The Buzz

A Caricature of Righteousness

According to longtime Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, “it’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness.” And she knows a thing or two about being dressed up in moral righteousness.

Writing in The Washington Post, vanden Heuvel decries the “horrifyingly, back-breaking, bankrupt-to-the-core-of-this-nation style crisis” brought upon the United States by Republicans. But the moral high ground must be a slippery place. Vanden Heuvel barely makes it through two paragraphs criticizing the fervent immorality of the GOP before she loses her footing, succumbing to name-calling and invoking caricatures so stereotypical as to be laughable.

According to Vanden Heuvel, Republicans want your children to starve so they can buy “a new yacht for that guy who only has one yacht.” They’d like to reward everyone behind the Wall Street crisis with not one but two bonuses. And when confronted with the effects of climate change, Republicans query: “‘Anyone know if we can drill this hole any deeper?’”

The sweeping generalizations, flippant tone and absurd hyperbole are enough to earn this piece a rating of howler. But the problems run deeper. Vanden Heuvel may well have had some real, substantive complaints to register in criticizing GOP candidates who lament a moral crisis brought on, at least in part, by their own party. But her words are so acerbic, so exaggerated and caustic as to be entirely self-defeating. Readers walk away disgusted not at the targets of vanden Heuvel’s wrath but at the disrespectful author who relies on tropes and clichés instead of thought-provoking argumentation. The old saying about casting stones and glass houses jumps to mind. Perhaps that’s one trope Vanden Heuvel should have spent a bit more time thinking about.