Disagree, but don’t be hatin’

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke last week in North Carolina about how small towns are the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” She later tried to walk it back.

Then McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer tried to explain on CNN why the growing Democratic stronghold of northern Virginia is different from “real Virginia.”

And Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., last week suggested on MSNBC’s Hardball said she’s concerned Barack Obama might have “anti-American views” and the media should do “a penetrating expose” of whether other members of Congress are “anti-America.”

These kinds of statements are a cancer on American politics, a tumor nurtured and metastized by years of partisan hyperbole spewing from fringe radio talk-show hosts, bloggers and the like. If there’s one thing I can think of that’s truly “anti-American,” it’s believing that anyone who disagrees with you hates America. It’s nothing more than a crutch for the weak-minded who can’t adequately explain and support their own positions. It should be beneath us all.

What ever happened to civil discourse, the free marketplace of ideas, the loyal opposition? Why does patriotism have to include blind, unquestioning adherence to a particular party platform?

Get a grip, folks. Argue the issues, but don’t stoop to this phony, fanatical nationalistic chauvinism. Disagree on the policies, by all means, but don’t be hatin’ lest you become what you describe. Just ask Joe McCarthy.

UPDATE @ 1:20 P.M.: Here’s an example of the insane “agree-with-me-or-you’re-evil” rhetoric of which I spoke: James Pinkerton, a contributing columnist and writer for “The American Conservative” and a Fox News political contributor, had this column yesterday in which he notes that activist/organizer Saul Alinsky — who died in 1972 — once wrote that Lucifer (aka the devil, Satan, Beelzebub, whatever) deserved “an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom.”

Why should we care? Well, Pinkerton goes on to note that The Washington Post in 2007 noted “Obama embraced many of Alinsky’s tactics.” And from there he goes on to talk about “the Obama-Alinsky-Lucifer connection.”

Seriously? Somebody paid this guy to write this drivel, to take our political discourse to this level? What an idiot.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.