But his view of politics as total war - something to be imported into nonpolitical walks of life - seems to be gaining currency. Earlier this year, One Wisconsin Now organized a phone campaign in which it urged its supporters to call and complain to a large local law firm about one of its young associates' pro bono work. This young woman was apparently donating her time in support of Wisconsin's marriage amendment. The objective was to use a law firm's natural desire to avoid controversy and her economic vulnerability to shut her up and deny a party the legal representation of its choice.
Paul Soglin's WMC Watch and full court press for disclosure of donors to political conduits is concerned, at least in part, with a desire to place pressure on businesses that don't behave politically in much the way that Epic Systems forced a contractor off WMC's board.
Is there something wrong with this? Shouldn't we all vote with our pocketbooks? Isn't the personal political? The problem, it seems to me, is that this type of think absolutizes our political differences and destroys dialogue. We either shut up (withdraw from the battle) or escalate turning debate into, as I said, total war.
This is increasingly the way that our political wars are fought. My law school classmate Robert George recently put it this way in the context of the debate over same sex marriage:
An] insidious and brutal way in which many advocates of sexual liberalism deploy cultural power in the cause of redefining marriage is by depicting their opponents as bigots. Across the country, they have pursued a strategy of intimidation against anyone who dares to dissent from their position in a public way. Their appalling treatment of Carrie Prejean is merely one example. Their relentless personal attacks on her were designed to send a clear message to others who aspire to succeed in any area of public life, from beauty pageants to careers in journalism and politics: “If you oppose us, if you have the temerity to express support for the conjugal conception of marriage, we will smear you as a rube and a bigot, make your life hell, and do our best to ruin you.
As I noted at the outset, this isn't a tactic limited to the political left. While I appreciate that this post could be seen as special pleading (I pretty much work with the trifecta of the betes noires to the left), I'd like to think that our common life would be a lot better and our political debates much more productive if we faced each other with a presumption of good faith and respect. I think we'd all be better off if we didn't believe that the proper response to our political opponents was to search and destroy.
H/T Rick Garnett (as to George's comments).
Cross posted at Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog