Dissent Is No Longer The Highest Form of Patriotism

There was much to like about President Obama’s inaugural address, and for the sore winner neer-do-wells I do happen to think the election of an African American to the highest office in the land is a good thing.

However, I found this part of the president’s speech troubling.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

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Do those who worked and voted for Obama, and savaged George W. Bush for eight years think their disagreements with him childish, are they to now toss out their dogmas?

This is the one central conceit of Obama’s allure, which has bothered me from the beginning. By labeling disagreement the way he does he delegitimizes it. Indeed at the outset of his campaign he said divisiveness was his chief opponent, and his campaign outfit fought it with a cunning ruthlessness.

I wrote about this very theme while flaying an inane (is there any other kind) Baltimore Sun editorial.

…Please tell me how speaking in vapid platitudes about change and unity will lead to a “new political era” of bipartisanship? Will electing “The One” magically make all our political differences disappear overnight? Of course not. What the Sun, and others who preach this tripe, are really saying is that we knuckle dragging troglodyte conservatives must give up our beliefs and accede to their wishes, or—gasp—we are divisive; enemies of unity, change, hope, and all good things..

…democracy is fundamentally about disagreement i.e., partisanship. You could eliminate all political parties, but our basic philosophical differences would remain. The founders created a system of government (checks and balances and protection of minority rights) specifically designed to diffuse the very type of unity, which Obama claims as his highest value…

Obama’s demonization, of those who dare to criticize him, as “divisive” is in reality, nothing more than Obama practicing, in disguise, the very type of politics he claims to abhor.

Disagreement and partisanship are a part of human nature, they shape our politics and make for a healthy civic life. Labeling them out of bounds to stifle dissent won’t make them go away.

Will all those, who caterwauled about the muzzling of dissent–usually on MSNBC or the pages of the New York Times–during the previous administration, still consider dissent the highest form of patriotism?

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