October 1 2013
Bringing a Nuke to a Fistfight
Lately politicians on the Left have begun referring to Republicans as anarchists, arsonists, terrorists and kidnappers. This departure from their usual adjectives (hateful, cruel, greedy and heartless) and nouns (nut jobs, extremists, and tea-baggers) marks a clear rhetorical escalation. However, the tactic, as lefties will soon find out, has its limits. The problem with bringing a nuke to a fistfight is that if your opponent isn’t intimidated, where do you go from there?
Historical comparisons to evil despots? Been there, done that. You can only compare Republicans to Hitler so many times before it seems silly. Besides, it would be hard to top MoveOn.org’s President George W. Bush the Führer video.
You could try other historical figures, but they’re problematic. Mao Zedong? He murdered more people but his cherubic face doesn’t really evoke terror. Stalin? Iconic mustache and a high body count but it’s tough to bag on a fellow traveler. This rules out Chavez or Castro, as well. Pol Pot? Poor name recognition. Berdymukhammedov? Too hard to pronounce. Ivan the Terrible? Solid name, no leftist connections, but too antiquated. Same goes for Nero. The North Korean Kim dynasty offers possibilities: murderously repressive, check. Goose stepping soldiers, check. Intensive use of propaganda, check. Still, there are issues, mostly due to optics. A video comparing Ted Cruz to a diabolical but itty bitty despot might draw a “huh?” from even the most diehard Wall Street Occupier. All of this is to say, once you’ve called your opponent Hitler, any other historical comparison is at best a lateral move.
A comparison between Republicans and unmentionable body parts is equally played out. After Bill Maher called Sarah Palin the c-word, anything else seems tame. I guess you could go with something creative like pubis mons or urethra but the effect may not be the same. The body part invective just isn’t what it once was.
Same goes for political theatre. Pity the feminists who dressed up as vaginas in the last election. The fact that I can put this word in a blog is proof that the outrage has dissipated. They can probably wear those costumes to trick or treat. Worse, there’s no way to outdo the stunt. Attend a rally as an ovary and you’ll be mistaken for a potato protesting agriculture subsidies. A uterus might work but the costume mechanics would be tough to manage particularly if you included the fallopian tubes.
A liberal reader might be wondering, “ If I can’t compare people I disagree with to jihadists, criminals, body parts, historical villains, and sex acts, should I go back to using words like vicious, callous, and mean spirited? Should I buy a thesaurus?” No reader, there is another way. It’s called dialogue. Both sides plainly make their case and talk about the costs and benefits of a course of action. While it lacks the thrill of name calling, it can be quite effective. Having blown your entire arsenal of curses and childish accusations, what choice do you have?