I was driving past the post office in my hometown last week when I noticed a man setting up signs bearing the phrase “Impeach Obama” and posters depicting Obama wearing a Hitleresque mustache. I initially thought that he might have been a Tea Partier, though it was later suggested to me that he was likely a “LaRouchie.” This makes the Hitler comparison somewhat confounding; Lyndon LaRouche, a conspiracy theorist, self-styled economist, and leader of a cultish political movement, is himself an advocate of a near-fascist assortment of statist ideologies. In other words, LaRouche’s organization uses the image of Hitler to accuse Obama of not being enough like Hitler. It uses the image of a man who is universally loathed to deride the president for not adopting more of that same man’s political positions. The inconsistency here is so blatant that it’s hard to see how anyone could see this as a logical argument for a second.
When I have a disagreement with someone, I expect that there are certain accepted standards by which we can determine what we ought to take away from it. If our dispute is over fact or policy, then history or evidence will eventually declare one of us to be right (at which point the other should concede that he is wrong). If the dispute is over values or priorities, then hopefully we can appreciate both where we will never agree and where our beliefs are not really all that different. Unfortunately, some people don’t want to play by these rules. They don’t just want to be entitled to their own opinions, they want to be entitled to their own conception of how rhetoric ought to work.
Beyond the matter of illogical posters, I have another issue with people like the man by the post office. Calling for the impeachment of a president because of policy disagreements is absurd. It was absurd when Dennis Kucinich drew up articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, and it’s absurd now. We have elections for a reason. If we are displeased with the way that our policymakers are making (or not making) policy, then we are certainly free to vote for someone else to do the job instead as soon as we have the chance. Activists should focus their energies on more constructive tasks than name-calling and fearmongering. They should call or write letters to their representatives and senators sharing their reasoned thoughts about legislation. They should collect signatures on petitions supporting or opposing specific policy initiatives. We have more power than we might realize to affect how the business of government is done. We also have the power to do things that are a colossal waste of time.
I know which I prefer.