Republicans Are Evil, Democrats Are Evil

I remember the first time I heard this mantra. About five years ago, I got into a discussion with a couple of co-workers about politics. Contrary to what many of you may think, I generally avoid discussing politics in the workplace. Not much good can come of it.

The reason I got into this discussion was what one of my co-workers said. He said “Republicans are evil”. I was taken aback by such a strident statement. Not that someone would be critical of Republicans. But that someone would use such moralistic language to not just criticize policies emerging from a political party or ideology, but to question motives.

So I asked one of my co-workers. “Wouldn’t you agree though that both Republican and Democrats, conservatives and liberals want the same thing? They just have different ways to get there.” I was expecting him to back down and agree and then explain why he disagreed with Republican policies. Instead he proclaimed again “No, Republicans are really evil. They only want bad things. They want to oppress people.”

Now I know that this phenomena of proclaiming one’s political opponents to be the spawn of Satan is nothing new. However, this attitude has waxed and waned during the course of history, especially American history. And I would argue that our country is at its worst when this view is in ascendency, regardless of the ideology that holds it.

I was reminded once again of this view because of an email I received this weekend regarding last week’s announcement by Georgia State Rep. Mike Jacobs that he is switching parties. (I will not disclose the person who sent this email to me unless they choose to identify themselves. I don’t like playing gotcha games with people. I have excerpted the relevant line with the bolded items being my emphasis.)

You know Wil[l], if the Republican Party in the state of Georgia wasn’t ruled by evil spirited people, who are power hungry, two-faced deceivers, I wouldn’t care which party Jacobs or anyone else joined.

Where to even begin? Let me first state that I am no big fan of Republicans either, especially those in the Georgia General Assembly. But let’s be reasonable – evil spirited people? Power hungry two-faced deceivers? Do they have horns and pitchforks too?

I am struck by a number of things about this statement. Firstly, I am struck by the narrow-minded arrogance that cannot conceive of a differing point of view. One of the hallmarks of a liberal society has always been the willingness and ability to study and understand an opposing point of view. If we cannot have civil debate and discussion on politics in this country (or any other), then we are left with power being the only determining factor in policy decisions.

I also find this statement ironic in its moralizing language considering its author usually decries the moralizing of politics by the “Religious Right”. It makes me wonder if people dislike the “Religious Right” because they don’t like religion and morality in politics or because they don’t like the “Religious Right’s” religion and morality in politics.

So am I just a hopeless idealist? Dare I even dream of having a civil public square? I am going to focus on this idea over the coming weeks and hopefully interview some of the top thinkers and activists in our country on this very subject. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

16 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Didn’t Sun Tzu say that war is politics by other means? Politics and war are the same, differing only by degrees. Its about control of something. In our case it is control of 4 trillion or 20 billion dollar budgets.

    You’re not going to find civil discourse when you’re talking about that much money. We’ve allowed government to grow too big, get its fingers into too many pies and control too much of our lives. As a result politics has shifted from civil discourse to the nonsense we see now.

  2. Holly says:

    Will, I’d go a step further. I’d say it’s not just politics. We’re so ready to say the word “hate” nowadays that I don’t think people really understand the word. They use it interchangably with “dislike”, even though “hate” is a more powerful word. I do it, too, and have to catch myself.

    “I hate Bush”, “I hate Clinton”, “I hate red roses”, etc. It’s ridiculous. No, you don’t hate them. Well, maybe a few raging psychos do truly hate them, but they’re the ones who would actually pick up a gun and shoot on first sight. Or, in the case of rosebushes, perhaps they stage an attack on a neighbor’s garden.

    I think it’s not just the fact that government is too big (and it really is) that causes the problem. I think we’ve allowed ourselves to get to this point in society by not stopping the slippery slope of discourtesy that’s been happening for as long as I have been alive. Too bad people are just starting to realize it now.

  3. ToddH says:

    Will,

    I’m confused by a statement you made:

    “Firstly, I am struck by the narrow-minded arrogance that cannot conceive of a differing point of view.”

    It seems that the individual who you are referring to does in fact “conceive of a differing point of view,” in that he acknowledges that it exists, but that he feels that “differing point of view” is dangerous to this counry using the term “evil” or a Manichaen dualism of Republicans are “evil” and all “good” people should oppose them.

    Another statement:

    ” It makes me wonder if people dislike the “Religious Right” because they don’t like religion and morality in politics or because they don’t like the “Religious Right’s” religion and morality in politics.”

    Most opposition to the Religious Right does not stem from a hatred of religion but is an opposition to the Religious Right’s attempt to impose their religion on the rest of the country. It isn’t the religion that is the problem, if a private affair or outside of the government most will not care if it exists, but it is the forced imposition on the rest of the populace that drives opposition to the Religious Right.

    You are a hopeless idealist as the divide over politics has always existed in this nation all the way back to the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. I admit that the venom of today is especially bad, but we aren’t fighting civil wars over it, so it has been worse. Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, disagree over fundamental issues and they should disagree quite stridently if they feel that the opposing side’s opinions on policy are dangerous to this nation. I would attempt, as you say, to understand proponents of Fascism or Communism, but I would do everything in my power to oppose them and I hope others would as well if they feel the opposing side is dangerous to the nation. Using language such as “evil” is an easy, concise way to show opposition to the other side. I think we would all like the differences to be explained in a more thoughtful manner, but we live in a society of quick soundbites easily digested and so using short epithets to describe the opposition is just easier.

  4. Bill Simon says:

    ToddH,

    You are dead-on about the “Religious Right” analysis. The RR has either been deliberately obtuse about not understanding the objection to their methods and message OR they are just plain stupid and apt to only believe that if you disagree with them, you MUST be “anti-religion.”

