Erick Erickson / February 14, 2020

The Moral Relativism of My Tribe

Nobody really wants to be honest these days. If they were honest, they would have to admit a few inconvenient truths.

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 President Donald Trump did on that Ukraine phone call, Republicans would be outraged, and Democrats would be excusing it.

Second, Democrats would have to acknowledge that their side is capable of wrongdoing. That may be the most difficult thing for the left to acknowledge, as they are invested in the idea that Trump is uniquely bad. Don’t look now, but Barack Obama’s IRS targeted conservative groups, 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 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 rat out their neighbors for spreading misinformation during the 2012 election. At a campaign event in 2008, he urged them to take guns to knife fights.

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.

Recently, McKay Coppins in The Atlantic wrote a piece titled “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” It’s a great read and covers the extent to which Trump’s reelection will feature “coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting.”

The story was circulated widely by progressives who smugly denounced the president and his campaign. But the truth is that the Democrats do this, too. In fact, every politician in every presidential campaign has done this. No politician is fully honest. They lie, distort and obfuscate.

Obama upended the American health care 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 that encouraged people to rat out “lies” about the Affordable Care Act. Many of those lies were actually true.

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. The fact that a Republican could outdo Team Obama on Facebook made Facebook bad, 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 The New York Times writers blaming Sarah Palin for the Arizona shooting?

A week ago, 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 Democratic voter registration tent, it’d be national news for days. Consider how quickly the James Hodgkinson shooting spree disappeared from the news coverage.

Democrats are convinced Trump is different. The reality is most of his policy positions are pretty mainstream. Even Trump’s behavior is not unique. It is the logical extension of the liberal media 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 would have to admit Trump is not the unique boogeyman they have claimed him to be, 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 have become virtues to the other.


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