January 20, 2004

Has Moveon.org crossed the Bush-bashing line?

As a child, I learned the benefits of trying to solve problems in as constructive a manner as possible. As we grow up, temper-tantrums become less helpful, and screaming at each other becomes more useless. These childish reactions have no place in dealing with the more serious issues of the adult world.

This behavior, however, has been manifesting itself in the grown-up world by the left-wing advocacy group MoveOn.org. Their activist members have propelled Howard Dean and Wesley Clark to the front of the Democratic pack, but they have sparked an important political question: how much Bush-bashing is too much?

MoveOn.org recently ran an online contest soliciting anti-Bush television ads. Some of these ads compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the death and torture of millions of people. The ads were posted on the MoveOn.org website for all to view until the political watchdog Matt Drudge noted them on his website, prompting outrage.

Reflecting the absolute revulsion of what I hope to be most Democrats, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement saying that "to us, this is neither a Democratic nor Republican issue, but a matter of human decency and sensitivity to human suffering. This is about the inappropriateness of using Holocaust imagery for political ends. We urge all campaigns and their supporters to refrain from using the Holocaust as a political attack tool." Instead of unconditionally apologizing for their lack of taste, the next MoveOn.org press release announcing the removal of the ads was titled "GOP Plays Dirty Politics in Attempt to Smear MoveOn.org Voter Fund."

Of course, using Hitler to describe one's opponent is not just a Democratic tactic. Right-wingers have used the term before as well. What this represents is the degeneration of political discussion. MoveOn.org's ungracious retreat reflects the hate-filled tone of this campaign. MoveOn.org's ability to influence this nomination campaign is comparable to the influence that the Democratic Leadership Council played during the 1992 election. Only difference? The DLC is moderate and MoveOn.org members support, according to an online poll, Dean first and the far-left Dennis Kucinich second. If the Democratic Party continues to move this far left, will it help them? It's hard to see how people who can casually link Bush to Hitler could drive a major political party.

If getting rid of Bush is the only thing for the Democrats to rally around, they need to stop and consider whether or not scorched-earth tactics and negative campaigning is something that will appeal to the American people. Dean seems to be fading as people grow tired of his arrogant attitude and angry image. If you are a Democrat and are mildly tired of this, I promise you that there are other people out there who are as exhausted as a retail clerk after Christmas. The 2000 Bush campaign did its share of negative campaigning. However, how can anyone believe that a relatively popular, incumbent, wartime president presiding over a rebounding economy will be beaten by a person whose supporters, in poor taste, compare the incumbent to the worst homicidal maniac of all time?

The French writer George Clemenceau once said, "If my son isn't a communist before 30, I'll disown him; if he is still one after 30, I'll disown him." That says as much about disposition, maturity, and human nature as it does about politics. The Democrats and MoveOn.org need to finally grow up. If they don't, the voters will put them up for adoption in November.