In modern politics, there are certain arguments that I'm really sick of hearing. Unfortunately, they keep cropping up and raising my blood pressure. Some of these arguments have only been around for a little while now, but others have been around for centuries or more. Common sense should tell us that these arguments are stupid, and yet people keep making them, which means that there are people out there who are actually being swayed.
#1. The Economy is Simple
So easy, a caveman can do it
We all know that the economy is in bad shape and unemployment is ridiculously high. Politicians urge us to blame specific things for this (too much or too little regulation, usually) and offer us simple solutions that could work if only more unsavory politicians wouldn't stand in the way. The unstated major premise here is that the economy is simple and easy to control. Therefore, when things go bad, we can pinpoint exactly what the cause is and then solve it with simple steps.
This is, of course, a big, fat, steaming pile of raw sewage. The economy is wildly complex and responds to millions of different factors. Not only is it ludicrous to try to blame a single thing for a recession, it is ludicrous to even assume that the economy works the way academics and theorists tell us it does. I'm not interested in debating the merits of the Austrian school versus Keynesian economics, but one thing I do know is this: anybody who tells you they perfectly understand the economy is lying.
So when politicians come forth and argue that they know how to fix it, they are most likely also lying, usually in an effort to pass some cherished legislation under the guise that it will do something to an unweildly economy. It is also completely unfair to blame politicians for the state of the economy, when in reality, the government--by design--has very little control over it. Seriously, look up the definition of capitalism. Sure, you can argue that the stimulus packages and government bail-outs are a bad idea or that they might give temporary help to businesses floundering under recession, but at the end of the day, what the government does will neither permanently fix nor greatly prolong what is happening in the marketplace.
This election year is certain to be all about jobs and the economy, so keep in mind that, whenever politicians or pundits start talking about it, it's all just meaningless spin designed to scare you into voting for them.
#2. The Minority Party is "the Party of No"
Damn Republicans, saying "no" to Bob all time!
One of the founding principles of our government is the idea of checks and balances. No one part of the government is supposed to have ultimate control over another while each part is answerable to the others. While the Constitution has nothing to say about political parties or partisan politics (in fact, many of its founders were vehemently against the idea of political parties), this idea of checks and balances should, in modern America, extend to them. I'm not saying it should be mandated by law that there be a certain percentage of each party in each branch of the government, but we should certainly be able to respect the opinions of the minority. Indeed, the minority's purpose should be to keep the majority from exerting too much control. It shouldn't matter which political party is in power.
Indeed, Democratic leaders who now try to portray Republicans as the "Party of NO" might easily find themselves in the same position as the Republicans in a few years. Should we expect them to bow down complacently and accept everything a Republican majority will try to do? Of course not.
The enemy is extremism. Any political party (or branch of government), when given too much power, will take it too far and mess things up. The unavoidable, inevitable result of this is tyranny; absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's the nature of politics, and one of the beauties of our constitution is that it endeavors to keep things in moderation through the use of checks and balances.
Also, it is important to remember that we do not live in a true democracy. This is a representative democracy, because we always need to respect the rights and opinions of the minority. True democracy doesn't work, because the majority will always exert its power over the minority. Therefore, to argue that the minority is standing in the way of what the majority considers "progress" is to argue that our representative democracy is still working properly.
#3. The Will of the People is Being Thwarted
As we all know, the people are always reasonable and coherent
Along the same lines, I'm sick of the argumentum ad populum. This is ironically coming more from the Republicans right now than the Democrats. Many are arguing that the Democrats are doing unpopular things and are therefore wrong. In a representative democracy, this argument is especially bad, because we elect our leaders to make difficult choices, regardless of how popular their decisions are.
There are numerous examples in current events, including the healthcare bill, the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither at ground zero nor is a mosque), the new Arizona immigration law, and more. When a California judge recently tried to overturn the gay marriage ban, for instance, one of the headlines on the ever-popular right-wing Drudge Report was "1 Judge Voids 7,000,000 Voters."
Look, just because something is unpopular, it doesn't mean it should be illegal. That's fascistic. The minority opinion should always be respected, regardless of what the majority thinks. More importantly, the minority's rights should not be overturn based on nothing more than popularity. Sure, the healthcare bill was shoved down our throats by politicians who arrogantly believed they knew better than the people, and because of that, many of them will probably be voted out of office and the bill--now a law--might not ever go into full effect. As far as I can tell, that's the government working the way it's supposed to.
However, when it comes to the Muslim community center being built two blocks from what's left of the World Trade Center and the California gay marriage ban, the arguments of the majority of Americans are wholly centered on a lack of respect for the minority. There is no way to forbid the building of the "Ground Zero Mosque" without infringing on the rights of the people who want to build it. There is also no way to dictate whether homosexuals have a right to marry without infringing upon their basic human rights. Certainly people have the right to peacefully protest these things, but that doesn't mean that something has to be done. America is built on tolerance, not bigotry.
#4. Those who Disagree are Racists
That sign is racism!
In March, when members of the House were on their way to vote on the healthcare bill, several black congressmen passed through a veritable sea of protesters. A few of the congressmen (and one staffer)--all Democrats--accused people in the crowd of spitting, shouting racial and homophobic epithets, and showing general racism. Rep. Clyburn of South Carolina couldn't help himself from bringing up civil rights protests of the 1960's and talk about how traumatized he was. Despite the wealth of cameras, microphones, and cell phones at the event, not a single video or audio sample was captured of the alleged spitting or offensive shouts. Pressed for pictures to document the racism of the event, The Huffington Post snapped a couple of pictures of some protest signs that compared Obama to Hitler (because comparing Obama to Hitler is racist, whereas comparing George W. Bush to Hitler is perfectly acceptable).
