A False Dichotomy

The way political pundits and the media elite silo up reminds me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he and Yosemite Sam have two forts on opposite sides of a moat, trade cannonballs, then run into each other’s fort and raise their own flag. When Sam looked up after capturing Bugs’ fort, he saw Bugs raising his own flag over Sam’s fort.

They paint a false dichotomy between the Democrats and the Republicans, and assign values to each party as if the parties receive their dogma from competing Moseses descending from two clones of Mount Sinai. Political parties don’t have values. People have values.

American political parties were mainly formed out of necessity: It being such a large country, a candidate for high office needed to have a significant logistical and financial base in order to win. But George Washington was not a fan of a party system, which he called “factions.”

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

John Adams similarly despised the idea of parties.

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

Examples abound of parties being hijacked by values which swing them out of the values of their own members. The most recent example of this is the Blue Dog Democrats. Before them were the Boll Weevils who supported Reagan’s tax plan. And today’s centrist “GOPe” is increasingly under pressure by groups like the Freedom Caucus. Don’t be fooled: politically, the country, as a whole, has moved to the Left, and needs a correction.

In 2010, the Blue Dog Democrats were essentially gutted by the Republican sweep, and by 2014 they ceased to be a “thing.” But in reality, the difference between, say, Democrat Jim Marshall, who represented Georgia’s 8th district (my district) and Republican Austin Scott, who defeated Marshall in 2010, is not enormous. Marshall voted against Obamacare, and for TARP. He voted with Democrats 88.5 percent of the time, but differed on key issues.

Scott is a conservative, but supports many budget expenditures and projects that Heritage Action for America opposes (they score him 70%).

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Scott has endorsed Marco Rubio (Heritage Action score 94%). My point isn’t that there aren’t real differences between candidates and parties. There are. But in many ways, the Democratic Party left people like Marshall instead of the other way around. This is what led former Blue Dog Nathan Deal to become a Republican, along with later converts Rodney Alexander, Parker Griffith and Ralph Hall.

Twenty years ago, the thought that Bernie Sanders could lead the Democratic Party was laughable to the point of scorn. When I recently ran into an elder former Democrat Senator, I asked him about Sanders, to which he promptly replied “They’ve f**ked it all up.” The Democrats have pulled so far to the left (booing God?) that Sanders, a nebulous on social issues, pro gun rights socialist who believes in wealth confiscation is a better alternative to more centrist Hillary.

But that’s the false dichotomy. It’s not Hillary’s political dogma that’s got her in trouble. It’s her “privilege.” The fact that she can pretend to be a regular person in any way, but hasn’t driven since the mid 1990’s, claims struggles with money but has lived a multi-millionaire life for decades, and generally believes she can say or do whatever she wants and suffer no consequences is what’s sinking Hillary.

The same problem could have hurt Donald Trump but he’s honest and unapologetic about being rich. To Trump, it’s a feature, not a bug. Morton Kondracke wrote that Michael Bloomberg should run for president as a third-party candidate, fully acknowledging he’d have no chance to win, simply “to establish a moderate political movement that lasts beyond 2016.”

On issues, most voters are moderate. In recent polls, 57 percent want stricter gun control, 69 percent want the government to do more about climate change (only 9 percent think it’s a hoax), and 57 percent think abortion should be legal in most cases, but 48 percent want it banned after 20 weeks.

Also, 58 percent favor allowing illegal immigrants a chance to be citizens (versus 26 percent who’d deport them), but a majority don’t want to accept Syrian refugees. Americans want a president who’s tough on terrorism but 60 percent oppose banning all Muslims from entering the US.

This year, there’s a definite tilt toward populism: 63 percent favor raising taxes on the rich to lessen income inequality. Eighty percent favor requiring employers to offer paid leave. But a majority also thinks adjustments need to be made in Social Security benefits to save the program. If populists Donald Trump and Bernard Sanders win the GOP and Democratic nominations, there’d be a huge centrist hole between the nativist-authoritarian bully-blowhard and the 74-year-old left-wing democratic socialist.

Kondracke flirts with the truth here. Voters are all over the map on various issues, with clusters sharing the same opinions. For example, if you ask someone if the government should “do more for climate change,” many would agree. But if you ask them if the government should spend a trillion dollars, cause energy prices to soar 500 percent, and pay third world countries restitution for our carbon footprint, most would throw a punch at your face for suggesting it.

The fact is that we favor candidates who agree with us, but we don’t always favor the dogma of the party that produces such candidates. I disagree that there would be a “huge centrist hole” between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump, should he win, would revert to a centrist (in many ways) for the general election. He can’t help it, that’s his sweet spot and it’s what he really believes.

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I think it would be good for the country if two candidates who really believed in their own positions (like Sanders and Cruz, or Rubio) ran head to head. These two candidates would represent the more extreme ends of their party’s adherents and would provide a good test on where the electorate stands. Either way, the middlemen, elite consultants and favored lobbyists would lose a whole lot of influence, and that can’t be anything but good.

After eight years of President Obama, who has to be the most dishonest man ever to inhabit the White House, it would be refreshing to (and catastrophic to not) have truth re-injected into our political system. George Washington warned us about Obama 220 years ago. This election should not be about parties or silos or Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam’s forts: Those are false dichotomies. This election is about people.

Honestly, I would not do “whatever it takes” to keep a Democrat out of the White House. I would do whatever it takes to keep a liar, a would-be despot, a political charlatan, or a criminal out of the White House–and put a conservative, truthful president in.

In 2016, we have a chance to do both.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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