Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The consequences of crying wolf in politics

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article claiming that President Trump's election was made possible by "fear of losing white privilege". Here's my response, trying to be respectful in my disagreement:

I have an alternative theory, if you would be so kind as to hear me out.

Imagine that you are repeatedly accused of being a thief and murderer. It is an accusation that is demonstrably false, but for years it won't go away. Every time you have a disagreement with anyone, they bring it up.

After some years of this treatment, the accusation will cease to have meaning in your ears. And then you meet someone else who is accused of the same crimes. You will likely be very quick to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps even in spite of evidence, and embrace them as a friend. Only, you discover too late, that the accusation was true in their case.

That is what I see as having happened to the Right over the past eight years. The original Tea Party was not racist, they prayed for the health and well-being of the president even as they disagreed with his actions. But they were continually bombarded with accusations of hate and racism. As a result, it became a sort of bragging joke on the Right that if you are being accused of racism, your opponent must be out of real arguments.

And so people who would have nothing but contempt for racists dropped their guard, the old story of the boy who cried wolf. And the white supremacists who have always lurked at the fringes, looking for any way to get a foothold in either party, saw their opportunity.

Certainly the Right deserves blame for dropping their guard. But likewise the Left needs to recognize their role in overusing a cruel and groundless accusation. Both sides need to recognize their faults if we are to avoid similar mistakes when the pendulum swings again, as it always does.

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