I’ve been joking on Twitter today about certain people being baddies, and how much easier life would be if we’d all accept this and commit to our roles. It’s obviously a massively over-simplified and silly idea, but it’s the parodic distillation of the thought I keep having every time the news reports that Russia and China have vetoed yet another UN attempt at intervention in Syria. That it’s been left up to the likes of William Hague to have to call out these governments, while the news outlets report it with their delusion of “balance”, is a pretty worrying sign. I really do think it would be a lot better if the media just acknowledged what we all know is true – that the Russian and Chinese governments are baddies, and the Syrian regime are baddies, so of course they’re going to stick together.
The obvious flaw with such a comment is that it implies that the other side therefore must be “goodies”. If only it were true, and it’s obviously not the case. But I think we can say quite unequivocally that, for instance, Putin’s regime are proper baddies, and we need to stop pretending otherwise. Surely we’d get a lot further a lot more quickly.
What’s perhaps more peculiar is the Republican party in the United States. The USA is a deeply, deeply weird nation, over 300,000,000 people somehow almost exactly split down the middle in terms of which of two sides they’re on. There are two parties who offer presidential candidates with a realistic chance of winning, and you have to pick one of them. There’s no nuance, there’s no middle ground. You either pick the man in the centre, or the man on the extreme right. (Even more so than in the UK, there’s no notion of a left wing option, with one side calling the other side “socialist” as an insult while the other side desperately protests that they’re not.) And with this bisecting of the country and its politics, it’s become deeply tribal. Not North/South as it once was, but Outside/Inside. When there’s one side or the other to pick, and nothing offering a position that sits between the two, both sides are inevitably going to become caricatures of themselves, and part of that has been to quite defiantly choose between being a Goodie or a Baddie.
My concern is that Republicans just aren’t willing to acknowledge they’ve chosen the position of Baddie. But it’s not ambiguous! Using the increasingly feeble excuse of a Bible they simply cannot have read (or understood), they are about exclusion and hate. Sure, sure, they don’t like those terms. But it’s now reached the point where it’s silly not to just embrace the reality. They hate gay people (“Oh no, we don’t hate gay people, we just hate what they do and how they live and what they say!”), they hate poor people, they hate foreign people. Of course they do! This isn’t a party that tries to hush these aspects up, like the Conservative party does in the UK. In the UK Cameron and his toffs like to pretend they think the homo-gentlemens and ladies are simply spiffy, and the poor people just need a bit of help pulling their socks up, while doing everything they can to ignore it all. But the Republicans paint it right on their banners, and shout it from their podiums. They won’t allow the evils of committed gay couples to damage the institution of marriage! They won’t let 14 year old rape victims have abortions! They’ll scrap any effort to provide free healthcare to the poor! They’ll kick out all the “illegals” who mow their lawns and plump their pillows! That they stop short of staring into the camera as their eyes turn red is something of a surprise. These messages of hate, hate for people who aren’t them, are at the forefront of their campaigning, their policies, and their dialogue.
And of course I say all this with the luxury of also not being a Democrat. I’m British! I don’t have to pick a side in the pantomime jousting match. I don’t believe that the Democrats are great, nor that they have all the answers, nor that they will make everything right. Of course they won’t – they’re a political party rife with corruption and criminality, nudging ever further into the Centre-Right to win over small-c conservatives, too afraid to actually oppose the worst of the Republican evil. They don’t loudly campaign on equal rights for LGBT Americans, and they don’t admit that American infrastructure would collapse without illegal immigration. But at least they don’t boast about hating everyone involved in their manifestos. I mean, that’s something.
But right now the Republicans are in this increasingly farcical position of utter denial, and it’s just making the discussions unproductive, and hugely decreasing the chances of actual political discourse. Today I’ve been receiving a few of the most incredibly tepid responses from Republicans, objecting to my tweet in which I suggested it was rather sad to watch Clint Eastwood losing an argument with an empty chair. Rather than just telling me they hate me, which is only ever left implied, instead it’s peculiar attempts at condescension, assuring me that it was actually very funny and clever, and I just didn’t get it. This is a skit in which Eastwood suggests, without irony, that Obama made a stupid decision when he chose to invade Afghanistan.
Of course study after study shows that Republican voters, on average, have a lower IQ than Democrats. And, as is devastatingly often noticed, the poorest people tend to be far more likely to vote for the party that most hates them, and most wants them to remain poor. I’m not suggesting that everyone who supports the Republicans is bad – of course not. Some are misinformed, ill-educated, or grow up in states where no other worldview is ever offered. Others are rich, and want to stay rich, or simply want to get rich, and they actually are pretty bad. But when you side with baddies, you are a baddie. And I’m saying, just embrace that. Take it on board. It’s silly to pretend otherwise, and once we can get that cleared up, we can start having much more productive discourse.