In an attempt to maintain the peace around the Thanksgiving table last week, the Kansas City Star recirculated a column by the Washington Post’s Republican opinion writer Marc Thiessen. I stumbled across it on Facebook and the title alone told me exactly what the column would be: Another garbage attempt to blame “both sides” for the historic amounts of hostility in American politics. See if you can spot the bothsiderism:
Liberals aren’t stupid. Conservatives aren’t racist. The people we disagree with are not our enemies
I understand the urge to have everyone get along but…nah. White Republican voters have gone so far off the rails that they are breeding domestic terrorists like fleas. There is no other side to this equation.
Let’s take a look at Thiessen’s plea for us to get along.
Whether you are liberal, conservative or in between, I’ll bet that you have a loved one who disagrees with you about politics. It might be a sibling or a parent or a beloved cousin, aunt or uncle — or even your kids. We should not stand for politicians from either party who insult them or question their motives or their patriotism.
That’s a nice story and I’d take Thiessen more seriously if he’d held Republicans to that standard back when Newt Gingrich pioneered the tactic of smearing Democrats as unamerican. But, alas, he did not. It’s only now that the left is openly, and accurately, calling out the right for its extremely unamerican embrace of white nationalism, fascism, and massive, systemic voter suppression that Thiessen thinks this is wrong.
He goes on to conflate Hillary Clinton correctly pointing out that Trump voters love Trump’s message of “you know you didn’t like black people getting rights. You don’t like women, you know, getting jobs. You don’t want, you know, to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are” with the right incorrectly and childishly labeling progressives as “stupid and evil.” You can see how these two things are just alike. Hillary Clinton, who Thiessen takes time to point out was just awful, is a brilliant and well-informed woman making an observation based on decades of watching what white Republican voters say and how they vote. The opposing quote was from a random person based on years of Fox News propaganda. How can we not take these statements as 100% equivalent, I ask you?
Thiessen finishes up by archly stating, “Progressives are not stupid and evil. Conservatives are not racists and misogynists. Our fellow Americans who disagree with us are not our enemies. They are our fellow Americans who differ with us. And we should not put up with politicians, on the left or right, who can’t seem to understand this.”
Again, Thiessen didn’t seem bothered by this kind of vitriol when Republicans were labeling anyone and everyone that opposed the Iraq War a terrorist sympathizer. One is forced to wonder why he’s so insistent that we hold “both sides” to such high standards of decency, particularly when the left isn’t being dishonest in their criticism?
Ah, but there it is, isn’t it? The left is not being dishonest when it slams the right for undermining democracy and embracing white nationalism and misogyny. Everything we’ve been saying about the right for years is all true. Don’t take my word for it, ask lifelong conservative Joe Scarborough (skip to 2:24 for the money quote):
It took the Never Trumpers being exiled from the cult to see what the rest of us have known all along. American conservatism is infested with the worst kind of racism and misogyny.
Consider the effort to ban abortion. The religious right dresses up their demand to control women’s reproductive rights in concern for the unborn but the closer they get to their goal, the more they drop the pretense. It was never about saving babies, it was always about stripping women of their autonomy.
It’s not like this was some big secret. The religious right opposed the birth control pill back in the day for this very reason. They threw a giant hissy fit when the Supreme Court made it legal for women, married or not, to get a prescription for them. The only reason we’re having the abortion “debate” is because the right started lying about their true objective and the press let them get away with the deception. This way, our beloved “liberal” media can act super surprised in a couple of years after Roe v. Wade is overturned and the GOP suddenly declares that birth control pills are evil. Why, who could have predicted that?!
I could write an entire article about how blind racism motivated Trump’s voters but I can’t be bothered. I could point out that white Republican voters in Mississippi just elected a woman to the Senate that is so breathtakingly racist that both she and her daughter went to segregationist schools to avoid black people. I could also go into a very lengthy and detailed examination of the GOP’s descent into white nationalism but let’s be honest, if after watching how white Republican voters defended Charlottesville, torturing immigrant children, three acts of domestic terrorism in one week, and tear-gassing children at the border, you still don’t understand how violent and cruel and depraved the right has become in its pursuit of ethnic cleansing, there’s nothing I can say to convince you. Please bury your head back in the sand and pretend we aren’t seeing the birth of a potentially genocidal movement.
This, of course, is precisely what Marc Thiessen would like you to do. His job is very simple: To convince people that no matter how extreme the right becomes, the left is just as bad. And he gets paid an awful lot of money to sell that fantasy because people desperately want to hear it. Without it, they would have to confront the reality that America’s conservative movement has become an intolerable threat to democracy and decency. That left unchecked they will destroy everything good about America and leave a smoking ruin behind as they self-destruct in a frenzy of mindless rage.
In past decades, when a Republican president would stand revealed as a criminal or blatantly incompetent, his support would collapse. It was Republicans that forced Richard Nixon to resign, after all, and Bush’s lack of support in 2006 and 2008 led to a supermajority in the Senate for the Democrats. That no longer happens. Donald Trump is the most incompetent and criminally corrupt president in American history, bar none, and he not only enjoys 80% or more support from white Republican voters but his control over the base is also so complete he holds the GOP hostage. They’ve become a cult and there is no violence or cruelty too extreme for them or that Trump is not willing to indulge to keep their loyalty.
For a lot of people, acknowledging that reality is terrifying because it means they would have to act; they would have to take a stand. For some, like the editors of the Kansas City Star, it’s even worse. They would have to take responsibility for years of enabling the right’s descent into madness. Any lie is preferable to that, even if that lie allows monsters to set the country on fire and burn it to the ground. At least by clinging to the lie that both sides are responsible, they’ll be able to blame everyone else for the carnage. Even better, they’ll have Marc Thiessen there to tell them they’re the good guys for staying above the fray and holding both sides, but really mostly the left (and never, ever the right), accountable.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.