Commentary: Be Careful Before Denigrating All Republicans

As we prepare for this year’s election, the rhetoric is getting especially mean — and sometimes it’s unfounded, too.

Posted: 03/12/2012 06:30 PM EDT

It’s only March, months and months away from November’s election, and already the GOP fangs are out. Rick Santorum recently said Obama was comparable to a drug dealer. Then Newt Gingrich joined in on the attack, telling a crowd in Mobile, AL, that Obama “is deeply anti-American energy.” Mudslinging in American politics is nothing novel, of course, but this round seems particularly bitter and angry. Worse still, it’s not just Republicans doing the slinging.

Obama adviser David Axelrod recently called Mitt Romney’s response to a question about Rush Limbaugh “cowardly,” but in a new op-ed for the Huffington Post, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson does Axelrod one better, insulting not just Romney, but the entire GOP.

“As the saying goes, ‘Democrats fall in love with their candidate, Republicans fall in line,’” Johnson said. “As the 2012 presidential race heats up and the Republicans finally and painfully choose their nominee, the statement above certainly rings true. We can expect a massive, highly organized and well-funded Republican effort to coalesce behind their candidate to defeat the president and increase control in both houses of Congress.”

Later, Johnson wrote, “When you hear Tea Party Republicans say they want to ‘take the country back’ — believe them. They promise to literally take us back to the 1950s and some even seemingly back to the 1850s.”

Firstly, it would help Congressman Johnson to note that, unless they’ve invented a time machine, no Republican plans to “literally” take the country back to the 1950s. Beyond that, however, it’s sad to see even respected liberals such as Johnson taking this kind of aggressive tack to support Obama.

Like many African-Americans, I believe President Obama has done a fairly good job of leading America over the past few years. I find the monolithic negativity of the GOP distasteful and unhelpful, and I’d like to see many of them lose their seats come November. That said, for as much as I empathize with Johnson and his party’s cause, I can’t abide by his decision to essentially call all Republicans sheep who “fall in line,” and to deride the entire Tea Party as bigots who long for Jim Crow.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that two-party governments in which both sides hate each other are toxic and extraordinarily inefficient. That doesn’t mean we’ve got to agree on everything, but it does mean that we should avoid calling entire groups of people anti-progress racists if at all possible.

Conservatives actually have some very intelligent voices in their ranks if you look closely, including David Frum and Steve Chapman. They’re not the loudest members of the party by any means, but they’re there, and to disparage them the way you might a standard conservative racist is outright wrong.

I want Obama to win this year, but I also want to avoid denigrating good people who happen to disagree with me about politics.


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