Thursday, December 1, 2022

Neither Major American Political Party Has a Monopoly on Hatred or Hypocrisy

Given no other choice, would you prefer death by lethal injection or death by electric chair? Either way, death is death and neither choice is desirable, right? Choosing how you prefer to die is what it has been like to vote in the past several American election cycles, as I noted over a year ago when I mentioned Garry Kasparov's lament that America used to be about striving for excellence but the last two Presidential elections have been about choosing the lesser of two evils.

President Joe Biden's defining moment is the triumph of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is also noteworthy that President Biden is rewarding the Palestinian Authority for sponsoring terrorist attacks against Jews. If you believe that the President bears significant responsibility for the functioning of the economy--I think that Presidents get too much blame/credit for something that is multifaceted and not directly controlled by them--then it should be mentioned that the U.S. economy has tanked since President Biden took office.

Former President Donald Trump recently met with unrepentant antisemites, and his resume is filled with offensive statements and actions that have been so often discussed that they scarcely need mentioning to anyone who has paid the slightest attention for the past six years or so.

I would respect any media member or politician who criticized both men without hesitation or equivocation, and who pointed out the manifest failures of both major American political parties--but that is not how things work now. Instead, people tend to criticize everyone on the other side of the political aisle while remaining willfully blind, deaf, and silent about the flaws on their side of the political aisle.

The Democratic Party promotes itself as supporting diversity and inclusion, but the reality is that antisemitism from the Left is a growing threat that many media outlets are reluctant to cover. The Democratic Party has proven unwilling or incapable of purging itself of self-proclaimed "progressives" who spew hate, and because of this failure the Democratic Party's complaints about hatred emanating from the political Right sound hollow and hypocritical. The Democratic Party has also embraced socialist/"progressive" policies that are out of step with the viewpoints of most Americans, as is demonstrated by President Biden's low approval ratings and by the midterm election defeats suffered by Democrats who did not have the good fortune of running against Trump supporters; for example, the decisive victory of the Republican Party in the Georgia governor race suggests that if the Republicans had put forth any reasonable candidate for Senate (instead of Herschel Walker) then the voters would likely have gotten rid of Raphael Warnock (who will face Walker in a runoff because neither candidate received at least 50% of the vote).

The Republican Party is justified to condemn the hatred and antisemitism of the self-proclaimed "progressives," but loses credibility because of its refusal to speak strongly against Donald Trump and other Republicans who have engaged in hateful speech or actions. Now that the Republican Party has regained control of the House, it has vowed to remove members of the so-called "Squad" from key committee assignments, which is the correct action--but what ultimate good does that accomplish if antisemites from the Left are just replaced with antisemites from the Right such as Marjorie Taylor Greene?

The sad reality is that most politicians from either side of the political aisle are self-centered opportunists who say whatever they think is most likely to help them get elected. For example, Donald Trump's critics assert that he is a racist and antisemite, while his supporters often counter by citing specific policy actions Trump took as President that they consider positive. I look at Donald Trump differently than both his critics and his supporters in that I simultaneously abhor many of the things he has said and done while also agreeing that some of his policy actions were positive (such as withdrawing from the ineffective JCPOA deal with Iran)--but I view his words and actions from the perspective that his words and actions do not necessarily reflect not his sincerely held ideological beliefs but rather his beliefs about what he should do and say to maximize his chance to be elected. 

In a December 1987 interview with David Letterman, oddsmaker Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder (who would soon lose his TV job with CBS after he asserted that Blacks are superior athletes because Black slaves were bred for certain physical traits and that if Blacks became coaches then there would be no place left for white people in sports) assessed the likelihood that Trump could be elected President in 1988. Snyder said that Trump could not run as a moderate Republican because George H.W. Bush and Robert Dole had already staked out that territory within the party, but Snyder believed that if Trump ran as a Democrat then Trump had an excellent chance to win. Snyder's analysis was very prescient to the extent that he recognized that Trump could be elected President if Trump articulated specific political stances that may not reflect Trump's personal beliefs.

