Both sides do it, say television’s talking heads.
In this era of radioactive polarization, it’s become a mantra among pundits that Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible for the atmosphere of political violence that hovers over America.
Never has a sausage factory produced a finer grade of baloney.
While many violent incidents have broken out since Donald J. Trump was elected in November, both parties aren’t instigators. Conservatives didn’t smash the windows, torch the police cars, terrorize campus speaker or beat demonstrators. Democrats — especially those from Bernie Sanders’ socialist branch of the party — can lay claim to those feats.
Conservatives were berated for highly publicized hate crimes against Muslims and other “protected classes” after the election, but most of the incidents turned out to be hoaxes. Naturally, reports that the hate crimes were fake got only a fraction of the attention the original accounts received.
Fortunately, conservative websites and talk radio hosts aren’t afraid to spread the truth about the leftists’ role in the political violence. Unfortunately, most Americans still get their news from the mainstream media, which point fingers at both sides when violence occurs (if they mention it at all). Even some Fox News commentators evoke the false equivalency.
Of course, this is not to say all Republicans and conservatives are angels. The party has its share of thieves, thugs, philanderers and con artists — but it generally punishes them when their crimes become known. Democrats, however, usually unite to protect offenders unless their sins are so awful the public can’t stomach them, as in Anthony Weiner’s case.
In a fascinating interview published in the July 1 edition of the Wall Street Journal, historian Allen Guelzo told James Taranto — the former force behind the WSJ’s Best of the Web online feature — the two parties have basic principles that they have mostly followed since the 1850s. (www.wsj.com/articles/divided-america-standsthen-and-now-1498851654)
Guelzo, director of the Civil War Era Studies program at Gettysburg College, said one longstanding difference between the parties is “Democrats love passion, Republicans love reason.” In other words, one party appeals to voters’ hearts, the other to their heads.
Another distinction he notes is the Democrats’ “political center” is “local,” while the Republicans’ is “national.”
Taranto writes, “(Guelzo’s) argument is that Republicans think of themselves as Americans first, whereas today Democratic localism takes the form of subnational identity politics.”
Ah, yes, identity politics — a hotpoint so ablaze in today’s society that it makes the sun seem frigid. So many people — women, racial minorities, gays, the transgendered, Muslims — simultaneously demand public acclaim and special status as victims of American bigotry. It’s gotten to the point where members of some special groups are getting scorched for implied disrespect to other groups.
There are plenty of cases that underline the difference between how Democrats and Republicans approach wrongdoing, but my favorite is the 1983 congressional page sex scandal involving Reps. Dan Crane and Gerry Studds.
Both were middle-aged men who had sex with 17-year-old congressional pages, and both were censured by the House of Representatives for misconduct. Their cases weren’t exactly the same, though: Crane’s affair was with a girl, while Studds’ was with a boy at a time when homosexual relations were a crime in many jurisdictions.
But what happened later was enlightening. Crane was defeated in his 1984 GOP primary and left politics, while Studds was not only returned to office but also went on to win re-election to five more terms. There could hardly be a bigger contrast between the Republican and Democrat voter base.
Sure, lots of people gripe that there’s no difference between the two parties and say America is ruled by Republicrats or Democans. And they’re partially right — compromise is usually the key for a democratic republic to function, so they often work against their constituents’ wishes.
Still, core differences remain, and they matter deeply. Which is why partisan battles are so bitter and why electoral outcomes — as Trump is proving — are so important.
May you enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July!