To My Fellow Democrats: It's Time To Stop The Politics of Personal Destruction

For more than 30 years this country has developed a habitual scandal culture that feeds on "gotcha" politics and aims not at defeating the political opposition but destroying it - not at saying political adversaries are right or wrong but at declaring them to be good or evil. The result is more and more Americans, fed up and part of a growing angry center, are saying, to borrow Howard Beale's line in Network¸ we are mad as Hell and we're not going to take it anymore.

The bitter legacy of the 1960s and Watergate materialized over the last three decades of the twentieth century into a scandal machine that has progressively generated a level of viciousness and personal destructive power unlike anything seen in America before. And the hypocrisy is shared by the left and the right, by Democrats as well as Republicans. All partisans on both sides, if we can be honest with each other for just a moment, share this much in common: sanctimony when it is the other guy getting the heat, outrage when it is your guy getting the heat; and enough hypocrisy to spread around the evenly across the spectrum in both parties.

There are no clean hands here, certainly not mine.

Since the 1970s, the scandal machine has been truly different, not just in degree but in kind. The Democrats invented the constitutional monster, the Independent Counsel, and then in the 1980s proceeded to use and misuse it to investigate the Reagan and Bush Administrations and too often to allow the criminalization of political differences. Then in the 1990s, it was "gotcha" time, as the Republicans took over both houses of Congress and proceeded to do the same thing against the Clinton Administration.

Not that there wasn't legitimate cause at times for investigations or criminal conduct at times. But the difference, especially in the 1990s, was the combined power of four new elements of scandal machinery that had never existed all at once before: the invention of the 24/7 cable news cycle; the power of the Internet and the misinformation echo chamber of Google and other search engines; the independent counsel, with unlimited budget and unaccountable power in search of a crime; and the final evolution of hyper-partisanship and vitriol leading voices of hate and food fight politics to dominate the body politic. Unfortunately, with the dawn of the twenty-first century, these weapons of mass political destruction, these haters and food fighters on the left and the right seeking the next cycle of "gotcha," did not stop after 9/11, but have continued through the Bush years and up to the present.

Now the question is, which party leaders, if any, have the political courage and political will to seize the moment, rise above this vicious partisanship, and say: Enough? The American people are disgusted, angry, and are saying to both political parties, "a pox on both your houses." Who will be out in front of this angry center in America today? Who will focus on solving problems that people really care about - homeland security in the war against terror, energy independence, paying our massive debts, stopping earmarks and Washington political corruption and reforming the system from top to bottom? Which leader from which party will bring the left and the right together to join a broad center focused on solving problems rather than destroying the opposition?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the people in the angry center will raise their voices so loudly, and they will be so numerous, that they will give one or both of the 2008 presidential nominees of both parties the courage to step up. One or both might just be able to ask us all, partisans on all sides, to sit back and think about what is best for the country and how we can end the suffering and frustration of the scandal, "gotcha" political culture. They might just lead us, convince us - left, right , and center, liberals and conservatives - to take a "time out" from partisanship, even if it is just a brief one-presidential term, to allow our nation to unite in common purpose for the common good in a broad "Grand Coalition" government to solve our problems at home and defeat the terrorist enemy abroad. If they provide that leadership and we as a nation can re-discover our common purpose and a willingness to sacrifice for the public good, then beyond a reasonable doubt we can experience the vision of Thomas Macaulay in "Horatius at the Bridge":

Then none was for a party -
Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great;
Then the lands were fairly portioned!
Then the spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.