Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Democrats and Republicans are not equivalents

The voters, not the politicians
Flickr Creative Commons: Nathan Borror

Politicians do not exist in a vacuum; their words and actions are not random phenomena. Democrats are informed by their liberal base while Republicans are informed by their conservative base. That is why the false equivalency the media forces itself to adhere to, and which is vital to the survival of the Republican Party, is so offensive. To suggest that Democratic and Republican politicians are all the same is to suggest that the Democratic and Republican bases are the same. They are not.

Take for example the resurgence of John McCain’s laudable moments going viral in the wake of his passing. In 2008 he famously responded to a woman at a town hall who was suggesting that Barack Obama was an Arab, untrustworthy and un-American, by assuring her that Obama was a decent man and citizen with whom he simply had policy disagreements. It was the right thing to say, but recently people have hailed it as an exceptional act, and asked if any politicians would have the bravery to say it today.

Nearly all Democratic politicians, and not nearly enough Republican politicians, would have the ‘bravery’ to say it today.

However, that must be qualified by the fact that a Democrat would not be asked that question in the first place because the Democratic base does not harbor the same xenophobia present in the Republican base. McCain said the right thing, but that shouldn’t be cause for celebration. Avoiding being openly racist is the lowest possible bar one can be held to, and yet when a Republican manages to do so, it is praised as a courageous achievement. This is because when a Republican does it, they have managed to rise above the low bar their base’s behavior sets for them– the bias of low expectations. The Democratic base would not laud a Democrat for acknowledging that decency and American status are not hinged on whether or not one is an Arab.

There is a reason Al Franken had to resign from office after his unacceptable actions came to light, whereas Trump was elected despite the Access Hollywood tape. It’s the same reason Trump won the Republican primary in the first place: the liberal and conservative bases are not equivalents– they have different values, and the liberals’ values – don’t sexually harass women, for example – are better. Trump could never have won the Democratic primary.

Acceptance of diversity and an active pursuit of equality should be regarded as fundamental values for all Americans. People who are not racist are better than people who are racist. Just because bigotry and opposition to bigotry have been divided along party lines since Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, does not mean the two are equally respectable political positions. Bigotry is a stain on your personhood, and a far greater stain on the right than on the left.

Of course, parties are coalitions, not monoliths. Not every Republican is a racist, but every non-racist Republican abides by that racism and its dangerous consequences in order to further conservative interests that couldn’t win elections otherwise, like cutting taxes for the rich and corporations or gutting consumer protections.

Further, the Democratic Party definitely has skeletons in its closet: misogynists and xenophobes whom the base willingly uplifted and followed. They should be systematically voted out in future primaries in favor of true progressives. However, the Republican Party has skeleton majorities in the White House, Congress and the Judiciary, and their base loves them­; Trump is exceptionally popular within the Republican Party, and that’s because this country’s true problem is not the Republicans in office, but rather the Republicans in voting booths. Labeling those voters a “basket of deplorables” is an unproductive generalization, as no one is irredeemable, but it’s also far from unfounded.

Punditry is too focused on the politicians and not on the people. As Obama said in his farewell address, “the most important office in a democracy: citizen.” We aren’t holding the citizenry accountable. Yes, Donald Trump is a bad man using the powers of the Presidency in a way that causes great harm. But he is only in his position because 63 million Americans voted for him; 63 million Americans decided that it was civilly permissible to put Donald Trump in the oval office and 63 million Americans made that colossal mistake, that grave moral failure and the consequences have been dire. White supremacy is empowered, families are separated and children are imprisoned, environmental catastrophe is imminent, deficits have exploded and entitlements are under threat, all while the rich get richer. That’s on Trump, but it’s also on anyone who failed to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

So, hold your fellow citizens, your friends and your family accountable for making informed decisions when setting the course for the country. Failure to vote for Democrats is functionally the same as voting for Republicans– that shouldn’t be the case, but until we have reform, which we never will under Republican governance, you must vote tactically. Democrats don’t deserve blind loyalty– as John McCain demonstrates, being comparatively better than the GOP is a low bar. But, a pragmatic view of the modern political landscape clearly reveals that voting blue is the most effective way to pursue a better future, or at least to avoid slipping further into the regressive past. Don’t let your loved ones be on the wrong side of history; now is no time for tolerating intolerance, or respecting disrespect.

Dan Riley is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • G

    GarySep 5, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Sadly, this article is right on the money. It’s baffling that so many people are so easily duped, and can’t see the difference between responsible politicians and grifters. It makes me very concerned about the future of democracy.

  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed. D.Nov 7, 2018 at 10:35 am

    No. The Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — they filibustered it for 57 days!
    It took Republicans (then in the minority) to get enough Dems to break with their party and pass it in spite of Democratic opposition.
    You can look this up — Robert Byrd (D-WV) personally spoke in opposition to the act for some 14 hours…

  • S

    SittingBullNov 6, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Clearly, UMASS is stealing your tuition money because you do not seem to be receiving an education.

  • N

    NITZAKHONNov 5, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    What an utterly cartoonish view of Conservatives you have, but that’s not surprising.

    No wonder the #walkaway movement is growing by leaps and bounds as people actually go to Trump rallies and find that you Leftists have lied openly to keep them on the plantation.