My assessment of what happened in the 2016 Presidential campaign is that Trump and his team did a similar analysis to Snyder's but for various tactical reasons chose the opposite strategy: they understood that Trump would not likely win by running as a moderate Republican, but instead of pivoting to the Left they decided to swing further to the Right. I am not convinced that Trump believes in anything other than that which will help him accumulate more money, more power, and more publicity. I see him as the real life version of the "Wiseguy" character Knox Pooley, who was portrayed by actor Fred Dalton Thompson (who later was elected as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee). Thompson said of Pooley, "He is more of a salesman, more of a conman than a white supremacist. He's using white supremacy as his latest gambit to make a killing." This comparison is not meant to minimize the dangers posed by a conman like Pooley (whose followers committed violent acts, including murder) or by a politician like Trump but rather to emphasize that the actions of such men are properly viewed not through the prism of ideology but rather from the perspective of evaluating narcissistic behavior. Pooley was equally comfortable spouting antisemitic rhetoric and then selling real estate to Jewish purchasers (which was his next scheme after his white supremacist group collapsed); Trump is equally comfortable enacting policies that may seem to benefit Jews and/or Israel, and embracing antisemites. The words and actions of Pooley and Trump only seem contradictory if you assume that Pooley and Trump are motivated by an internally consistent political ideology or moral code; if you assume that Pooley and Trump are motivated by their perceived self-interest regardless of the consequences to others, then their words and actions make sense (not from the standpoint of being moral, proper, or even consistent, but from the standpoint of advancing or attempting to advance a personal agenda).

Trump makes little to no effort to hide his inflated view of himself and his self-centered motivations, but it would be a mistake to believe that other politicians--on either side of the aisle--are much nobler; other politicians are just subtler and more polished. 

I should add that it is not fair to accuse all Republicans of being racists or to accuse all Democrats of being socialists. The extreme rhetoric emanating from both sides of the political aisle is a barrier to communication, cooperation, and progress. It is healthy for a democracy to have political parties that disagree about the means, as long as there is general agreement about the ends (to borrow the formulation used by Kasparov to describe how American politics should be). It would be wonderful if the Democrats nominated a strong leader who effectively articulates Left-wing (not socialist) policy positions, and if the Republicans nominated a strong leader who effectively articulates Right-wing policy positions without overtly or covertly sending signals that provide aid and comfort to racists.

Returning to the question that opened this article, given no other choice, would you prefer death by lethal injection or death by electric chair? Either way, death is death and neither choice is desirable, right? Sadly, in the 2024 Presidential election we may be faced with a similarly unpleasant choice in a dreadful rerun of the 2020 Presidential election.


  1. Do you think that Biden is a socialist? You have provided lots of proof that he is antisemitic, but I am curious if you classify him as a socialist, and if so, based on what.

  2. Anonymous:

    I think that Biden, like most politicians, is an opportunist. To the extent that he believes that supporting socialist politicians or socialist policies will be helpful to his prospects he will support socialist politicians or socialist policies. I don't think that he is 100% committed to socialism the way that Bernie Sanders and other self-identified socialists are committed to socialism. That being said, it is an interesting question to ponder at what point state involvement in redistributing/reallocating resources crosses over from the government providing needed services to the government managing (or attempting to manage) the economy in a socialistic manner. Both Trump and Biden authorized the federal government to make COVID-19 relief payments to millions of people. Were those decisions socialist or were they short-term emergency measures? One could also debate if too much relief (or not enough relief) was provided, and if the relief provided had a positive long-term effect both for the recipients and for the economy as a whole. Is Biden's student loan forgiveness plan a socialist concept or a step in the direction of socialism? For Biden, I think that it is a tactic to secure votes from a specific demographic, and I think that he expects this to work in his favor even if the Supreme Court rules against him, because Biden can argue that he did the best that he could but he was stymied by the "evil" Supreme Court (which, of course, he will blame on Trump). So, I don't think that Biden came up with student loan forgiveness as part of a grand socialist plan; I think that he did it to gain votes, and I am not sure that he cares much about any other consequences of his plan. That being said, some Democrats who support the plan undoubtedly hope that this plan is one step in the direction of larger government involvement in redistributing/reallocating resources, and Biden is not going to speak out against those Democrats because he wants their votes. The Bernie Sanders wing cannot win a Presidential election, but if Biden alienates too many of those voters then he cannot make up those losses elsewhere because there are voters who will not vote for him under any circumstances.

  3. I know the lethal injection or electric chair question is part of a much larger point you are making about the toxicity and hypocrisy on both sides of the political spectrum but I feel compelled to actually answer the question. Without any hesitation whatsoever I would gleefully die from lethal injection as opposed to the electric chair. I would much rather be injected with a very high dose of barbiturates, followed by an extremely potent muscle relaxant that would make it impossible for me to even notice when they inject the fatal dose of potassium chloride. That's a soothing warm bath compared to powerful jolts of electricity causing fatal damage to vital organs. I would also rather die from a heart attack in my sleep than a beheading while I'm fully conscious. Yes, I would ultimately be deceased in all of these scenarios but the unthinkable dread that I would go through in the moments leading up to each of the four different scenarios would vary infinitely. There is a political message in there somewhere, I think.

  4. Michael:

    I get your point that in the midst of the death experience some methods may be feel better than others, but the larger point is that at the end of any of those experiences the person is dead--there is no way out, just different ways of reaching the untimely and undesired end. That is what these recent elections feel like.


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