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False Equivalence on Steroids!

False Equivalence on Steroids!


I suppose I would find a few kindred spirits as a card-carrying member of the “radical left wing,” but I cannot for the life of me find where I can get a membership card.

My futile search resulted from countless encounters with so-called conservatives who populate several of the social media sites with which I engage – shamefully – nearly every day.  I suspect that the futility of my search is because no such thing exists except in the fetid imaginations of today’s Republicans.  This publication itself  is occasionally subject to the “radical left” characterization, but a thorough review yields only a slight inclination toward the colorfully rational.  It is decidedly the Yellow Scene, not Red.

Far too many Democrats – office holders, candidates and pundits – fall for the “deeply divided nation” narrative.  A common characterization is that the “right” has moved further right and the “left” has shifted further left, thus leaving an irreconcilable chasm in the middle.  This false equivalence pervades political rhetoric and it is utter nonsense.  There is indeed a deep chasm, but it is solely the creation of a thoroughly corrupt Republican Party and the immoral media celebrities who traffic in distortions and sensationalism.

It is humorous, albeit drifting toward infuriating, to engage with righteous blowhards who insist that my facts come from left wing media, like the New York Times or my own lying eyes.  To the Tea Party windbags steeped in Tucker, everything we libs say or think is part of a vast, sinister conspiracy headed by Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden.  Or so it seems through parsing their invariably convoluted prose and spelling errors.

We are indeed divided in these United States, but spare me the whataboutisms.

The excesses on the political right are self-evident. Republicans continue to bow before the twice-impeached Donald Trump out of cynical self-interest, despite the fact that he is arguably guilty of tax fraud, election fraud, sexual misconduct, obstruction of justice and a record of lying that is an international embarrassment.

Voting rights are being weakened through racist restrictions and gerrymandering, seeking to sustain minority rule.  Climate change denial threatens life on Earth.  Republicans falsely claim that “caravans” of dangerous immigrants are overwhelming our borders.  I could go on.

But what is the “radical” leftist equivalent?  There is none.  The things offered as emblematic of “leftist” are manufactured out of thin air or extrapolated from political rhetoric that has no basis in policy or proposal.

Here are a few things described as “radical” by conservatives:

  • The Paris Climate Accord: Joined by 192 parties plus the European Union

  • Objections to a ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim nations

  • Support for children of immigrants

  • Accurate portrayals of racism in American history

  • Opening the military to transgender folk

  • Universal healthcare

  • Subsidized child care

  • Family leave

  • Alternative energy

  • Universal preschool

There are legitimate political or ideological differences to be honestly debated around some of these issues, but to mischaracterize any of these things as “radical” is intentionally hyperbolic and inflammatory.   

Often “radical”is interchanged with “socialist,” a term intended to ring emotional alarm bells.

The National Geographic Society defines socialism as:  “ . . . a political and economic system in which property and the means of production are owned in common, typically controlled by the state or government. Socialism is based on the idea that common or public ownership of resources and means of production leads to a more equal society.”

The United States has no such system nor has anyone, including Bernie Sanders or other progressives, ever proposed such a system.  Even I and my vegan, anti-racist, anti-war, tie-dyed soulmates, who find some aspects of socialism more appealing than our current oligarchy, have never attempted to overthrow the government.  The other side has all the guns anyway.

There are fringe groups, historically and currently, that may merit the “radical”characterization:  extreme activists like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front; anti-fascists (i.e. Antifa); anarchists;  the Weather Underground; Black Panthers.  But these groups, however one feels about their ideology or methodology, have never enjoyed political power or representation.  The Black Panthers, for example, had 2,000 members at its peak in 1968.

There are also social phenomena that the political right likes to characterize as “radical,” like so-called cancel-culture and  Critical Race Theory.  But these things, however one views them, are not advanced by legislators or the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party, by contrast, has become the Far Right.  Members of Congress have: aided and abetted the attempted insurrection; continued to falsely claim voter fraud; carried weapons into the Capitol; suggested (the former president) shooting protestors.

Republicans around the nation are banning books, subverting democracy and empowering arbitrary reversal of election results.

There is no substantial “radical” leftist movement in the United States.  Republicans advance this false idea in order to justify their own repressive campaign to roll back a century of social progress.

We are indeed a nation divided, but it is only one side that wields the cleaver.  Next time you encounter a right wing troll and are too exhausted to spar, feel free to copy, paste and send along this column.



Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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