I want to talk about a dangerous phenomenon that’s creeping into this year’s presidential election season. It’s insidious, ludicrous and intellectually dishonest; the refuge of cowards and scoundrels and a convenient cop-out for Americans blind to the perils of another Trump presidency. You’ll probably encounter it over the next nine months leading up to Nov. 5, maybe in conversations with friends and family.
I encountered it last week, during an otherwise amiable chat with an old friend. I’m tempted to name him but I won’t. Suffice it to say he’s a crusty old fat cat living in a fancy Connecticut enclave. He is well educated, well traveled, well read — all things that are supposed to broaden one’s thinking. He has none of the obvious excuses for atrociously bad judgment. He proudly self-identifies as a conservative, but like many other conservatives, he loathes Donald Trump. You know people like him — respectable folks with enviable bona fides who recoil at the loud-mouth boorish upstart who achieved prominence by bragging and flashing money around.
I have no problem with someone like my friend who intellectually believes in certain conservative principles. It’s OK, for example, to be a budgetary hawk provided you don’t exempt the Department of Defense from your hawkishness. It’s also OK to take a jaundiced view of the efficacy of our large federal bureaucracy. You’d have a point there. I myself once dabbled in conservatism. I even subscribed to the National Review in boarding school. Fortunately, I outgrew my fascination with the right wing by the early ’70s. Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia had something to do with my change of heart.
But let’s return to my buddy, the crusty old fat cat. It was my conversation with him, then the encouragement of my wife Lucy, that prompted this piece. Near the end of our phone chat, he described a contorted thought process that leaves him straddling a fence — on one side a candidate he regards as an ill-bred, reckless churl and on the other side, a doty, woke, free-spending liberal.
After I told him that God would punish him if he pulled the lever for Trump, the crusty fat cat responded, “But, I can’t vote for Biden!” And he meant it. So do many other conservatives who look down their noses at the unhinged fabulist who’s facing 91 criminal charges. Yet they’re so opposed to Biden that they’ll vote for Trump or not vote at all.
This thinking needs to be called out. It’s false equivalency taken to a disastrous extreme. It’s brought about by a combination of lazy thinking and the thrill of whistling past the graveyard. It is lazy thinking because saying it means you haven’t considered the potential (nearly certain?) catastrophe of a Trump second term. It’s whistling past the graveyard because you think you might get a few more tax breaks and see your bank account swell, even as the country tears itself apart dealing with the horrors of Trump II. No person who is truly a conservative would roll the dice by voting for Trump. Anyone who professes conservative values must vote to prevent a second Trump presidency. For God’s sake, he spent money like a drunken sailor, sending our national debt soaring. Aren’t conservatives supposed to be fiscally responsible?
Last week the chairman of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, while relaxing in the alpine paradise called Davos, opined that the MAGA movement actually had gotten some things right and that we should perhaps be paying more attention to them. Here was someone considered to be a voice of moderation openly sliding into the embrace of this odious false equivalency. Someone as educated and privileged as Jamie Dimon has no business legitimizing a movement that idolizes a sleazy narcissist who has tarnished this country’s reputation around the world. But Dimon and some other corporate captains blinked after Trump’s resounding victories in Iowa and New Hampshire: He’s now a sure bet for the GOP nomination, and according to most polls, ahead of Biden in the general election. Best not to get on Trump’s wrong side.
Dimon could have focused on a specific issue, like immigration, and proposed moderate solutions, but instead he urged Democrats to be more respectful of the MAGA movement. That’s the same as saying, “You know, this guy Trump’s not so bad after all.”
Wrong, Jamie! He is that bad!
Reasonable people simply cannot stand by and listen to the Biden’s-as-bad-as-Trump false equivalency without speaking up. In what universe does a second Biden term carry the same risks as a second Trump term? Answer: In the universe that considers Hunter Biden as great a risk to democracy as Donald Trump. And there are many people out there who actually think Hunter Biden is the devil incarnate. They drink MAGA Kool-Aid and will never change their views. It’s a waste of time to argue with them.
Save your breath for conservatives who are not MAGAs. They’re wary of a second Trump presidency, but not yet sufficiently alarmed. They can be lulled into the lazy thinking of the false equivalency. They are family members and friends who simply haven’t thought hard enough about what type of man Trump is and the idiocy of voting for four more years of his “leadership”.
If we can’t jolt these folks out of their lazy, dangerous thinking, their votes or absence from the polls could tip the balance for Trump. So speak up when you hear someone say they don’t like Trump but can’t vote for Biden. Let’s call that the “D.A.M.N. False Equivalency”. That is, the Despicable, Asinine, Mendacious, Nonsensical False Equivalency. Don’t let it go unchallenged.
Loyal readers know I’ve never favored a second term for Biden. He is too old. But his age doesn’t negate my feeling about the false equivalency. A second term for Trump invites disasters that responsible people can’t ignore. Yes, Biden is old, but he doesn’t have a history of lying, self-dealing, and sedition.
If you have the old-fashioned notion that a sleazy, indicted liar shouldn’t be president, then you can’t justify a vote for Trump. And you can’t justify not voting at all since you’d be passing up the opportunity to stop Trump. That is the message we need to send to my crusty old fat cat friend and to the millions who think similarly. Challenge the D.A.M.N. False Equivalency!