Divisive Rhetoric Is Not the Problem

It is currently fashionable to decry the supposedly uncivil and divisive tone of our politics.  Not surprisingly, conservatives are often singled out by the media for unnecessarily fomenting dissention and discord.

But the divisive tone of our political rhetoric reflects legitimate divisions that exist in America over very fundamental issues—over the role of government, over America’s place in the world, over what kind of future our children will have, over the definition of our most basic social institutions, and over the very meaning of life and death.

President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress has been praised for its measured tone.  It seemed to mark the beginning of his reelection campaign.  Gone was the President who talked about bringing guns to knife fights and compared political adversaries to hostage-takers.

“We will move forward together, or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics,” Obama said in a line that sounded like it was pulled out of Candidate Obama’s The Audacity of Hope.

Those words sound reasonable enough.  But they ignore the fact that our two political parties have two very different visions for moving the country forward.

This is the most divisive administration in modern history.  Obama regularly divides Americans by race, party, and income, pitting lower- and middle-income Americans against those he deems “the rich.”

Where unity and cooperation are called for, in our interactions with allies such as Great Britain and Israel , for instance, Obama is often hostile and condescending.  And where a little tough talk and incivility are the order of the day, in dealing with the likes of Iran and China, Obama prefers deference and appeasement. 

When President Ronald Reagan said at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” he was blasted for being unnecessarily divisive.  The state-run Soviet press accused Reagan of giving an “openly provocative, war-mongering speech.”  But in hindsight we know that Germany might have remained divided much longer had it not been for Reagan’s “divisive” language.

The Left is to blame for much of the current divisiveness.  Many issues have been taken out of the hands of the people and placed into the hands of unelected judges, who make decisions about our most fundamental institutions, such as the meaning of marriage and the definition of personhood.

Liberals will always choose euphemism over candor.  A few days before his State of  the Union speech, Obama issued a proclamation celebrating the anniversary of a historic Supreme Court decision.  It said:

“Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.  I am committed to protecting this constitutional right.  I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.  And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

Leave it to Obama to use more than 100 words in describing a court decision that legalized abortion virtually on demand nationally and not use the word “abortion” but instead use the word “adoption.”

Liberals are offended more by the words used in politics than by the actual meaning and implication of those words.  Leftists seem less comfortable with terms such as “abortion” and “jihad” than they are with actual acts of abortion and jihad.  Words such as “terrorist” and “illegal alien” are off limits for the Left, even as its agenda tolerates the existence of terrorists and illegal aliens.

Liberals’ response to rhetoric or information they find offensive is to go to court or pass a law to shut it down.  Thus we have the FCC’s always looming threat of the obscenely misnamed Fairness Doctrine, which would essentially shut down conservative talk radio.

The abortion lobby is on an all-out legal and rhetorical campaign to shut down the free speech that takes place in the nation’s 3,000 pregnancy resource centers.  It disapproves of what those centers tell women with unplanned pregnancies.  New legislation in New York City and Washington State would require the pro-life clinics to announce in their offices, on websites, and in all advertisements that they do not offer abortions or contraceptives.

Similar laws in Maryland and elsewhere force pregnancy resource centers to tell patrons that they are not real clinics and that they should seek services elsewhere.

The Left is losing the battle of ideas.  And its response is always the same: to stifle debate and silence its critics.  But we will not stand down.