Confrontational Politics

It’s called confrontational politics – the yelling and shouting heard this month at town hall meetings on health care. The tactics were first devised in the 1960s by the SDS, the Students for a Democratic Society, to protest the war and include intimidation, physical and vocal defiance and provocation. An underlying presumption of these tactics is that the ends justify the means.

In a twist of irony that would spark a wry smile in Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone, these strategies were later adopted by the College Republicans in the 1980s to thwart liberal causes on college campuses. Jack Abramoff, a leader of the movement, crafted a disciplined organization that promoted intimidation as an effective tool for conservative political causes.

In the 90s, environmental groups amended the strategy to include both violent confrontation and the passive resistance tactics espoused by Ghandi.

In the late nineties and early in this decade, an anti-corporate movement adopted these “in your face” stategies at several economic forums to challenge the fiscal policies of governments.

Common to all these movements is the perception that compromise is a betrayal of one’s principles. Compromise complicates issues for it requires that one party understand, to some degree, the other party’s point of view. Complexity is the enemy of those who prefer simplicity in their lives, beliefs and ideologies.

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