Why do Republicans play dirtier?

I think it is almost conventional wisdom across the political spectrum that Republicans excel at “hardball” politics and are willing to play dirtier in order to win than Democrats.  Recently, a reporter asked me why I thought that is the case.  I answered, “they are lesser human beings?” mostly in jest.  But it really is a good question and I think Matt Yglesias does a nice job of tackling it here:

There are a lot of answers to that question, but one thing worth
observing is that the process of turning politics into a senseless
screaming match about bullshit is not an ideologically neutral
development.

The default state of things in the world is for the levers of state
to be dominated by the people who already possess social and economic
power in order to protect and expand their sphere of privilege. The
contention of progressive political reform is that it?s possible to
organize, educate, and mobilize sufficient quantities of people to
overcome the power of the few and instead implement policies that
benefit the many. Clearly, a well-timed or well-placed smear or
deception can serve those ends effectively. But a politics that?s dominated
by bullshit and bullshit artists is, ultimately, not going to be
conducive to progressive ends even if some folks with progressive
instincts get really really good at flinging the BS.

Which is to say that of course effective progressive political
leaders need to be ? and, historically, have been ? good at ?playing
the game? but they?ve also been good at cutting through the
smokescreen and refocusing attention. That?s how Bill Clinton managed
to survive and even thrive during impeachment. But though I wouldn?t
have believed it at the time, the quality of the media ecosphere has
actually gotten radically worse in the interim, such that
prominent media figures now openly brag about how uninterested they are
informing the public and how exciting they find it to wield arbitrary
power in capricious and senseless ways. Which, I suppose, is to be
expected. On an optimistic view, there?s be a pendulum that swings back
from ?terrible? to ?good.? But more likely it?s a cycle ? only a
sociopath would look at campaign reporting as done from 1998-2002 and
say to themselves ?that?s a line of work I?d like to get into!? And so
you get what we have.

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