Ed Driscoll

"The Grief-Based Community" Encouters Biteback

In the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery looks at “the Grief-Based Community“, the left’s tactic of attempting to short-circuit logic and debate by taking victim status to its zenith. Emery writes that it began at the memorial-cum-pep rally after Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone’s death in a 2002 plane crash:

In translation, this is the unspoken theme of grief-centered politics: We are suffering, so you owe it to us to give us what we ask for. This is the claim of Cindy Sheehan and the Jersey Girls, and it carries with it an implied accusation: If you don’t do what we ask you, you don’t care that our loved one is dead. But no one had ever heard it stated so baldly or bluntly as at the Wellstone service, and the bluntness repelled. “The late senator was treated as little more than one broken egg in a great get-out-the-vote omelet,” wrote Christopher Caldwell in these pages. “The pilots and aides who died with him were barely treated at all.” People stalked out. People complained. Floods of cash poured into Norm Coleman’s campaign, which found itself suddenly energized. The scandal had not only dissipated the aura of reverence, it gave Coleman permission to run hard against Mondale. He did. Not only did he win, but the riptide seemed to extend to neighboring states, helping pull in Jim Talent, who edged past Jean Carnahan, who had been comparing the Wellstone disaster to her own husband’s death. Lesson to liberals: Grief-centered politics has to be subtle. It’s a lesson they haven’t quite learned.

Emery concludes:

Political cut and thrust does not go well with the etiquette of bereavement, which tends to short-circuit all argument, which of course is the point. It inhibits argument, makes response awkward, and sometimes can stop it completely, putting an opponent in the position of Norm Coleman before the Wellstone Memorial fracas, in which Democrats were free to seek votes based on sentiment, while anything Coleman tried to say about Wellstone’s replacement was called an insult to the dead. People who put mourners up front on policy issues are like robbers leaving a bank with a hostage between themselves and police fire. To do this on purpose, to drive an agenda, is beneath all contempt.

Here is a message for our friends in the grief-based community: Really, you must cut this out. We are tired of having our emotions worked on and worked over; tired of the matched sets of dueling relatives, tired of all of these claims on our sympathy, that at the same time defy common sense. The heart breaks for everyone who lost relatives and friends on September 11, as it does for the relatives of the war dead and wounded, as it does for the sons of Paul Wellstone. It does not break for MoveOn.org, Maureen Dowd, and Gail Sheehy, who have not been heartbroken, except by a string of election reverses, and are using the anguish of other people in an effort to turn them around. Especially, it does not break for George Soros, who, after squandering millions on the Kerry campaign, is now using poor Cindy Sheehan to get back in the action, and it does not break for political operative Joe Trippi, late of the Howard Dean meltdown, who is trying to do the same thing. She is now the vehicle for a collection of losers, who will use her, and then toss her over and out once she has served their purposes, or more likely failed to do so. Her family has broken up under the effects of this circus; she has now lost her husband, as well as her son. Please, send her back to her therapist, and what is now left of her broken-up family. And please–do not try this again.

He’s got to be kidding; of course they’ll be another variation on this technique. But as Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, these days, largely thanks to the Blogosphere and other new media, it comes with a price–“The Biteback Effect” is what Hanson calls it.