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10.31.08

A Democratic Speechwriter Backing McCain Responds to Attacks

The former Democratic speechwriter, who came out for McCain on The Daily Beast this week, responds to the death threats and hostile comments that ensued with a plea for civility.

When former Democratic speechwriter Wendy Button wrote on The Daily Beast this week that she had decided to vote for John McCain, she did not imagine the tsunami of hostile reaction she would unleash, from death threats to the more than 900 comments on this site (and hundreds more on others that linked to it) calling her everything from “deranged” to “loser” to in need of medication.

Below, an update from Button on the response to her piece:

It has been a long few days since I posted my piece, “So Long, Democrats.” But thanks to modern technology, I have not been alone.

One of the early comments reads, “The dogs are about to be unleashed on this message board. Make no mistake about it.” This person was correct, and those dogs were more like pit bulls without the lipstick. However, some have wandered out of the message-board-yard to make threats and even a few creepy phone calls suggesting that they might poison my own dog. I expected anger from the far-left, but the extreme caught me off-guard.

I thought that was what the other side did when there was dissent. Remember what they did to Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks for speaking out against the war? Remember the cover of the National Review calling George Clooney a traitor? Remember how upset Democrats were when they smeared former Senator Max Cleland and called him unpatriotic and morphed pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein over his?

The pendulum is always swinging. Guess this experience proves that. These extreme opinions are in no way reflective of most Democrats—most people—but the fringe element is with us now. And I am a nobody who spoke out. I pity the first big leader or press person who does and hope that the next time a lesson is learned and the pendulum doesn’t swing so far. These dogs are fierce and don’t seem to hear the call of “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Now, when this went up I knew.

I knew that the people I loved would be angry, betrayed, and many will never speak to me again. That is a consequence I accept, every angry phone call I take and email I read. I have to take it and that’s my responsibility, especially since the piece went up so quickly and I didn't have enough time to give everyone a heads-up.

I knew that former colleagues would send notes warning of my demise: “You’ll never work again.” “You’re dead to me.” “You better lose my email.” Those responses I have to accept as well.

And I knew that supporters would be mad and I respect their opinions.

But it doesn’t change a thing I believe in. The treatment of working people is disheartening. Joe the Plumber asked a basic question about a policy that goes to the heart of our current economic situation: Should the government take more of our money right now or should people be allowed to keep it? Higher taxes or lower taxes in the middle of a financial meltdown? More spending or focused spending on challenges with a projected $1 trillion deficit, maybe $1.3 trillion with the new stimulus package? Instead of having this be the focus, someone went through Joe’s records.

The treatment of women is something that saddens me. The recent ad with Governor Sarah Palin winking at the end was another link in the chain. Sexism is okay right now and we have to fix that. Simply saying that our policies help working people and women doesn’t excuse this behavior. That’s what I believe and I would never threaten someone’s life for disagreeing or call the other person stupid, evil, or useless.

Dissent in a sea of unanimity is a drowning proposition. But every once in awhile someone sends a life preserver with the words, “I agree.” There are others inside the Democratic Party who agree with what’s happened in this historic election. I hope they speak out, too because with the challenges we face we have to be able to disagree without threats and hate so that we can move forward with new and better ideas.

While I am still changing my party affiliation, I will never stop fighting for the things that brought me to politics in the first place. The belief that we are all equal, we should all have the same chances to succeed, and those who have been blessed have a responsibility to care for those who have been forgotten. It was a mistake to edit these beliefs in the original piece, and I apologize for that.

And to be clear to those who don’t know me: Just because I am becoming an independent doesn’t mean that all of sudden I believe that the cartoon, “Captain Caveman,” was based on a true story. I believe in a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body at the federal level, state level, and the split-level down the street. And I don’t care who marries whom as long as they’re happy and able to be who they were born to be.

But when it comes to fiscal and economic policy and the Iraq War, I am as far away from the Democratic Party as Russia is from my house right now. And so I dissent. While others jump for joy as to what’s happened in this campaign, I dissent about the way women and working people have been treated and pushed away. I dissent, but I am not alone or the first.

Last winter, one of my best friend’s daughters realized that she was the only one in her class who supported Senator Hillary Clinton. She’s ten and was very nervous to stand up in front of all of the students who supported Senator Barack Obama. But with all those eyes on her, she stood by her beliefs. I thought she was very brave for doing that. I just had no idea how much until now.

Wendy Button is a writer in Washington, DC. She has written for Senators John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Mayor Tom Menino of Boston as well as other national and international leaders. She is currently writing the CNN Heroes Award Show to air Thanksgiving night.