Haters gonna hate – pols reap re­wards

Boston Herald - - OPINION - By JONAH GOLD­BERG Jonah Gold­berg’s new book is “Sui­cide of the West.”

One of the most com­fort­ing talk­ing points in pol­i­tics is to claim that your po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents are ir­ra­tionally ob­sessed. I’m sure this is as old as time, but I first no­ticed it in the late 1990s. Many of Bill Clin­ton’s most ar­dent sup­port­ers re­sponded to ev­ery new crit­i­cism by claim­ing the pres­i­dent’s en­e­mies were twisted by hate for the man. Dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, thanks in part to a phrase coined by my late friend Charles Krautham­mer, con­ser­va­tives de­flected crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent by claim­ing his foes suf­fered from “Bush de­range­ment syn­drome.”

To­day, it’s not hard to find peo­ple claim­ing that Don­ald Trump’s ad­ver­saries are ob­sessed, de­ranged or con­spir­acy-ob­sessed witch hunters. A search of Twit­ter finds an in­fin­itely long stream of ref­er­ences to “Trump de­range­ment syn­drome.”

Now, here’s the thing: Some­times it’s true. Clin­ton, Bush, Obama and Trump all had — and have — their haters. And some peo­ple do lose their bear­ings and im­me­di­ately leap to the most out­landish in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the facts (or ru­mors dis­guised as facts). But some­times the peo­ple mak­ing the “de­range­ment syn­drome” or “hater” charge are the ones who refuse to see the facts, tak­ing com­fort in the fal­lacy that the mo­tives, real or imag­ined, of a critic au­to­mat­i­cally dis­qual­ify the crit­i­cism.

As Emory Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Web­ster have doc­u­mented, we live in a mo­ment of ex­treme neg­a­tive par­ti­san­ship: Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are driven more by the dis­like of the other party than by at­tach­ment to their own. In this kind of cli­mate, be­ing hated by the right peo­ple is the best way to get not just a big fol­low­ing but an in­tensely loyal one. I’ve writ­ten about this be­fore, but I think it’s worth re­vis­it­ing in the con­text of Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, the “it girl” (sorry, “it per­son”) of the left these days.

The head of the DNC not long ago re­ferred to her as “the fu­ture of the Demo­cratic Party.” She’s re­ceived fawn­ing, glow­ing-to-the­p­oint-of-in­can­des­cent cov­er­age from the main­stream me­dia and out­sized crit­i­cal at­ten­tion from Fox News and other right-lean­ing out­lets.

AOC, as many call her, is at­trac­tive, young, His­panic and al­most elo­quent in her pas­sion for some ill-de­fined no­tion of so­cial­ism or so­cial democ­racy. She also says many un­true and silly things. Just this week she sug­gested in a tweet that the Pen­tagon mis­placed some $21 tril­lion in fund­ing that could have paid for most of a $32 tril­lion “Medi­care for All” scheme. A De­fense Depart­ment spokesman told the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Fact Checker col­umn: “DoD hasn’t re­ceived $21 tril­lion in (nom­i­nal) ap­pro­pri­ated fund­ing across the en­tirety of Amer­i­can his­tory.”

In re­cent months, she said un­em­ploy­ment was low be­cause so many peo­ple are work­ing two jobs (that’s not how it works), that the “up­per-mid­dle class doesn’t ex­ist any­more” (it does), and that we’d save money on fu­neral ex­penses if we had “Medi­care for All.”

If you point out the ab­sur­dity of these things, the al­most in­stan­ta­neous de­fense is that her crit­ics are ob­sessed with an in­com­ing-fresh­man con­gress­woman. In some cases, they’re right. The fix­a­tion some con­ser­va­tives have with her clothes is over the top (though I did love one wag’s phrase, “Neiman Marx­ist”). But what her de­fend­ers leave out is their own ob­ses­sion with the woman. In other words, AOC is quite bril­liantly play­ing a lot of peo­ple for suck­ers. She al­ready has more Twit­ter fol­low­ers than the other 60 in­com­ing fresh­man Democrats com­bined.

Oca­sio-Cortez, wit­tingly or not, has ap­pro­pri­ated a tech­nique mas­tered by Pres­i­dent Trump.

Trump prefers pos­i­tive at­ten­tion, but he’ll take neg­a­tive at­ten­tion over no at­ten­tion ev­ery time, in part be­cause he knows his sup­port­ers will in­ten­sify their ded­i­ca­tion to him in re­sponse to al­legedly un­fair at­tacks. AOC is do­ing the same thing.

As with Trump, some­times she clearly knows what she’s do­ing, and other times she sim­ply dis­plays her ig­no­rance. But at this stage, it doesn’t mat­ter. The more right-wing par­ti­sans at­tack her, the more leftwing par­ti­sans rally to her. The more left-wingers rally to her, the more jus­ti­fied the right feels in pay­ing at­ten­tion to her.

AN­GELA ROWLINGS / HER­ALD STAFF

LEFT’S ‘IT PER­SON’: U.S. Rep.-elect Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez of New York speaks with a re­porter af­ter the Bos­ton City Coun­cil meet­ing at City Hall on Wed­nes­day.

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