Tag Archives: false equivalence

False Equivalence, Delusion-Grade

Tomorrow night is the first Presidential debate, so this seems like a good time to get something off my chest.

I’m fed up with assertions that the candidates are equally flawed, that either would be a “disaster”–as if there is anything remotely comparable between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And I don’t think I’m the only one who finds those assertions dishonest and self-serving.

I understand the propaganda when it comes from people who don’t want to admit, even to themselves, that their support of Donald Trump is rooted in his–and their–bigotries. I don’t understand it coming from people who actually understand that we are hiring a chief executive for an incredibly demanding job, and who disclaim support for Trump, but then say they will vote for a third party or not at all–both actions an effective, if indirect, vote for him.

I participate in a listserv focused on Law and Courts. It’s a conversation between political scientists and law professors whose academic research centers on legal and constitutional issues and the ways that judges approach and resolve those issues. A recent thread about impeachment law included a post from a (male) scholar who expressed his distaste for both candidates in a fashion that suggested such a near equivalency; that post generated a response that is worth sharing in its entirety.

I categorically reject the idea that one could put Hillary Clinton in the same category as Donald Trump vis-a-vis “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Absurd. Clinton has been in public service for more 40+ years and, by and large, has abided by the rule of law governing the offices she was in, the roles she inhabited, and the causes she advocated for. Did she do some stupid, wrong and probably illegal things during some of that time? Yes, she did. Was it above and beyond what similarly situated men have done? Men whom we laud as tireless public servants? No, she did not.

Not only that, she has endured a relentless 25 year campaign to undermine, demean and thoroughly discredit her. I defy any male politician in public service as long as Hillary Clinton to come away from such a microscope with nothing more damning than the email nonsense.

We can and should be vigilant about the rule of law and the abuse of political power. But the double standard on display right now is among the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. I was not a particularly vehement supporter of Hillary Clinton when this campaign started but I bloody well am now.

Sorry. But I just can’t take it anymore.

Like the writer of this post–with which I agree 100%–I was not a particular fan of Hillary Clinton at the beginning of this campaign. My attitude was not based upon her performance in the various offices she’s held, which was in each case highly competent; my reluctance to support her was based upon a concern that she was not–and is not–a gifted candidate.

Not unlike George H.W. Bush (the competent Bush), Clinton’s interest is clearly in governing, and she is uncomfortable “selling herself” on the campaign trail. In her case, the 25-year campaign referenced above has made her defensive and scripted. Understandable but unfortunate behaviors on the campaign trail.

Like the writer of this post, however, I’ve been “radicalized” by the double standard applied to Clinton, the raw misogyny, and the obvious delight in criticizing her every move by our so-called “liberal” media. (Since when is working through walking pneumonia without whining about it a “lack of transparency”?)

There is no equivalency between Trump and Clinton. None.

If you needed an operation, and your choice was between a respected surgeon who had saved numerous lives during a long career during which he had also made a few bad calls, and a local B-list actor with delusions of grandeur who had never performed an operation,  who displayed monumental ignorance of medicine generally and human anatomy specifically, I don’t think your choice would be difficult.

There’s false equivalency, and then there’s monumental intellectual dishonesty.

Think about that as you watch the debate.

False Equivalence

When my children were little, cries of “He started it!” and “He did something worse!” were staples of household debate.

I think about those arguments between four and five year olds when I hear complaints from the political Right about the “liberal media,” and retorts from the political Left about “false equivalence.” Most genuine journalists ignore both, figuring–reasonably enough– that if both extremes of the political spectrum are unhappy, they probably got it right.

That said, I was struck by a comment made by David Niose during a recent interviewNiose is legal director for the American Humanist Association and a past president of both the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America.

In his remarks, Niose shared his concerns over the disproportionate influence of corporations on American politics, and especially on the current upsurge in anti-intellectualism (an unfortunate American mainstay), but along the way, he also made a point worth considering about the relative influence of the crazies on the Right and Left. As he noted, anti-intellectual left-wingers, such as Marxists invested in “dialectical materialism” and other Leftist ideologues who insist on doctrine over facts, are routinely dismissed and politically irrelevant. Meanwhile, Republicans who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old can and do get elected to political office.

Extremists and zealots of any stripe are equally dangerous, but in the U.S., the political Left has rarely gained much traction. (And no, raising the ire of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin doesn’t make one a Leftist–I doubt either of them could define socialism.) Over the past quarter-century, however, the Crazy Right has become positively mainstream in many areas of the country.

The nutso Right and Left may exhibit equivalent insanity and ignorance, but only one of them currently influences–and debases– the national narrative.