Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dear Liberals, Stop Saying Pence is Worse Than Trump

Dear Liberals,

Please stop saying that Pence is as bad/worse than Trump.  To put it simply, Pence is a conservative, Trump is a fascist.  If you can't tell the difference then that is a you problem, not a Pence problem.  Yes, Pence is an extreme Religious Conservative, but you know what, conservatives get to win elections too.  If you can't differentiate between a threat to our democracy and a politician you disagree with it makes opposition to Trump come across as sour grapes.

Trump ran on a platform in direct opposition to the Constitution (Here's another better link), in collusion with foreign powers, is a walking conflict of interest, is a threat to the rule of law, and with his reckless belligerency is endangering human life on this planet.  That is not conservative, that is madness, and that is far worse than a very conservative president who acts within the law.  Anything that a President does that leaves the rule of law and our system of government with its checks and balances in place can be undone when the pendulum swings again.  That is how it works.
I always try to include a graphic, and this fabulous, detailed and huge infographic by Randall Munroe does an excellent job of capturing the complex, ever-changing ebb and flow of the left-right pendulum swings of our government.
I am not trying to downplay how bad Pence would be for a lot of people, particularly the LGBT community.  Yes, Pence hates gay people, wants to take away their rights to marriage and adoption, and has in the past appeared to support conversion therapy (if you are unfamiliar with conversion therapy, some methods have included electroshock, but I have not found any actual clear unambiguous support of conversion therapy by Pence).  So yes, Pence doesn't like gay people and doesn't think that they deserve or are entitled to equal rights and protections, but Pence is far from alone in this.

It is fortunately true that homophobia is in sharp decline in the US, and the majority of Americans believe in equal rights for homosexuals.  However, there was always going to be hard pushback on gay rights.  If Hillary had won the election it would not have meant that politicians who wanted to deny gay people the right to marry and who wanted to break up non-traditional families were never going to win again.  This was always going to happen, it was just a question of when.  That doesn't mean that the LGBT community should just say "oh well, no problem if you want to take my rights away Mr. Pence," of course the coming assaults on equal rights for all Americans need to be fought, I am simply arguing that you can't fool yourself into thinking that Pence is a wild aberration.

Pence is extremely conservative, but so is the majority of the Republican party (thanks to the ascendance of the Tea Party), and about half of the country is conservative.  And even if it was a smaller portion of the population that was conservative, we have a liberal democracy in this country which is designed to prevent the majority from trampling over the rights and voices of the minority.  We are all used to thinking of groups like African Americans and the LGBT community as minorities, but the Anti-LGBT crowd is actually a minority now, and they still wield significant power.  The same system that keeps anti-gay politicians from rounding up and imprisoning the homosexual minority also keeps the majority of Americans who think that all Americans deserve equal rights from silencing those who want to eradicate homosexuality.

The good news is that the majority of Americans no longer side with people like Pence (on LGBT issues), but the bad news is that anti-gay rhetoric is still very popular among the Republican base, which means it isn't going away.  It is division politics in its clearest form.  By catering to people who hate gays you can win your primary, and then once you have won your primary you have other wedge issues to campaign on to ensure that the unpopularity of homophobia doesn't cost you the election.  Anti-gay politics is not going away until the Republican party breaks from it cleanly, which will fracture the religious vote.  The last time a similar policy pivot was made by a major party was when the Democratic party abandoned segregation.  That shattered Democratic power in the South, and continues to this day, and that Democratic power in the South had been in place since the Civil War.  Decades later the Democratic Party has still not recovered in the South, and the fallout from that decision led to massive changes in the US political system that are still with us today.  This should give you a better idea of why anti-gay politics are not going away.

But I am not trying to convince anyone to support Pence.  I am a centrist, I don't support extremists on either side, and I especially don't support anti-gay politicians.  As far as I am concerned, gay people are human beings; that means that they are entitled to the same rights as anyone else.  I don't really understand how this is a political issue.  But Pence is not "worse than Trump."

If you want to effectively fight the rise of fascism, authoritarianism, and ethnic nationalism in the US then you are going to have to realize that conservative ≠ fascist.  Trump is not the same as other Republicans, and he is not conservative.  If you conflate the two then it means lumping the half of the population (and vast majority of territory) into the same pile.  That "Basket of Deplorables" rhetoric is a big part of what got Trump into office, and if you cannot distinguish between the moral depravity of someone like Steve Bannon and a politician that disagrees with you then it is going to be a very long road back from Trumpism.

I will quote David Frum, a staunchly anti-Trump staunch conservative:

The point of this post is that Trump is not just another conservative, and when you cast conservatives as the same or worse than Trump, then you empower Trump.  More than anything else right now I am struck by how the demonization of political opponents has paved the way for Trump and our scary slide toward authoritarianism.

This didn't start with Trump.  It also didn't start with Obama, but I am going to use Obama to explain why division politics are so dangerous.  Obama came into power on promises to bring change and to undo the authoritarian overreach of Bush II.  Instead, confronted with a steadfastly oppositional legislature, Obama doubled down on the authoritarianism.  Liberals have given him a pass on this since after all, as Benjamin Netanyahu has said to justify his belligerent approach to Palestinians, "there is no one to negotiate with."  When you can just blame the other side for intransigence, any measures taken can be justified.  But politics swing like a pendulum, and when we do not stand up to authoritarianism we invite worse erosion of the rule of law.  You might not have minded Obama's authoritarianism, but his actions have made Trump more dangerous.

Now we need to be clear about what we are opposing when we oppose Trump.  We are not opposing conservative values.  We are opposing fundamentally un-American demagoguery.  We are opposing authoritarianism.  We are opposing fascism.  We are opposing ethnic-nationalism.  We are opposing a short-tempered, corrupt, and unstable politician who will soon have the ability to start nuclear war based on his lack of tact and huffy truculence.

When you say that Pence is worse than Trump you turn all of that into "I don't like Republicans."  Stop it.  You don't have to like Pence, but don't equate him to Trump.

The Center Gnome
(AKA Jon Krier)

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