After President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, conservative talk host Rush Limbaugh made headlines when he said, “I hope Obama fails.” Many considered it a gauge of how bitter conservatives had become post-election.
Why would anyone, right or left, not want the new president to succeed?
The country was divided for a number of reasons then, but due in large part to too many conservatives drawing battle lines and retreating to the trenches.
Now, it’s the left’s turn.
RELATED: You didn’t care when Obama did it
In Sunday’s New York Post, gay Brooklyn-based journalist Chadwick Moore penned a thoughtful yet unsettling op-ed explaining why although he had been a “lifelong liberal” the left’s current intolerance has pushed him to the right. In September, Moore wrote a profile of hard right Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos for the LGBT publication Out! For this unpardonable sin, he was shunned by most of his friends, even those he thought were genuinely close to him.
After a barrage of negative messages and attacks on social media, (neither the author nor the magazine signaled in any way that they agreed with Yiannopoulos’ controversial views), Moore wrote, “I lay low for a week or so. Finally, I decided to go out to my local gay bar in Williamsburg, where I’ve been a regular for 11 years.”
“I ordered a drink but nothing felt the same; half the place — people with whom I’d shared many laughs — seemed to be giving me the cold shoulder,” Moore lamented. “Upon seeing me, a friend who normally greets me with a hug and kiss pivoted and turned away.”
I realized that, for the first time in my adult life, I was outside of the liberal bubble and looking in. What I saw was ugly, lock step, incurious and mean-spirited. I began to realize that maybe my opinions just didn’t fit in with the liberal status quo, which seems to mean that you must absolutely hate Trump, his supporters and everything they believe. If you dare not to protest or boycott Trump, you are a traitor. If you dare to question liberal stances or make an effort toward understanding why conservatives think the way they do, you are a traitor.
“I don’t want to be a part of that club anymore,” Moore concluded.
Partisanship is not new, but left and right do seem to become shriller with each election. This has been particularly true in regard to perhaps the most uniquely polarizing president in modern American history, Donald Trump.
The division in 2017 compared to 2009 seems broader and deeper, something Chadwick Moore’s unfortunate experience illustrates. When the right was concocting every angry accusation imaginable against Obama, most dismissed it as right-wing propaganda coming from a conservative echo chamber.
But the current Trump hate presents a different and perhaps more troubling dynamic. Right now it’s not just progressive outlets, but the mainstream media that too often behaves like a liberal echo chamber. The “fake news” phenomenon of 2016 that began as parody sites running obviously phony election-related stories purely for profit, morphed into established journalists reporting false stories because they too, whether they will admit it or not, were reacting emotionally to Trump.
Conservative site The Federalist chronicled 16 fake news stories that mainstream journalists have reported or shared since Trump won the election. Not just one or two stories — 16.
So, if you’re a left-leaning American already distraught over the election, and the mainstream media is telling you that Trump is an anti-gay white supremacist who hates MLK, egotistically Photoshops his hands, and wants to invade Mexico, how is this different from right-wingers who used to believe Obama was a secret-Kenyan-radical-Muslim-who-hated-America?
Because it’s what you already believe Trump really is, it’s what most of your friends believe, and most of the news you consume reinforces those biases -— including too many mainstream sources.
There are fewer challenges to your worldview.
Conservatives during the Obama era risked having their biases shattered the moment they turned off Fox News. Liberals right now are having their biases confirmed at every turn, which allows them to insist that what they believe genuinely reflects the unassailable truth about Trump.
They could be right. Trump is problematic on many levels. But how can liberals, living in so broad a bubble, truly know?
And if their intolerance toward anyone who dares challenge their worldview continues to increase, how will they ever know?