Shot By Both Sides


Of all the beloved tropes in the modern liberal catalog, none is so valued as profound mockery of the idea that “both sides do it” — that is, that the reason blinkered malcontents foolishly vote for third parties (or, quelle horreur, do not vote at all) is because they are foolish enough to believe that there is no significant difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.  This is immediately followed by a list of allegedly critical issues on which the two parties substantially diverge, followed by a dusting off of hands as if the whole matter has been handled with a finality that places the question in the same settled category as the War of 1812.


There are a number of responses to this.  The most common is to point out that, on a number of extremely critical issues, there really is very little meaningful difference between the two major parties.  The most critical, of course, is the one that is least likely to be breached in the mainstream discourse, which is that, unlike almost every other democratic country on Earth, America not only does not have a true labor party, but does not have a party which is in any appreciable way anti-capitalist.  This was more or less always the case, but in the last 20 to 25 years, the distinctions which once existed have fallen away, and there now exists no obvious disagreement between Democrats and Republicans that any solution to social problems must necessarily be a market solution.


Frustrating as this is, it’s not really the most meaty riposte to the charge that whatever differences the Democrats and Republicans might have once had have largely eroded.  In this election in particular — an election in which the G.O.P. has somehow come to float a presidential candidate so profoundly inept, unserious, and without substance that it’s taken a heroic degree of incompetence on the part of their opposition to make it a close race — Donald Trump represents a historical worst-case scenario, and yet Hillary Clinton’s enablers have failed to make him seem as hideously bad as he actually is. One of the major attacks against Trump is that he plans to deport millions of illegal aliens, but this distinguishes him not at all from our current president, the beloved Barack Obama, who has already successfully pursued an identical program.  Just today, a new Clinton attack ad accused Trump of having an aggressive and incompetent attitude towards foreign policy, which, while in no way incorrect, again fails to set him apart from any Democrats of the last 25 years, especially as regards the Middle East.


What’s particularly bizarre about this election cycle is that, contrary to their shopworn gospel, it’s the Democrats who seem determined to prove that there is no real difference between themselves and the G.O.P.  They’ve been given the biggest alley-oop in modern electoral politics:  the departing president is generally quite popular, and the electorate is fed up with the Republicans’ lack of leadership in Congress.  Their opposition has undergone a spectacular flame-out in the nomination process, ending with the ascension of a buffoonish, asinine boor who was a national joke when Bill Clinton was president.  They have deep campaign pockets, a historically unprecedented candidate, and an opponent that doesn’t even seem to care if he wins or not.  This should be a drubbing on the level of Nixon in 1972 or Reagan in 1984.  And yet they keep finding ways to screw it up.


Faced with a flood-tide of dissatisfied voters, many of them young men and women of color, who have woken up more quickly than their progenitors to the way the system is rigged against them, the Democrats have, rather than courting the insurgent leftist vote, largely turned away from them, preferring instead to go after — Republicans.  That’s right:  the people who are forever scolding you for thinking there’s no difference between the parties now have a chance to not only win the presidency but to sink the G.O.P. in the far more crucial down-ballot positions by tying the entire Republican establishment to the embarrassment that is Donald Trump.  They could easily cripple the conservative movement for a generation.  And instead, what are they doing?  They’re trying to bridge the gap to moderate Republicans.  They’re sending out pleas to Mitt Romney’s mailing list.  They’re leaving the American Left standing at the altar, and showing up at the doors of voters who have unreservedly and openly despised Hillary Clinton for nearly three decades with chocolates and flowers in hand.  This is a miscalculation of notable stupidity, especially coming from an establishment that has placed so much value on triangulation.


It has been said many times before, but seems to demand repeating:  at a certain point, you have to suspect that the choices a person makes in politics stops being about what they feel they have to do and starts being about what they actually want to do.  Much like Barack Obama, handed a unique political opportunity upon becoming president with a ton of political clout and an electorate infuriated with the business-as-usual that had led to a disastrous financial collapse, instead decided to move to the center, Hillary Clinton, gifted with Donald Trump — Donald fucking Trump! — as her primary election opponent, has set her mind on bringing the people who voted for the likes of Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole into the Democratic tent.  In her deeply misguided speech this week, she tried to paint Trump as an alt-right aberration instead of the natural progression of decades of Republican race-baiting, jingoism, and wealth-fellating.  Instead of welcoming a burgeoning left and telling the G.O.P. to live with the catastrophic result of their own ideology, she chose to pretend that the Republican Party is one of nice guys who would never, ever do anything to harm America; she even singled out George W. Bush as a cheerful friend of Mohammed (ignoring the fact that he launched a baseless war of aggression against Iraq that led to the death of countless thousands of Muslims and created an atmosphere of hatred and fear of Islam in America) and cited, of all people, Paul Ryan as one of the ‘good’ Republicans (ignoring the fact that Ryan ceaselessly stumps for an economic program that would mean utter calamity for America’s most needy citizens).


Between this blatant pandering to her new best friends and her partisans’ steadfast insistence (using arguments almost entirely identical to those the G.O.P. used to defend the Citizens United ruling) that her shady ethical behavior regarding the Clinton Foundation was no different than that of any other big charity or lobbying group, it’s become pretty clear that Hillary Clinton believes that there’s not much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  If you’re the sort who thinks that’s a lie, maybe you’re telling the wrong people.


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