Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Reputation for Intolerance

As far as I'm concerned, everything that needs to be said about the planned Islamic community center in the vicinity of Ground Zero was said here, but there's still plenty to be said about the various things being said about the community center. For example, Obama's former Communications Director Anita Dunn, who appeared on one of those cable news chatter shows with a play on words for a name and said the following:
The Republican Party is solidifying its reputation for intolerance.[1]
The first response came from fellow panelist Pat Buchanan, who, in a bold strategic gambit, chose to miss the point entirely:
Anita, let me ask you about this word tolerance. I mean, what about tolerance for the views of the thousands of families of those who died on 9/11?
Then came the blogs:
Dunn was lathered in the usual self-righteousness as she spat her venom this morning, all of it completely out of step with reality as most Americans see it.
Anita Dunn…was amongst her own kind on MSNBC today, bashing Republicans and anyone else who opposes the Ground Zero Mosque.
[Dunn] showed up on MSNBC (The Obama Network) to lash out at critics of the Ground Zero Mosque. She says Republicans are hateful and intolerant.
It doesn't get much more senselessly reactionary than this. I see absolutely nothing false or confrontational about what Dunn said. Republicans have a reputation for intolerance.[2] That reputation is largely a product of the positions Republicans take on issues like this one. Thus, it can safely be presumed that the effect, however weak or strong, of this particular controversy on that particular reputation is, indeed, an overall increase in solidity.

An appropriate response would be to argue that the Republicans' reputation for intolerance is undeserved—not an argument I'm prepared to make at the moment, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. An even better response would be to acknowledge that, actual beliefs aside, Republicans would probably benefit from a less cavalier attitude toward alienating large groups of people. But that requires agreement with something a liberal said about Republicans, so that's not going to happen.

Does it ever occur to Republicans to ask themselves why they don't get 100% of the vote? There are, obviously, many reasons, and this is among the handful that are both substantial and valid. Republicans often take positions that, rightly or wrongly, make them look like intolerant bigots, which is ok with them because they've made up their minds that they're not intolerant, and who cares what you think. Not that it's fair to apply the stereotype to every member of the party, but that's exactly what happens, and, in related news, there's a pretty strong positive correlation between not being perceived as intolerant and not being a Republican. You'd think they'd want to do something about that.

1. Sure, there's more to the quote, but no one else seems to care about context, so why should I?[3]
2. Is that not self-evident? I mean, virtually every non-Republican I know thinks Republicans have a hard time tolerating views and lifestyles that differ from their own. And Republicans themselves would have to be pretty sheltered to be unaware that such a perception exists.
3. Hm…Footnote 1 sounds a little too much like Newt Gingrich's "there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia" for my liking (in that it's a case of holding oneself to a shamefully low standard). I should care about context regardless of whether anyone else does—it's just not all that relevant to the points made in this post.

1 comment:

  1. "Republicans often take positions that, rightly or wrongly, make them look like intolerant bigots, which is ok with them because they've made up their minds that they're not intolerant, and who cares what you think."

    The best sentence I've read all day.