Friday, October 10, 2008

Hate and Blame

I'm going to quibble with Greg Sargent on one point here. He makes the argument that McCain and Palin are "largely responsible" for the "pathologically-unhinged tone" of their supporters at their recent rallies. My quibble is that McCain and Palin are responsible for inflaming the passions at their rallies, but the unhinged nature of their supporters was already there.

At this point, life is pretty hard for partisan Republicans. Having lived through 2000, 2002 and 2004 I know exactly the feelings they are going through. As the campaign counts down to the final days, and it looks increasingly likely that you will lose, the frustration begins to boil over. People get angry. They start looking for someone to blame. It's a natural reaction. And sometimes it can lead to really stupid outbursts like the kind of things we have seen the last couple of days.

The guilt of McCain and Palin is not in instilling that anger and frustration. Their guilt is in encouraging it (or, at best, not discouraging it). And this is where the real gut check moment comes for a candidate. For McCain has to be as frustrated and angry as any of his most partisan supporters (a candidate is always his/her most partisan supporter). Do you let that frustration boil over and feed it to the crowds around you? Or do you call for calm even though doing so could be the closest you will ever come to publicly acknowledging the hopelessness of your situation?

It looks like McCain made at least an attempt to calm things today:
A man in the audience stood up and told McCain he's "scared" of an Obama presidency and who he'd select for the Supreme Court.

"I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said as the crowd booed and shouted "Come on, John!"

"If I didn't think I'd be a heck of a lot better, I wouldn't be running for president of the united states."
McCain's supporters aren't going to be happy with him if he says things like this. They may even reject him. But I guess it is encouraging that he at least made the attempt.

As I said above, my disagreement with Sargent is more in the nature of a quibble. Responsible for an action ultimately belongs with the actor. So those who scream "kill him" have only themselves to blame. McCain will be to blame only to the extent that he doesn't tell them to cool it.



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