The paradox of modern technology, especially as harnessed by social media, is that it is especially proficient in unleashing primitive dimensions of human character. That suggests a renaissance of insult, indignation and conspiracy theory — the signatures of the politics of contempt — is going to be with us for a long time to come …
But why so glum? Pessimism becomes boring after a while. So, for that matter, does outlandish political rhetoric. In 2019, 85 percent of voters had already said political debate in the U.S. had become more disrespectful and negative over the last few years; things have only worsened since then. It’s at least worth considering the possibility that what we observed this summer was not a forerunner of the future but the spasms of a trend that may be running its course.
In at least some cases, extreme language is coming from politicians facing extreme circumstances. [Carolyn] Maloney’s accusations about the 75-year-old [Jerry] Nadler came as the 76-year-old congresswoman was plainly seeing the end of her career and making desperation plays.
Oz’s mockery of the stroke suffered by Democrat John Fetterman also flowed from frustration. Oz needs to shake up a race in which polls show him running behind. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, pulled out of an upcoming debate and has refused to commit to others, citing his recovery from a recent stroke. But Fetterman’s recovery didn’t prevent him from making fun of Oz in a video complaining about the price of crudités. Hoping to turn the vegetable theme back in Oz’s favor, a senior adviser swung wildly in a prepared statement: “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly.”