Following up on John Oliver’s brilliant “proportional” climate change debate, here’s Obama on “false equivalence”:
You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.
It’s always a mistake to cover the “left” and “right” the same way, even if they’re all acting honestly. A traditional “liberal” sees problems and posits solutions, usually via the government. A traditional “conservative” acts as a brake on reckless spending and often posits alternative solutions.
That puts “conservatives” in a public relations bind. Their role is to be the spoilsport. Many traditional “conservative” arguments in a First World country may come across as self-serving — they usually benefit the speaker, and it’s difficult to point out that they also see the problem. And if they come off as patronizing while doing so, then the message falls flat.
Since Gingrich, the GOP has adopted more of a flame-throwing approach. Instead of carefully explaining the nuances of why a “liberal” proposal is flawed or counterproductive, that proposal must be evil. And so are the people who proposed it. And they’ve been so successful with that message that they can deny scientific reality and not be laughed off the stage.