UPDATE: My colleague Nina, a self-confessed "lefty," writes that she has been slammed from the right. And I'm reminded that I should say, I don't think all the irrational blogging is on the left. I'm just saying that I'm struck by the way the right perceives me as a potential ally and uses positive reinforcement and the left doesn't see me as anything but an opponent -- doesn't even try to engage me with reasoned argument. Maybe the left feels beleaguered these days, but how do they expect to make any progress if they don't see the ways they can include the people in the middle? If you look around and only see opponents and curl up with your little group of insiders, you are putting your efforts into insuring that you remain a political minority. I also want to add that the many lefties I live and work around in Madison are perfectly friendly to me. I get email saying, it must be terrible for you there, you must be the target of so much hostility. I always write back and say it's not like that at all.
But do read Nina's whole post. She goes on to agree with me about the problems of blogging in general. Here's an excerpt:
I, too, am saddened by so much of what I read in blogs, and comment threads are even worse. It's as if writers are grabbing the mike and running to the stage without having once practiced the song they are about to force onto the audience. At first it seems funny and then it just seems sad, desperate, irresponsible.
The blog is a stage and unfortunately anyone can grab the mike. And I admit, sometimes, in fascination, I log on and listen, mesmerized by the lack of restraint, a demonic pleasure derived from seeing someone so exposed, so childishly out of control. But the experience always leaves me feeling empty. Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter. And most often, it pushes the boundaries of meanness.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Poliblog weighs in on the subject. And here are two different emailers who say something very similar (and quite provocative):
As someone who made the move from liberal to conservative in his mid to late twenties, what I found is that conservatives were much more tolerant of me as a liberal, than liberals are now tolerant of me as a conservative. I'm speaking as a whole not to a person. Conservatives always wanted to reason with me, talk me out of it. Liberals question my intentions and decency. Out here in Hollywood when I would come out of the conservative closet, liberals were shocked because "I'm such a sweet guy" they had no idea. Those people remain nice to me but something changes. It's like having sex with a friend. You can't go back. And it's all awkward now. A shame really. Never had that problem with conservatives. And it's not that liberals are beleaguered. This was happening before the Republican take-over in 94.
[DIFFERENT EMAILER] I think that certain there is a certain type of "leftishness" that predicates its view of the world on some special insight into reality which one can only share or not. I think, for example, this was the principle informing such sixties talk as "raising one's consciousness," or such notions that one is "good" by virtue of mere sincerity or proper beliefs, regardless of one's actions. If one shares the insight or subscribes to it, one is part of the virtuous elect; if not, one is evil. Civil discourse by contrast, presupposes that one can communicate, persuade, and, importantly,be persuaded, which in turn requires at least some degree of modesty in insisting that one is right, that there is a possibility that one is wrong. This of course can appear on the right, but does not do so as much because, I believe, the presuppositions of civil discourse accord more closely with "rightish" values.
I have noticed that a good portion of people on the left proceed on the theory that they are the good people. Of course, there's a segment on the right that does that too. I have a big problem with all of them. Even if you are the good people, the policies you propose might still be bad. But politics should be about communication and convincing people with the quality of your ideas, not claiming to be a good person and demanding that others join you or they are not good. I steer clear of cultish people like that!
YET MORE: A reader emails: "I've heard it said that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics." Actually, it's probably more fun to be a heretic ... in a free country, at least.
AND MORE: Right Wing News weighs in here.
EVEN MORE: Baseball Crank responds. Here's a key insight:
I think a lot of liberals, particularly the more vocal ones on the internet who grew up in blue-state cities and went to blue-state colleges and got into blue-state occupations like the law or academia, just don't have the same formative experience of having had to reconcile themselves to political disagreements with people they otherwise like or respect, and it shows.
AND YET STILL EVEN MORE: Sissy Willis responds. She thinks there is something inherent in left and right positions that produces this different behavior. I am trying to reach out to the left and say: Behave better! Engage me! But I read her as telling me that's hopeless.