Tag Archives: Thomas Friedman

Real-World Choices

I have never been a big fan of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Sometimes I’ve agreed with him, sometimes not, but he generally comes across (to me, at least) as patronizing–someone who engages in the sort of “coastal elitist” hectoring that conservatives love to hate and the ideological “middle-of-the-roadism” that sets liberal teeth on edge.

In this column, however, he hits it out of the park.

Friedman makes an argument–vote straight Democratic in the upcoming midterm elections– that has often been made by Pete, one of the most thoughtful of this blog’s regular commenters. It is emphatically not an argument that Democrats are all “good guys” untainted by the moral and ethical deficiencies that permeate the GOP.

It is instead a (far more eloquent) restatement of what has become my own mantra, to wit: I don’t vote for the lesser of two evils. I vote for the person/party that is pandering to the people who are least dangerous.

To put that another way: I recognize that all politicians are beholden in some fashion to the interest groups that support them, so I’m going to evaluate the priorities of those interest groups and vote for the candidate who is beholden to the ones most closely aligned with what I believe to be the common good.

As Friedman puts it,

It is not a choice between the particular basket of policies offered by the candidates for House or Senate in your district or state — policies like gun control, right to choose, free trade or fiscal discipline. No, what this election is about is your first chance since 2016 to vote against Donald Trump.

As far as I am concerned, that’s the only choice on the ballot. It’s a choice between letting Trump retain control of all the key levers of political power for two more years, or not.

If I were writing the choice on a ballot, it would read: “Are you in favor of electing a majority of Democrats in the House and/or Senate to put a check on Trump’s power — when his own party demonstrably will not? Or are you in favor of shaking the dice for another two years of unfettered control of the House, the Senate and the White House by a man who wants to ignore Russia’s interference in our election; a man whose first thought every morning is, ‘What’s good for me, and can I get away with it?’; a man who shows no compunction about smearing any person or government institution that stands in his way; and a man who is backed by a party where the only members who’ll call him out are those retiring or dying?”

If your answer is the former, then it can only happen by voting for the Democrat in your local House or Senate race.

The same issue of the Times that carried Friedman’s column reported on a study of the issues being raised thus far in 2018 by Republican contenders for the House and Senate. The overwhelming majority are emphasizing their antagonism to immigration and immigrants–a (slightly) less obvious way to appeal to what the media likes to characterize as “racial anxieties.”

Are there racist Democrats? Sure. But they belong to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic party. To exhibit such attitudes is likely to be the kiss of political death. Are there Democrats who are “in the pocket” of corporate interests? Again, yes. But there are degrees of corruption, and right now, most Democratic officeholders obey ethical constraints that their Republican counterparts cheerfully ignore.

Friedman (and Pete) are correct:

What we’ve learned since 2016 is that the worst Democrat on the ballot for the House or Senate is preferable to the best Republican, because the best Republicans have consistently refused to take a moral stand against Trump’s undermining of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Civil Service, the basic norms of our public life and the integrity of our elections.

Here’s the bottom line. Refusing to vote for Democratic candidates who fall short of ideal–opting to make the perfect the enemy of the good– is a vote for Trump and Trumpism. Pretending otherwise is intellectually dishonest.