A Bush win? Lefty journos contemplate the unthinkable

Published October 25, 2004 9:34PM (EDT)

It's something many liberals can barely stand to think about, much less talk about -- what if Bush wins? Today in the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz surveys prominent progressive journalists and pundits about that rancid possibility, and finds curdling, apocalyptic fear. Quoting from a Washington Monthly cover story, Kurtz relays CNN's Paul Begala's prediction that Bush would immediately seek to purge his enemies. "He and his allies are likely to embark on a campaign of political retribution the likes of which we haven't seen since Richard Nixon," Begala says. As Kurtz notes, the Monthly also quoted Todd Gitlin, a Columbia professor and liberal activist, saying, "I would not be surprised to see outbursts of political violence the likes of which we haven't seen since the Weather Underground of the 1970s."

In a recent Vanity Fair piece, media columnist Michael Wolff suggested that liberals might actually thrive during a second Bush term, since the president serves as such a galvanizing force. Kurtz pushes this insouciantly nihilistic hypothesis. After quoting Nation editor Katrina van den Heuvel speculating about "the dismantling of our democracy," Kurtz writes, "But her liberal magazine has grown from 100,000 in circulation to 170,000 in the past four years. 'Bush has been bad for the nation but good for the Nation,' she admits."

Later, he writes, "[J]ust as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News thrived during the Clinton years, the Bush era has given rise to liberal blogs, Air America Radio and a slew of Al Franken-like bestsellers. And Bush would remain a fabulous target for outraged liberals who might have to modulate their rhetoric during a Kerry presidency."

The people Kurtz quotes, though, are less than giddy at this possibility. "I think journalists will accept the judgment of the public and read the victory as an acceptance that the rules are now changed," Washington Monthly Editor Paul Glastris tells him. "The way they've been treated, the way the administration buries information and misrepresents almost anything they want to would just be an accepted fact of life. There will be a defining down of the acceptable standards of what government can do."

By Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg is a frequent contributor to Salon and the author of "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism" (WW Norton).

MORE FROM Michelle Goldberg

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room