BOSTON. — There was a story told by arch-Nazi villain Reinhard Heydrich — the evil genius who designed the bureaucracy and methods for the Holocaust — that once there was a son whose mother was kind and loving, but whose father was brutal and tormenting. When the mother died, the son could find no tears at her graveside. But when the hated father died, the son collapsed in paroxysms of grief and committed suicide.
It was an ironic cautionary tale by Heydrich that perhaps after the Nazis destroy the Jews — the object of their all consuming hatred — they will have nothing left to live for (after telling the tale, he rejected its moral and went on to start the terrible genocide machine).
That old story from a dark past came to mind here in Boston, as the Democratic Party activists assembled to consummate four years of carefully nurtured Bush hatred with the crowning of a previously inconsequential senator as the Democratic candidate for president. All during the primary campaign, media exit polls identified electability as the primary reason Democratic voters supported Sen. John Kerry. And here in Boston, that reality continues to reflect itself in the mood and chatter of the assembled Democratic foot soldiers. They hate Bush and will do anything to destroy his presidency — even pretend, briefly, that they don’t hate him.
There are different kinds of hate. There is the wild, out-of-control hate that sometimes leads to sudden barroom or bedroom homicides. And then there is the cold-blooded, premeditated strain, more typical of tribal or other forms of group hate. Such is the Democratic Party’s self-induced hatred of George Bush. And, curiously, this great hatred has induced in the usually rambunctiousandcantankerous Democratic Party a perverted joy, rapture and inner tranquility.
I have been going to Democratic Party conventions, episodically, since the 1960 convention in Los Angeles, in which the Democrats chose their young prince John Kennedy. (I was a politically precocious boy at the time, let the record reflect.) While that was not one of their nastier conventions, nonetheless, Lyndon Johnson was contending for the nomination by passing around rumors of Kennedy’s degenerative disease. In 1968, of course, blood spilled outside their convention while invectives flew furiously inside. 1980 saw Ted Kennedy coyly keeping out of Jimmy Carter’s eager embrace on the stage of the convention’s Thursday night finale. And throughout the history of the Democratic Party, passionate battles over platform planks have never, until here in Boston, failed to give evidence to the intellectual ferment of the world’s oldest political party.
What is one to make of a political party in which, according to the Boston Globe, more than 90 percent of the delegates oppose the Iraq war — the defining issue of this election — while the candidate and the platform support it. And there isn’t even a murmur of complaint? The easy answer is that it’s just about power. The Democrats will do anything to get back into power, so it is said. But that is not it. Of course, both the Democratic and Republican parties can’t stand being out of power and yearn to regain the power, the patronage and the sheer pleasure of being in office. But until now, neither party has been willing to go against its most heartfelt convictions to gain power.
No, I think the clever boys and girls in the backroom of the Democratic Party have created a monster in this carefully manufactured Bush-hatred. Let’s remember where this hatred started — in Florida. From Al Gore, through the Democratic National Committee and into the mouths of rank-and-file Democratic congressmen and senators, the word went out that the Democratic Party would not respect the election results. They methodically asserted that Mr. Bush was illegitimately in office because Mr. Gore actually got more votes in Florida. Even after the major liberal media outlets did their own recount and found Mr. Bush won Florida fair and square, the knowingly false charge was slammed into the brains of Democratic Party true believers. Mr. Bush was “selected, not elected” became the slogan.
They carefully nurtured this resentment into a small hatred. Then they compounded it by ridiculing the president’s intelligence — even though Mr. Bush got better grades at Yale than Al Gore, while still enjoying a vigorous frat life. They repeated endlessly their contempt for Mr. Bush’s Christian faith — which apparently induces contempt and hatred among the Democratic Party faithful.
And all of this was before Iraq. This carefully cultivated little hatred was elevated to industrial strength with the accusations that Mr. Bush lied his way into war. While disproven by bipartisan findings, the charges persist. Mr. Gore accused Mr. Bush of “betraying” the country. Mr. Kerry used the word lie just enough to keep his lunatic pack happy.
The result is a hatred of Mr. Bush by the party activists that has consumed their policy passions and convictions. They hate Mr. Bush more than they hate the Iraq war. Their great intellectual battle of the 2000s — whether they should stay in the Clinton center or go back to their liberal convictions — has been subsumed temporarily by their common hatred of Mr. Bush. Should the American voters succumb to poor judgment and elect Mr. Kerry, a united Democratic Party may face the plight of the son in the Nazi story of hate and meaning. Bush hate is the glue that holds the party together. If he leaves the scene, the party may quickly fall apart.