July 31, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

1998 Civility Promises Seem Like Long Ago

“Now, there are so many more media outlets that the attacks have more impact,” said Ted Maness, who served as executive director of the NRCC under Linder and is chief of staff to retiring Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.).

The increasing clout of outside groups, Web-based bomb-throwers, cable TV character assassins and pseudo-journalist partisans has made politics meaner than it ever was — and more difficult to find reasoned and reasonable solutions that split the difference between the dominant views of the two parties.

Not that the parties try to fight the trend. If you’ve read some of the party’s direct mail recently, you’ve seen them ratchet up their rhetoric, accusing the other party of lying, cheating and stealing.

Interestingly, these attacks — most notably and vociferously by national Republicans in 2006 and by national Democrats in 2010 — didn’t work. Voters discounted the party attacks as nothing more than partisan propaganda. But that doesn’t mean that strategists have concluded they need to try a different approach. No, not at all.

The parties, and their press folks, are in a rut.

On Friday, I received an e-mail from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee in the next Congress and the DCCC chairman this past cycle. The e-mail was seemingly recycling rhetoric from the last year in bashing Republicans for “obstructionism” and attacking the opposition for holding a position on tax cuts that didn’t stop them from racking up a net gain of 63 House seats about a month ago.

You’d think that politicians might take a pause from the usual political rhetoric for a few months. But they can’t. Our political system demands that they never let down their partisan guard. The forces on the confrontational left and the combative right will see to that. One Democratic group on the left is already running a TV spot in Iowa warning President Barack Obama not to compromise with Republicans.

The increased number of avenues for launching attacks on political institutions or individuals — and the willingness of the mainstream media to pick up the charges — have allowed the loudest, most obnoxious, most ideological forces to control the political discussion during campaign season.

Better get used to it. There is no end in sight.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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