Commentary Magazine


Where the Political Discourse Is Ugly

Yesterday I wrote that if Scott Brown wins the Massachusetts election, “it’s a safe bet that in response [Democrats] and their allies will lash out in rage, angry at the perceived injustice of it all, furious at the fate that has befallen them.”

Enter the increasingly bizarre Keith Olbermann, the public face of MSNBC. In his short commentary last night, Mr. Olbermann offered these measured thoughts:

In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as an unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.

This was too much for Olbermann’s colleague Joe Scarborough, who called Olbermann’s comments “reckless” and “sad.” Olbermann’s comments come after MSNBC’s Ed Schultz said on his radio program:

I tell you what, if I lived in Massachusetts I’d try to vote 10 times. I don’t know if they’d let me or not, but I’d try to. Yeah, that’s right. I’d cheat to keep these bastards out. I would. ‘Cause that’s exactly what they are.

An impressive duo, no? Any network that makes Chris Matthews appear as a rock of stability, civility, and reason has achieved something that is not easy.

MSNBC, with a few exceptions (like Scarborough), long ago became a circus act. But it’s a circus act that serves a purpose. It reflects the temper and mindset of much of the Left. It is a movement fueled by paranoia and hate, even with Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress. If Olbermann and Schultz’s comments are indicative of how the core of the Democratic Party is reacting simply in anticipation of a loss in Massachusetts, it’s hard to envision what will happen if Brown actually wins, let alone what would happen if Republicans make widespread gains in November.

Such ugliness by any political group or movement — whether from the Left or the Right — is not good for democratic discourse. It’s why each side needs to police its own ranks. But when the Left becomes as unhinged as Olbermann and some of his colleagues are — when the public gets to peer into their dark, angry, and bitter little world — it will have political ramifications, none of them good for Democrats.

Sometimes seeing ugliness on full display, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, reveals certain realities. America can decide for itself if it wants to support an ideology that produces people like Keith Olbermann.