  5. Paul Shuford says:

    I think a lot of it is simply the “my team is great/your team sucks” mentality, regardless of whether your team is actually living up to the principles that they espouse or not (for example, contrast the “Contract with America” Republican Party with the Republican Party of the last 7 years). People actually start believing their own propaganda, whether it’s true or not.

  6. Jmac says:

    Will, I do think you’re an idealist, but I’m sympathetic because I think I’m one as well. But, yes, I agree with your central assertion that folks paint too many things in black-or-white terms in order to rile up their supporters and/or bases. The world’s full of a lot of gray, and it’s worth noting that.

    And you detail the conservative take on things because I assume that’s what you encounter more frequently. But, as you note in your post title, this kinda thing happens from both sides. The number of times I hear – from some friends no less – how evil Democrats are, it’s depressing.

    The problem isn’t necessarily morality, but ideology and practicality.

  7. hillpearson says:

    I think a healthy dose of idealism is necessary to keep the Republic going. I wish that we could all debate each other with respect and then go out to dinner together as friends.

    I must admit however, that I’m like your co-worker. When I see the GOP pursue agendas that to me seem motivated by intolerance and political opportunism (i.e. gay marriage ban) I can’t help but see them as evil. I do so not because I don’t think reasonable people can disagree but because I see no purpose, only self serving motivations. I’m also repeatedly sickened by what I perceive as the hypocrisy of the right (family values, etc. not matching with their own personal behavior) which makes me believe they are evil.

    What is disturbing about all this is how these political lines seem to have permeated our culture and even our residential geography (even though I agree with the above post that they have been far worse). Most of my friends live inside I-285 here in Atlanta and don’t want to live outside it because of their perception of the political culture there. Likewise I meet folks that live outside the perimeter that don’t want to even go intown to see a show or have dinner. This kind of imbedded cultural/political division isn’t healthy.

    The good news is that I don’t think most people carry their contempt down to the interpersonal level. I don’t meet people that call themselves Republicans and immediately decide that they are evil. It is hard to look someone in the face and call them evil if they are a decent human being and you just happen to disagree with them.

  8. CobbGOPer says:

    Well, as another poster noted earlier, this is what democratic politics is all about. You have your positions and you advocate for them. If that means tearing the opposition down, well, that’s politics. It’s how the game has been played since the Romans.

    And if you think today’s political vitriol is bad, you should look at some of the editorials, articles, and political cartoons of our great country’s early years. Just as venomous as today, only they didn’t have to contend with a 24-hour news cycle…

  9. jsm says:

    Good post, Will. I do believe that some in politics really become evil when their desire for power and/or money gets in the way of good judgment and concern for the people they represent. However, the designation never defines an entire party or mainstream ideological segment.

    The sad thing to me is that many liberals won’t hesitate to call conservatives evil, saying that they’re against the little guy, the poor, etc., because they support capitalism. The extreme religious right says the same thing about liberals because of their stand on moral issues. I guess it’s okay for the religious left to call conservatives evil for not giving more government support to lazy people.

    It’s very easy for ignorant people to get other ignorant people worked up about “issues” that they’re either incapable of or unwilling to understand. Ask Al Gore and Michael Moore. That word “evil” is a powerful tool for them.

  10. Jmac says:

    Right jsm, but this conservation seems to be quickly shifting to how one particular party is ‘worse’ than another. There are plenty of progressives who use inflammatory language, as there are plenty of conservatives who use inflammatory language.

  11. RJL says:

    Now, JSM, the group was just about to build a small campfire and share stories, and then you set out to underscore Will’s backstory in reverse. I deduct that you must be evil.

  12. Doug Deal says:

    Paul,

    To add what you wrote, it is precisely those “our team/your team” folks that do damage to the parties and make them less and less desirable to rest of the members. You should hold your side to a higher standard than your opponent, because those are the people that supposedly respresent you. By definition, the opposition is doing it’s job, if it stands against you.

    Instead, in our zealot filled system, we have no expectation of behavior of someone as long as they will vote for the Speaker we want.

  13. IndyInjun says:

    I dunno about “evil.” I USED TO say that a ‘D’ on a ballot meant ‘damned’ to me, but that was before 2000.

    Despite my years of supporting GOPers to the hilt, I found myself cast down and demonized by them when I actually paid attention to the FACTs of what the godawful George W. Bush was up to very early on.

    I would not brand all of the GOP as ‘evil’ but the folks remaining in that party are in league with the devil.

    They sacrificed their PRINCIPLES to him on the altar of power worship.

    Personally, I will never look at people and politics the same again.

    Don’t call me a Dem and don’t call me a GOP apologist either.

    GOPers may not be evil, but the unseen fires of Hades have singed them all.

  14. Rick Day says:

    I truly am convinced that Democrats and Republicans are not evil, for that indicates some thought out plan or strategy.

    No, what they have become is the pawns of evil; that evil who use the government to pillage and rape. They are known as ‘corporations’.

    Multi-National Corporations are defacto evil because they are created, designed and focused on one thing only; to increase profits no matter what. Corporations care nothing for citizens (except those targeted to consume the spew of the corporation) workers (other than how much profitability they can squeeze out of them) or the Earth.

    They exist to gow and absorbe and consume until there is nothing left to consume. Then it consumes itself because that is what type of ‘human’ a corporation is.

    Government; put in place to check the appetite of the corporation is now but a tool, bought, sold and installed to help corporations grow.

    Democrats and Republicans are the little rodents who run and turn the little wheels that make the entire thing grind on…

    Politicians typically birthed of the machine, and when their use as a politician wanes, is reabsorbed into the machine with greater wealth and authority than before (asuming they paid appropriate attention to the needs of the machine).

    Got it?

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