Look Back In Anger

Brian Cook

To piggyback on Jarrett's post about fear, there's another emotion that, while watching the DNC, I wish Democrats would play more to: Anger. I happened to catch Biden's speech in Springfield on Saturday and HRC's (I thought, surprisingly good) speech on TV last night, and I noticed a commonality between them: Both made a point to mention that they consider John McCain a "friend," before going on to list their policy disagreements with him. The mention of this "friendship" seems to connote that these disagreements stem "more in sorrow than in anger." This rhetorical tactic strikes me as deeply, deeply stupid. Let me state this as bluntly as I can: John McCain is a thieving SOB, a sort of Anti-Robin Hood who wants to continue using the tax code as a means to redistribute even more wealth ($190,000 each year) to the richest 0.1 percent of Americans. (Obama, by contrast, wants to raise taxes by about $800,000 for that 0.1 percent of Americans making more than $9.1 million a year, a more than fair amount that, as Leonhardt writes, "wouldn't nearly reverse [this cohort's] pretax income gains in recent years.") McCain's foreign policy is a mish-mash of neocon chest-thumping and imperial projection; basically, a recipe for endless war, even as he shortchanges U.S. veterans at home. He wants to treat women and gays as second-class citizens. His plan for healthcare reform would, somehow, be even worse than the status quo. If an industry (say, Big Oil) is willing to throw McCain a lavish-enough fundraiser, he is willing to change his policies toward that industry accordingly. He believes privatizing Social Security is a good idea. His plan for alleviating poverty? It's nowhere to be found on his campaign's website. That's worth repeating: To John McCain, the day-to-day struggles of 37.3 million Americans simply do not exist. Looking over these insane policies, what is the more proper response: Sorrow or anger? To me, the latter suggests a deeper commitment to those adversely affected by them. Sorrow conveys a wistful sense of regret, a "Oh-if-only-this-were-not-so!" response that deplores this reality, but at the same time suggests a powerlessness to change it. Anger, on the other hand, suggests a recognition of injustice, and the resolve to making its perpetrators pay. John McCain is not a friend to the middle class, soldiers, women, gays, the sick, the elderly, and the poor. He is a friend to absurdly rich oligarchs, weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and oil tycoons. (There may be some overlap here.) Democrats need to make this distinction abundantly clear, but if they consider themselves part of the latter group… well, that's not going to be very easy to do now, is it?

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Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.
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