The urge to include strong terms in both normal dialect and formal speeches is a compelling one. The emotion, the passion, the sense of unity that can be instilled by a sensationalist speech have let words such as ‘hate’ and ‘hypocrisy’ become commonplace in politics today.
If we take a look across the pond, the scale and magnification of hatred makes America an obvious place to start. The Republicans, and specifically the Tea Party, are the worst perpetrators. The pure hatred directed towards Obama is staggering. First there was the birth certificate speculation, and the notion that Obama is alien to American values. That he’s working not for the American people but for an enemy ideology is a widely held belief.
The hatred doesn’t stop there. Top Republicans, Romney included, fan this wave of hatred on a consistent basis. Quips about the birth certificate, claims that Obama sympathised with the extremist attacks in Benghazi, and slips of the tongue by Romney saying that the right needed to “hang Obama”, may seem merely unfortunate, but they make you wonder what he was really thinking. And he doesn’t hold back about branding Obama a liar either, even if there isn’t anything to back it up with, recently saying “…the President tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true.” The reaction of the party faithful? They lap up every word.
Come back across to home soil however and the hatred flows in every direction. In the UK, it’s sometimes a tendency of the left to hate the Conservatives – that poor-bashing, profit-seeking, class-discriminating nasty party. At the TUC conference, more than a sprinkling of people proudly showed off their t-shirts adorned with the words: “Thatcher: A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher’s grave”. But mainstream left-wing outlets sometimes also convey a certain hatred towards the right – maybe not in such a tasteless manner, but they do so all the same. The Guardian and Observer, well-respected papers, often play host to pieces declaring their “hatred” of the Tories/the rich/the toffs – insert as appropriate.
It almost seems that it’s okay to “hate” the Tories, but the moment you flip it around the other way – to hating “socialism” – you’ll be ostracised and labeled as extremist, prejudiced, intolerant etc. Of course that is precisely the view many moderate British and Europeans hold about the Tea Party in America, while many right wingers there regard anything that could even mildly smack of “socialism” as an anathema.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is simply a preserve of the British left. The Conservatives have long had their own way of expressing hatred – they call it hypocrisy. It sounds less violent but it is just as effective. Their constant lambasting of the “socialist lefties” as hypocrites with selective memories is both widespread and applied indiscriminately to any left-leaning thinker, be they centre or at the opposite end of the “left” spectrum. Further right than the Consevatives come the parties whose general xenophobia and hatred of immigrants is their life blood.
So why do all sides do it? Are we really a society of hatred? Like anything, it’s probably a combination of factors:
1. Moral high ground: common to both the Tea Party and to many on the left-wing in the UK, is the conviction of owning the moral high ground. In the US it takes more of an evangelical slant, but over here it’s still often a question of good and evil. If you don’t want to take from the rich and give to the poor, well then you’re obviously just a wicked human being.
2. Easy common ground: it’s far easier to rally a group around a strong emotion than a moderate one, and hatred is no different. A well-recognised problem for Obama is that the Tea Party hates President Obama much more intensely than liberals love him.
3. Fear: the moment we feel threatened, the automatic response is to hate that from which the fear stems. Shakespeare recognized this when he penned the phrase, “in time we hate that which we often fear”. Amidst the scandals of modern politics, it’s easy to forget that the word politics stems from the Greek, “of, for, or relating to citizens’. Most politicians are working for a better society; irrespective of party, the main focus is the same, they just have different ways of getting there. So the moment an alternative view, one which may actually be credible and popular, is voiced by the opposition, this immediately become a threat – and the easiest way to combat a threat – is to find reasons to hate it.
So what to make of it? Well, one can only hope that politicians on all sides of the spectrum will come round to the fact that a considerate approach which has weighed out the counter-argument, but dismissed it with a stronger one of their own, is probably the most viable platform from which to win an election. If we want politics to once again be the respected cause that it once was, then by all means have the passion, but then leave out the hate.