The corrosive principle of partisanship

December 16, 2008 by

A few days ago conservative syndicated opinionator Kathleen Parker wrote a column about the photo showing President-elect Obama’s senior speech writer Jon Favreau groping the breast region of a life size cardboard cut-out of Senator and Secretary of State Designate Hillary Rodham Clinton. She quotes me, though not by name, and mentions The New Agenda as well. My reaction can be found here. My awesome blogger friend Historiann also had a great response.

I don’t think anyone could fairly label me an Obamabot, because fandom and hero worship are just not things I engage in. But I was unexpectedly electrified by Obama’s candidacy when he entered the race for the Democratic nomination. The reasons for this are both complicated and personal, and probably not of any particular interest to anyone reading this. But supporting Obama did not make me feel negatively towards Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. I stood in the cold on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse last January within 100 feet of all three of those folks, and thought I could be happy if any one of them became President.

But that isn’t how politics works in this country. The corrosive overarching principle is that if you don’t actively hate your candidate’s rivals, you aren’t being adequately supportive. One of the most painful ironies for me was that while Obama’s message of reducing partisanship appealed to me tremendously, some of his supporters were among the most angrily and nastily partisan people I encountered. Too many Obama supporters were determined to position Hillary Clinton as evil incarnate. Obama, to his great credit, knows how smart and capable she is, and this was reflected in his decision to make her his Secretary of State. I can understand why this appointment might infuriate Kathleen Parker, but I don’t care what she thinks about anything.

Jon Favreau’s actions are a lot harder to accept. As far as I can tell, he posed for that awful photograph and then uploaded it to his own Facebook page, because he wanted to signal his disrespect of Clinton to his friends and colleagues around the world. This is a man who helped craft Obama’s post nomination message of party unity, apparently without believing it. It’s an offensively cynical approach to politics, and an affront to any women who challenges male hegemony, which is just about all of us.

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