If there aren't any, they will manufacture them.
10.14.2008 1:13am
egrim (mail):
There's something to be said for good and evil. Truth and happiness lie somewhere in between.

/s/ A. Moderate Moron
10.14.2008 1:16am
PC:
Richard Aubrey, right. The ADL piece actually names names, but you live in Michigan. It was interesting to read about "Michigan Mark," the guy that apparently mainstreamed the whole black helicopter thing.

egrim, you might want to tell some of the posters on this blog. But besides that, did the ADL make up the groups and people it was referencing in that piece?
10.14.2008 2:30am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Last time, PC.
Militias are an old phenomenon. I have known of them by personal experience for half a century. They all have the same underlying fear. The only thing that changes is the names of some of the villains.
When Clinton was president, he was the designated villain. After Waco, the militias got additional interest from the fearful. Ruby Ridge was, actually, worse, since Weaver was both inoffensive and something like militia people. And that was on Bush's watch. But it was the guys in the ninja suits killing innocent people both times.
"Red Dawn" got a lot of interest, too, from some of the same types.
Old news, new villains.
You know this. I know this. Now that you know I, as well as others, know this, maybe you'll stop wasting our time.
10.14.2008 8:56am
OrinKerr:
Richard Aubrey writes: "PC. Do I give a shit? "

Well, if you would like to comment at the Volokh Conspiracy, you should "give a shit" about the comment policy here. Keep it civil, or I will ban you from commenting.
10.14.2008 9:21am
Hoosier:
OrinKerr: To be balanced, you really shouod threaten me with banning for writing Die you bastard in response to Kevin R.

In my defense, I'll only say that he had suggested the National League would be improved by the introduction of aluminum bats. That comes darned close to "fighting words," in my opinion. But IANAL.
10.14.2008 10:41am
Hoosier:
egrim

PC, the ADL is not a credible source on the subject. Their funding depends on their being threats. If there aren't any, they will manufacture them.

Examples?
10.14.2008 10:43am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier.
It's not easy to fake up a threatening organization which does not, in fact, exist.
It's another thing entirely to continually exaggerate and misstate the statements and actions of an existing group.
You know. The sentence which includes "smacks of".
The exaggerated fear of conservative Christians is an example. And it can only be dismissed by claiming they're not a threat, which, since the future is not yet here, cannot be proven.
10.14.2008 11:44am
egrim (mail):
Hoosier,

Richard Aubrey is quite right. To make a mountain out of a molehill is to make, to manufacture, a mountain. Those tax-paying law-abiding folks over there who own guns and don't like (fill in the blank) are suddenly a grave threat to the Republic and, especially, to (fill in the blank) notwithstanding the fact that they've been there for ages and have never caused anyone the slightest harm . . . except elk, and deer, and moose . . .

Oh those poor defenseless critters . . . would anyone who would shoot a moose hesitate to shoot a blakk or a joo? No!

That's not my question, that was actually asked (and conveniently answered) by an impeached federal judge, now democrat congressman Alcee Hastings, referring to Sarah Palin. Google it. (Speaking of _____ Derangement Syndrome!)
10.14.2008 4:35pm
LM (mail):
... and the inductive use of an alleged comment by Alcee Hastings to argue institutional paranoia by the ADL is also typical of [X] Derangement Syndromes. Whether it's reasonable for "A" to perceive "B" as a threat depends on a myriad of things about each of them, their respective histories, stated intentions and possession of accurate information about the other being just a few.
10.14.2008 7:53pm
Randy R. (mail):
AW: "His rogue's gallery of friends includes convicted felons, racists and terrorists."

Not to mention the occasional homosexual pervert. The horrors!
10.15.2008 12:42am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Randy R. You got another schtick? This one's worn out.
10.15.2008 9:20am
LM (mail):
Richard,

I don't know what surprises me more, that you somehow got the impression Randy's schtick is worn out, or that you wonder if he has another one.
10.16.2008 2:26am
geokstr:
Jasmindad:

"The above is very nice. I remember your posting exactly the same sentiment all over the blogosphere, including Volokh, just before and after the 2002 congressional elections, postings in which you argued that due to the fortuitously timed "crisis" of 9/11, the right was poised to gain "absolute power," yes, I think that is the term you used in those wonderful postings.

I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. I only started posting on blogs extensively within the last several months. I never even heard of this site until fairly recently. So I would like an apology for the scurrilous remark, but I don't expect you'll offer it.
10.16.2008 3:20am