Democrats: Happy Labor Day, Son-of-a-bitches

September 6, 2011

Teamsters’ Union president Jimmy Hoffa opened for an Obama speech yesterday (video at bottom of story).  Hoffa said, among other things,

We’ve got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: the war on workers.  And you see it everywhere:  It is the Tea Party.  And you know there’s only one way to beat and win that war.  The one thing about working people is, we like a good fight.  And you know what?  They’ve got a war, they’ve got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner—it’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America!  We’re going to win that war! 

He also said,

President Obama, this is your army.  We are ready to march.  And President Obama, we want one thing: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!  That’s what we’re going to tell him!  He’s going to be—when he sees what we’re doing here, he will be inspired, but he needs help.  And you know what, everybody here has got to vote.  If we go back, keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong!

Then President Obama took the stage, but as NPR puts it, “The president didn’t mention Hoffa’s hot words . . . .”  Indeed, as the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal puts it, “Obama had nothing but praise for the union leaders” (link in original); he said he was proud of Hoffa:

. . . and some proud sons and daughters of Michigan representing working people here and across the country . . . Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa . . . we are proud of them and we’re proud of your congressional delegation . . . .

Hoffa, in case you’re wondering, won’t apologize or take it back:

Teamsters union president James Hoffa would say it all again if he could, he told TPM Monday.

. . .

“I would because I believe it,” he said. “They’ve declared war on us. We didn’t declare war on them, they declared war on us. We’re fighting back. The question is, who started the war?”

Leave aside the fact that the Tea Party has certainly not “declared war” on unions, much less on workers.  (The most you could say is that the Tea Party movement, in some states, is locked in a battle with public-sector unions—which should never have existed at all, as even FDR and top union leaders of past generations said.)  Let’s focus on Hoffa’s rhetoric: “war”, “we like a good fight”, “take these son-of-a-bitches out”, etc.

As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this if liberals hadn’t made such a point of claiming that conservatives are uniquely uncivil.  Liberals widely took the occasion of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords’s shooting to call for, as Jonah Goldberg put it, “Civility. New tone. No more martial metaphors. These were the takeaways.” We were told that the right had poisoned the national discourse with our “apocalyptic” rhetoric.

To name just one example, The New York Times, in an editorial, said,

. . . it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced [death threats to legislators and judges], setting the nation on edge.

President Obama, in his relatively conciliatory speech for the occasion (transcript, video), said, among other things,

. . . at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

and

We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords . . . .

And yet there was Hoffa yesterday, using a very martial metaphor and being otherwise uncivil, practically exhorting other union members to create a “gale of anger”.  And that was fine with Obama.

What if some conservative had said “let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out”?  It’s no defense to say that he was only talking about voting—the very map that Sarah Palin used, for which she was practically accused of having incited murder, was a campaign map about the upcoming election.  Palin, Limbaugh, and other conservative leaders never did anything like suggesting that listeners shoot anyone—and anyway Loughner was “either apolitical or ‘quite liberal’” and, as far as I know, had never read or listened to anything from Palin, Limbaugh, et al., and anyway he was actually a crazy person—and it was their fault anyway.  Meanwhile Hoffa says “let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out” in the introduction to a speech by Obama himself, and that’s fine.

If the whole “civility” discussion is new to you, check out some of the other items in the category (“civility”) in the sidebar to the right.

Update (September 2nd, 2013): I reorganized the categories.  Try “liberal echo chamber” instead.

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10 Responses to “Democrats: Happy Labor Day, Son-of-a-bitches”

  1. My Strongly-Held Beliefs Says:

    “James Hoffa would say it all again if he could…’I would because I believe it,’ he said.”

    I am troubled by how much animosity and really cruel speech is validated by being something “believed.” My classmates told me they really, honestly felt that Dick Cheney was evil, so anything they felt like saying about him was justified.

    Why should my subjective, emotional response to something make it socially acceptable? Freud is right about one thing: civilization asks us to check ourselves and our self-indulgent instincts.

    How can subjectivity lend legitimacy to any of it? Subjectivity is the original threat to outward-looking care and kindness toward others. It does not bode well for us that we have turned that standard on its head.

  2. Tevyeh Says:

    The greatest difference? A casual perusal of the Teamsters’ history suggests that violent “rhetoric” isn’t just rhetoric.

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    Chillingworth, you explicitly declared war on homosexuals (link to post). You explicitly used the word war! The hypocrisy is comical at this point.

    Ps. You have beaten this topic into submission.


    • Link to it yourself. I did not “declare war on homosexuals”; if you want to talk about my specific words, and how different what I said was from what Hoffa said, I’ll be happy to have that conversation. But you should also understand that I am not saying that people shouldn’t use martial metaphors. I agree with the National Review editorial on the subject (I have even recommended it):

      Martial imagery has been central to American politics for more than a century. Why do Palin’s critics think we say “campaign” or “rank-and-file”? We all use language of this sort, and no one ever before has thought it constitutes incitement.

      If you’d like to start linking to past posts, I’ll also be happy to discuss your repeated (uncivil) misuse of the term “hypocrisy”.


  4. […] I wrote about Hoffa’s uncivil remarks earlier this week, my friend Professor Tevyeh reminded us that […]


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