On moral equivalence and sports rivalry politics

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 18, 2017, 1:00 PM | comments: 0

It's been a rough week or two for these United States. We now have a president that believes that some self-described Nazis and white nationalists are good people. There aren't many things that I would consider completely morally non-ambiguous, but people who want to oppress and kill Jews and minorities (or anyone) are definitely not good people. There are still people willing to defend the president over these remarks, though it seems that most people, including the elite of his own party, will not.

For years, I've complained that many Americans engage in politics as if it were a sports rivalry. It's not particularly rational, and it certainly doesn't move us forward. I can't entirely explain why people devote their love to the Cleveland Browns, but as a Clevelander, I can in fact understand it. A sense of home and origin can bring people together. But political parties and absolute ideologies? Why would you commit to those? The idea that a group of people would all feel the same about quite literally thousands of issues is insane to me. What's worse, your commitment and sports rivalry approach now require you to dislike and work against the other side, regardless of whether or not they have good ideas. In some cases, you'll stick with your "team" even if the only thing they've got is "not what they want."

There is a deeper problem, though, in that sports rivalry politics also draw you into false moral equivalence. A common refrain from those who defend the president goes somewhere along the lines of, "But Obama!" (or Clinton, or Sanders, or anyone else identified as the opposing team). I'm not even going to get into the merits of whether or not there is moral equivalence here, because there is no objective score card that could ever make the case. But for the moment, let's say for the sake of argument that Obama, et al, are morally equivalent to Trump. You're making the argument that, for as bad as Trump is, someone else is just as bad, and therefore he deserves a pass. In what universe is that an OK position? Regardless of the depth of the flaws, you're accepting the flaws instead of demanding something better. Is that the bar to set for our elected officials?

In reality, there is no moral equivalence. Let me be clear... I'm not picking a team here. I might not agree with their policies, but I would sooner see any mainstream Republican, McCain, Kasich, Romney, Ryan, any of the Bushes in the Oval Office. Because while I may disagree with them, there is no moral equivalence between them and the man who sits there now (when he's not golfing, at least). The pre-election behavior, with the pussy grabbing and veteran insulting all should have been disqualifiers, and the pattern has not changed.

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