The Universal Notebook: Demonizing the opposition

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The fact that a member of the Yarmouth Republican Committee reportedly called Falmouth Democrats “evil” does not really surprise me. William Gardiner, who served as the dummy candidate in the District 25 Republican state Senate primary, was just thumping the partisan tub to get out the vote against Senate candidate Cathy Breen, a former Falmouth town councilor, when he raised the specter of evil.

Ironically, Gardiner was apparently just repeating something Breen’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Yarmouth Town Council Chairman Steve Woods, had said. Woods seems to feel the Falmouth Ds somehow sabotaged his campaign, but when you don’t even carry your own hometown, it’s questionable how viable your candidacy was in the first place.

Branding the opposition as evil has become SOP for both the GOP and the Dems. Just Google “Democrats are evil” or “Republicans are evil” if you don’t believe me. For example, here’s this from the Free Republic website:

“I love my country. I love the Constitution. I love life. I love God. I know that the Democrats hate my country, hate the Constitution, hate God and hate human life. I see that the only Party capable of blocking and defeating the evil Democrats is the Republican Party.”

Not a word of the above is true of course, but there are also websites like Evil GOP that fire back:

“Since the New Deal, Republicans have been on the wrong side of every issue of concern to ordinary Americans; Social Security, the war in Vietnam, equal rights, civil liberties, church-state separation, consumer issues, public education, reproductive freedom, national health care, labor issues, gun policy, campaign-finance reform, the environment and tax fairness.”

Sounds true enough to me, but being wrong doesn’t make Republicans evil-doers.

In 2011, I had the distinction of being called “evil” on the As Maine Goes website by Professor John Frary, the cantankerous Farmington conservative who was sacrificed to Mike Michaud in the 2008 Second Congressional District race.

Frary posted a letter that he complained The Forecaster had refused to print, allegedly because it might hurt my feelings. Yuh, right!

“I do not believe that liberals are all evil (only Edgar Allen Beem),” Frary inveighed. “I believe that they are all determined, by sheer will-power, to be stupider than God designed them to be and that this denial of God’s will is gross blasphemy. They will all burn in hell for it, and I’m content to have it so.”

My venal sins, according to Frary, were that I had used hateful phrases such as “war on the poor,” “assault on the working class,” “privatize everything” and “balance the state budget on the backs of teachers and state workers” to describe the conservative Republican agenda.

“Was there ever a revivalist parson who spoke more harshly of Beelzebub?” the good professor asked rhetorically.

In a 2009 posting on his bombastic Brunswick blog, The Other Side of Town, Pem Schaeffer, who earlier this month wrote a letter to the editor scolding me for “juvenile bullying and verbal abuse,” complained about “the condescension, smugness, and sheer leftwing elitism regularly displayed by Edgar Allen (Moon)Beem.” This from a man who served on the transition team for the Bully of the Blaine House.

“I confess he brings out the worst loathing instincts I have,” wrote Schaeffer under his nom de blog, P.C. Poppycock. “He disgusts me. He eptimomizes (sic) the self-satisfaction and cluelessness of the left’s patricians.”

Wow, no one ever called me patrician before or since. But I know what Mr. Poppycock means. I feel the same way about Gov. Paul LePage.

I don’t like anything about LePage. I find him physically, personally and politically offensive. He is a belligerent boor who embarrasses the great state of Maine every time he opens his mouth. That said, I do not think he is evil. I just think he has a warped view of the world, very possibly as a result of having been abused as a child. I feel sorry for him, but that doesn’t mean I want him inflicting his pain on Maine.

Demonizing the opposition leads to the kind of polarization and paralysis now afflicting the nation and the world. We make enemies of those with whom we disagree and brand them as evil. Just as militant jihadists see the U.S. as the Great Satan, extreme conservatives see President Obama as the personification of evil, a socialist enemy of freedom.

Many Republicans seem to feel the same way about Obama that Democrats like myself felt about George W. Bush. I found Bush incompetent, ill-advised and wholly unqualified to be President of the United States, but I did not hate him and I certainly didn’t think he was evil.

Dick Cheney, on the other hand, well … .

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.