Friday, February 18, 2005

Haters don't prosper 

Good luck to Howarghhh Dean in his new role as the unstable chair of the Democratic National Committee. Time will tell whether Dean will be more successful in this managerial role than he was in his presidential nomination run. But I have my doubts about the man who not that long ago famously remarked, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

You see, haters don't really prosper in politics. Yes, they might eventually reach the dizzying heights of power, but they're also likely to then self-destruct, like Icaruses who flew too close to the burning sun of hatred, seeing their dreams go down in flames and their legacies become inevitably tarnished.

Most recently in Australia, we have witnessed the meteoric rise and the meteoric fall of Mark Latham, leader of the Labor opposition, the man widely touted as the great hope of the center-left politics and the future Prime Minister of Australia. Only four months after the election that was his to win, he's out of the leadership and out of the Parliament altogether, bitter and isolated from everyone but two or three of those closest to him. Yes, his final exit was caused by health problems, but it wouldn't surprise me if they in turn, as well as the reason why he in the end failed to win the majority's trust, had something to do with his
driving philosophy:

"I’m a hater. Part of the tribalness of politics is to really dislike the other side with intensity. And the more I see of them the more I hate them."
The United States, too, had its famous hater, but on the other side of the political fence. He eventually did realize the futility and damage as he was exiting the White House in 1974, but by that stage it was far too late:

"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember other may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself,"
he had told the White House staff in his farewell remarks.

It's all too easy to hate in politics; differences can be stark, the stakes couldn't be higher. It's also all too easy to excuse and justify hatred; after all, you can always point to the other side and say - they started it, they hate us, I'm only reflecting it back.

Yet, in the end, those who are best regarded and most fondly remembered are precisely those who can rise above the fray (not always; after all, we're all human; but most of the time). These are leaders like John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and, yes, George W Bush. All of them were hated with a passion by their opponents, all of them had plenty of reasons to hate back and I'm sure they sometimes did, but by and large they did not allow hatred to consume them and become a distraction to the main game. Howard Dean would do well to remember that lesson, but I'm afraid that it might be too late.


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