This is a narrative many Democrats have been trying to tell for decades now: those who disagree with them are obviously racists. Now that there is a black man in the oval office, the argument practically writes itself. From Nancy Pelosi proclaiming that everyone making a ruckus at last year's town-hall meetings was wearing a Nazi armband to Keith Olbermann ranting that Republican Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Scott Brown is a "homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women," these arguments all have one thing in common: they are ad hominum deflections. It's the same with the immigration debate, the gay marriage debate, and the "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense. If you don't agree with the president on any issue, it means you are a racist, a homophobe, or an Islamophobe, and therefore your arguments can be dismissed without the need for troublesome debate.
Even if there are obvious racists who call themselves Republicans and even if the alleged racism at the healthcare vote is true, it doesn't automatically mean that all Republicans are racists or that everybody who opposes President Obama's agenda must be motivated by race rather than reason. Those kinds of assumptions are known as stereotypes, and people who live by them are called bigots.
Democratic leaders who play the race card every five seconds or compare every bit of left-wing legislation to the civil rights act aren't stupid. They know what they're doing. We live in an age where being accused of racism is far, far worse than being accused of being wrong. Calling your political opponent racist increases the odds that other opponents will keep their mouths shut for fear of the same label. It's a dirty, condescending, and unfortunately effective trick, and anyone who is not sick of it is obviously a rascist homophobe who hates Muslims.
#5. There's a Conspiracy
Glenn Beck proves that George Soros is responsible for the Apollo 13 accident
One of the worst parts of the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate is the insistence from certain people on the right that the people behind it are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy America and install sharia law. The imam has certainly made controversial statements and may have potentially dangerous beliefs, but in America, we do not prosecute people for what they say or believe, and people are innocent until proven guilty. Unless you can prove that the people behind the Muslim community center have been engaged in an actual crime, I don't give a flying crap what else you think they have done or said.
Of course, this kind of conspiracy thinking is everywhere in politics, from the 9/11 truthers and the Obama birthers to Glenn Beck's charts of Obama's unsavory associations and the left's continued insistence that the wars in the middle east are all about oil. The problem is in people's inability to apply Occam's razor.
In modern America, this kind of paranoia can trace its roots to the assassination of President Kennedy and to the machinations of President Nixon. Where Kennedy is concerned, a popular Democratic president was assassinated by a self-proclaimed communist, and people on the left, unable to rectify the apparent contradiction, came up with an increasingly elaborate explanation for what happened so that they wouldn't have to accept it. As for Nixon, he was a president who really was involved in a deep and unsavory conspiracy, and when that was uncovered, our collective trust in our leaders--already on the decline--suffered a major blow from which our country has yet to fully heal. As a result of all this, we have become so cynical as a society that we now believe that a complex conspiracy theory involving hundreds if not thousands of actors requires fewer dangerous assumptions than the idea that our leaders are trying to do what is best for the country.
Frankly, I'm sick of it. I'm all for being a realist and distrusting our politicians, but I find the vast majority of conspiracy theories out there to be ridiculous in the extreme. If there's one thing our government has proven, it's that it cannot, under any circumstances, keep a secret for very long. I may completely disagree with what our leaders are doing, but I'm not going to assume--as a default position--that they are actively and deliberately trying to destroy our way of life. The same goes for Muslims who want to build a community center in downtown New York City.
#6. The Media is Biased
Hatred is always reasonable
Of all the talking points on this list, this one is the most indomitable. Rather than accept that people with different political views are just as intelligent and learned as them, most people in America today would rather believe that a huge segment of the population has been indoctrinated by biased media. Faced with someone with conservative views, many Democrats will automatically accuse that person of watching Fox News, whereas they might get their news from such reliable sources as Jon Stewart. Many Republicans do the same thing when faced with someone with liberal views, only with MSNBC and Rush Limbaugh, respectively.
First of all, just because a news source is biased, it does not make it wrong about everything. Secondly, there is no such thing as an unbiased news report. Thirdly, this is the Internet age, and people can seek out whatever spin they want to support their political views. Lastly, it is intrinsically insulting and arrogant to assume that everybody who disagrees with you is somehow less reasonable and more susceptable to brainwashing than you are.
If you get all of your news from left-leaning outlets like The New York Times, Air America, and NPR, you are likely to have left-leaning views. Along the same lines, if you get all of your news from National Review, Sean Hannity, and the Wall Street Journal, you are likely to have right-leaning views. However, correlation does not equal causation. Most people tend to seek out sources of information that agree with their world-view, and they are not sponges who will just believe everything they are exposed to. And yet, people will no doubt be complaining about media bias until the end of the human race, which will probably be a subject of much contention on the world's final front pages.
Unless you deliberately seek out every possible spin on every possible news story, you cannot claim that you are any less biased than your least-favorite news source. I do not believe that reality is relative, but there is so much noise, spin, and commentary out there that I can't imagine anybody having enough authority to know what the truth is anymore, especially where politics is concerned. Perhaps that's what pisses me off about all of the talking points on this list: they all fail to make room for ambiguity or nuance.