Division, Mob Rule, and the Erosion of Democracy
I used to consider myself a far left liberal – at least on social issues. I didn’t always agree with the whole platform and ideology, and sometimes I agreed, but for totally different reasons than those set out by the base to justify their case. Of course, these days I’m considering myself more of a moderate. I don’t know if this is because the far left has shifted further and further to the edge, whether I’m just seasoning as I get older, or if I just want to try give all sides a fair say. Regardless of the reasons, I’m seeing more division and more self-destruction than ever before of our democracy, and this seems to be coming from both sides of the political spectrum.
It still bothers me when I read the comment sections after news articles and some conservatives are railing out against the democrats and liberals. Of course we do it too, and all this back and forth negativity from both sides is perpetuating a cycle of political division and even hatred for the other party in our country. Sometimes I wish folks would attack the issues and not the people or even entire parties who have different values, beliefs, and ways of looking at the issues. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I believe everyone is above being criticized, just not blanket statements about entire parties or whole demographics of people. I do believe elected officials and public figures should be accountable for their words, actions, and legislation. I do want to clarify that I’m talking about recent words, actions, and legislation – at least unless they have an entire recent and past history that paints an unbroken picture of their character and voting record. I’ll get more to that later. The thing is you really can’t make blanket statements about Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, or any other party because everyone is an individual. I might support LGBTQ rights, a woman’s right to choose, and a number of other liberal ideologies, but (while I might find it in poor taste) also support someone’s First Amendment Right to fly a Confederate Flag. Another person might consider themselves liberal, but have issues with abortion. Someone who is conservative (I actually have a specific former House of Representatives politician in mind) voted the exact opposite of what I would have on every issue I checked up on, except he did vote regularly in favor of LGBT rights and even came to LGBT events when the Democratic politicians were missing in action. Of course I did vote against this politician in his bid for reelection, because… well all the other issues I cared about. LGBT rights are a big thing I care about, but it’s not the only issue I care about.
The thing is you really can’t make blanket statements about Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, or any other party because everyone is an individual.
The 2016 Presidential elections were particularly divisive – not just the Democrats versus the Republicans, but also within the Republican and Democratic Parties. Speaking to the Democrats, this Hillary and Bernie thing was particularly divisive. Rather than supporting the party candidate, many Bernie supporters either voted a third party candidate or didn’t vote at all. If all the Bernie supporters had towed the line and voted for Hillary, we wouldn’t be living in this nightmare dystopia that we are in now. It was Trump and the Russians who benefited most from the Hillary- Bernie division, not the Democratic Party or the American people. Some people argued that the lesser of two evils is still evil. That may be so, but there is always a better and worse candidate, and we got the worse elected candidate by a long-shot.
As Democrats, I think we are really doing a good job of shooting ourselves in the foot these days. The Hillary-Bernie thing was one really big example of this, but we do it in so many smaller ways too. Shortly after Trump was “elected”… the quotes are just a reminder that he lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College… shortly after the election and the beginning of the #MeToo movement a number of Democratic politicians voluntarily stepped down for things they said or did a long time ago in their past that might have been construed as sexual harassment or assault. While I admire their virtue for doing so, many Republican politicians including our President have done far worse to women and remain in office. I think the fact that these Democrats were self-aware and reflective of their misdeeds makes them far more suited to remain in office than many of their Republican counterparts, especially if their voting record is and has been positive on women’s issues. We’re all human after all. We make mistakes, and hopefully we learn from them.
Our democracy is self-destructing and is being damaged by Russian influence and we care more about what someone did 30-40 years ago than what they are doing today.
Another case in point, I live in Virginia and this past week has been another case study in self-destruction and Democrats shooting ourselves in the foot. This time it’s in the state government and not the federal. Last week our Governor Ralph Northam was called out for a photo found of him in his 1984 college yearbook. In the photo, Northam is wearing blackface and standing next to someone dressed as KKK member. It has been debated whether either of these figures is actually Northam, but he did admit to dressing as Michael Jackson and wearing blackface to a costume party. We really don’t know the context of the yearbook photo or whether this was a onetime thing. This photo sparked outrage with many calling for the governor to resign. Besides mobs of angry, offended protesters, this included many in both the Democratic… and get this… the Republican Party. Yes, the Republican Party who confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year despite decades old allegations of sexual assault and drunkenness while he was in college, and yes, the Republican Party where a number of Republican politicians (such as Steve King) remain in office while keeping actual ties to white supremacist organizations.
Regardless, Northam’s blackface incident was 35 years ago, the culture was different then, and the photo doesn’t seem indicative of his views or support of African Americans in the present day. Also, while it may have been insensitive and tasteless, it wasn’t an actual crime (compared to Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations). I’m not African-American so I can’t claim to know how this revelation set with the African-American community, but I can at least try to make an analogy based on what could be a similar thing in the LGBTQ community. If we had a politician who wore an anti-gay t-shirt in a 1980s yearbook photo, but has since changed his views and even become supportive of these issues over the decades, I’d look at who the person is now and not the person he was back then. If we had a politician who wore an anti-gay t-shirt in a 1980s yearbook photo, and has a continued history of speaking out and voting against LGBT issues, that would be something different entirely and I’d stand out against them. Since the Northam revelation, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has also admitted to dressing as a rapper and wearing blackface to a party in the early 1980s (it must be Southern thing). Our Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, has received renewed allegations that he committed sexual assault at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The Virginia state government is in chaos this week.
While I get that we are trying to hold ourselves to a higher standard, I feel that the Democratic Party is really doing the Party, their constituents, and the American people a disservice. During a time of such national divisiveness, all-out war between the parties, and the erosion and destruction of democracy under a corrupt President and his henchmen and Republican enablers, not to mention Russian interference, we really need all the Democrats we can in the political field trying to restore balance and to fight the good fight on our behalf.
In this chaotic time, we could unite and go after our true enemies and adversaries and also fight for legislation that reflects our values, or we can foster more division even within our own party by pointing fingers at our own people for mistakes they made decades ago that don’t reflect who they are now, for not being the perfect candidate we had hoped for, or for being the lesser of two evils. In many ways over the past couple years it seems that our country has devolved from a democracy and a land of laws and legal justice into a land of mob rule and guilty until proven innocent. We need to look at the ways we are at best standing in our own way and at worst contributing to such a vindictive and divisive culture.