The Myth of Equivalence

There’s been a lot of lively conversation about the election on my website discussion board, some of which caused me to write the following post on the reflexive notion of political equivalence.

I have as little patience with people who suggest there’s no big difference between the parties as I do with people who see their side as perfect and the other as the personification of evil. These stances seem dramatically different, but I would argue they’re equally facile.

Part of what makes politics suck so much is that you have to get over the fact that neither side is doing, nor will ever do, what you think the country really needs (at least that’s how it is for me). And then, within that disappointment, you have to decide which one is less worse, hold your nose, and vote.

But there’s no logical reason to believe one side can’t be *a lot* less worse. For reasons I’ve gone into at length elsewhere, at this point it’s clear to me that the Republican party has been absorbed by people who make the Democrats seem a lot less worse.

Today I watched a video of Joe the Plumber trying to argue why a vote for Obama was the same as a vote for death to Israel. The guy who criticized Obama for tap dancing better than Sammy Davis Jr. was himself tap dancing like a madly inept politician. I couldn’t help laughing at his hypocrisy… and then my laughter died away, because I thought, “Why the hell do I have to listen to this third-rate demagogue? Why do I have to engage his millimeter-deep opinions? Here’s why: because the Republicans would rather scare people with this kind of crap than have a substantive conversation about which of our adversaries in the world we should talk to, and when, whether and how. The Joe the Plumber approach — the “Appeasement!” “White flag of surrender!” “Death to Israel!” approach — precludes that conversation, and we lose a lot because of it. When thoughtlessness drowns out thought, it’s bad for America. And if there’s one thing Republicans don’t want you to do, it’s think. That’s why they try so hard to make you afraid.

I could go on. Okay, I will: there’s no such thing as a completely socialist country, and no such thing as a completely capitalist one. But instead of having a real conversation about best practices — that is, how much government involvement makes sense, where, why, and how — the debate is stifled by this juvenile Republican horseshit of suggesting a 35% top marginal bracket is triple-distilled American capitalism and a 38% is the resurrection of Karl Marx. All at the very moment the government is buying up $250 billion worth of banks and getting set to operate them. We need a serious conversation on this and a dozen other subjects, and the reason the conversation can’t happen is because Republicans insist on name-calling and fear-mongering instead.

As long as these tactics continue to work for Republicans, they’ll keep using them, no matter how much damage they do to America in the process. This is why I think it’s so critical that the Republicans be decisively turned out of power on November 4. There’s no other way they’ll abandon their current tactics, and return to their small government, fiscal responsibility, realistic foreign policy, respect-for-privacy principles. If they return to those principles, and make an honest, non-demagogic case for them, they’ll have my vote again.  Not before.