WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the news media after meeting with Republicans in the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol January 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was on Capitol Hill working to gain support from Republicans for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, the $825 billion economic recovery package proposed by House Democrats. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Nobody really wants to be honest these days. If they were honest, they would have to admit a few inconvenient truths. First and foremost, they would have to acknowledge that had a Democrat done what Trump did, Republicans would be outraged and Democrats would be excusing it.
Second, Democrats would have to acknowledge that their side is capable of this. That may be the most difficult thing for the left to acknowledge as they are invested in the idea that Donald Trump is uniquely bad. Don’t look now, but Barack Obama’s IRS targeted conservative groups for harassment and his Department of Justice sold guns to Mexico that got an American border patrol agent killed. But ask your average reporter or progressive activist and they’ll claim with a straight face that the Obama Administration was scandal free.
The left will tell you that Trump and his supporters are uniquely violent in their tone and rhetoric. They will ignore that Barack Obama told Hispanic voters that the GOP was their enemy, Joe Biden said Mitt Romney would put black people back in chains, and Obama urged his supporters to get in their neighbors’ faces, rat out their neighbors for lying about Obamacare, and he urged them to take guns to knife fights.
But Orange Man Bad.
The reality is that neither side is pure, but much of the journalism and punditry of the present age is designed to cover one side in a way that absolves the other of their sins. Even stories not written specifically in that way have that effect.
Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.
The story circulated widely by progressives who smugly denounced the President and his campaign. But the truth is that the Democrats do this too. In fact, the truth is every politician in every presidential campaign has done this. No politician is fully honest. They lie, distort, and obfuscate. Remember, Barack Obama upended the American healthcare system by lying that if you like your doctor you could keep your doctor. He used the presidency and all the tools available at the time to sell that lie. While lying about it, he created a White House office run by Linda Douglass, who had left ABC News, in which Douglass and the Obama White House encouraged people to rat out lies about Obamacare. Many of those lies were actually true.
The Democrats do all the things Donald Trump does, but the media excuses it, gives it a pass, and refuses to make eye contact with it. Remember, Barack Obama’s 2012 data targeting campaign made careers for people covering the rise of digital politics. But in 2016, Trump won using the very techniques online pioneered by the Obama team. Suddenly, Facebook itself became evil. That a Republican could out do Team Obama made Facebook a force for evil after being heralded as a force for good when Obama won. Remember Obama’s war on Fox News? Go further back — remember Bill Clinton and the mainstream media blaming Rush Limbaugh for the Oklahoma City Bombing or New York Times writers blaming Sarah Palin for the Arizona shooting.
Just this weekend, a man in a van ran through a Republican voter registration tent in Florida. Had it been an alt-right person doing it to a Democrat voter registration tent, it’d be national news for days. Consider how quickly the James Hodginkson shooting spree disappeared from the news coverage.
Democrats, progressive activists, and the media are convinced Donald Trump is something unique. The reality is most of his policy positions are pretty mainstream. It is Trump’s behavior that is unique. Only it is not that unique. It is the logical extension of the press and left turning a blind eye to a supposedly scandal free administration that used the power of the state to harass nuns, conservative groups, and other opponents.
But the left will never acknowledge it because to do so they’d have to admit Trump is not the unique boogey man they have claimed and they have to take some ownership of the situation.
The reality is that both sides are behaving badly in politics, but they only care to cast aspersions on the other. Our tribalism has become morally relative and the sins of one side are, to that side, virtues.