Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Andrew Sullivan notes the extent to which domestic American opposition to an attack on Iraq is intertwined with intense, visceral, personal hatred for George W. Bush, and suggests that the fury may be "[p]ayback, in part....for conservative demonization of Clinton." Sullivan clearly misunderstands the phenomenon. Clinton and Bush II, like Reagan and Roosevelt before them, arouse bitter hatred for two reasons: they are iconic leaders of one wing of the political spectrum; and they are spectacularly popular, successful politicians.

Ineffectual failures like Carter and Bush I are disliked by their opponents, of course, but with contemptuous disdain, not bitter, helpless rage. Successes like Clinton and Bush II, on the other hand, are much more disturbing to their opponents, because they represent a challenge to those opponents' cherished beliefs. The latter, after all, would like to think that their ideas are clearly correct and convincing, and that the public are either already on their side or ripe for conversion to it. How can it be, then, that someone stupid enough to adhere to an obviously misguided set of political views can somehow win a solid majority of voters over to those same misguided views?

There are only two possibilities: either a naive public are being ruthlessly deceived by a hateful, scheming master of evil, or else perhaps his ideas aren't so misguided after all. Guess which point of view tends to have more appeal?

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