The furor over recent comments by Jimmy Carter has pushed the issue of hate further to the forefront of the political discussion. Republicans have predictably reacted with outrage to the insinuation that any sizable portion of animosity toward the current President is inspired by race hatred, while Obama himself, through a spokesman, has distanced himself from Carter's opinion. In their usual "you're another" manner, Republicans have promptly called their accusers the real racists in the debate.
As a rule, Republicans deny hating anyone and see themselves as the targets of hatred from the left. And as we know, Republicans are loath to ask the "Why do they hate us?" question unless they can answer it in a manner flattering to themselves. But it ought to be obvious to anyone who risks stepping back from their front-line righteous anger that if liberals seem to hate Republicans or conservatives, it probably has a lot to do with a liberal perception that conservatives hate them. At that point, most Republicans will keep on denying, but a brave few will press further, daring to ask themselves what about their own position liberals perceive as hate. Since the argument between Republicans and liberals focuses on social welfare issues, it ought to be obvious to at least some reflective minds that Republican social policies appear, to liberals and those on points left, to condemn poor people or anyone who is insufficiently competitive in our every-man-for-himself capitalist society to perpetual misery if not death itself. Many Republicans would no doubt sincerely repudiate such an interpretation of their views, but anyone who spends a lot of time looking at the internet will affirm that there are plenty of Republicans (not to mention some libertarians) who are blatant social darwinists out of liberal nightmares, people who believe that the poor are parasites and really ought to die to relieve the rest of America of an unjust burden.
There's a limit to how far Republicans can modify their views to appear less "hateful" to liberals, because the two sides are driven by contradictory moral imperatives. For one side, it's a moral imperative that each person or each family fend for itself, since to do otherwise is equivalent to robbing somebody. For the other, the moral imperative is for everyone to pull together so that no one suffers for being insufficiently successful. These imperatives are irreconcilable, and each side is bound, to an extent, to see the other's position as immoral. I suppose moral disagreements can be expressed in an ideal world without vehemence and with philosophical modesty, but in America we're talking about political hacks after office and its privileges, on both sides of this particular bipolarchic dispute. And now add the aspersions each side casts against the intelligence of the other, Republicans denouncing liberals for being too stupid to realize that the world can only be one way, liberals lashing back that Republicans are too stupid to imagine that another world is possible.
In theory, there should be a middle ground occupied by people who realize that one side can't have everything they want and the other can't keep things the way they want. But what do these people sound like? Can they articulate a position that does not seem to either side like that of their ideological enemy, or simply hateful toward either side? Can an appeal to compromise not seem hateful in our time? Or do too many people now feel that their very lives are at stake in every partisan debate? These are the questions that trouble me, among others, as I begin my second thousand posts on this blog.