Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reid's Comment & the Double Standard

By this time, you're doubtless familiar with Senator Reid's awkward racial comments during the '08 campaign about then presidential candidate Barack Obama, curiously withheld until now. (Well, maybe not so curious.) I won't rehearse the comparisons with former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's 2002 comments about Senator Strom Thurmond, nor Senator Chris Dodd's 2004 comments about Senator Robert Byrd. They're all over the airwaves. (Although the latter less so. Hmmm?) Anyway, for the record, I don't think Harry Reid a racist, nor Lott, nor Dodd. But the presence of the Double Standard, as predictable as the sun rising, is not for that reason any less glaring, nor grating. While I'm as upset and frustrated about it as any conservative, the incident does raise the question once again about how to fight and win this and similar political battles.

If you're a conservative, you simply know, that given the Double Standard, if you engage the debate, you'll not win. You know that the usual suspects will be rounded up, filling our screens and speakers to angrily insist that the whole thing is not what it manifestly is. In fact, you can already see and hear them. You know that, if in spite of what you know, you nevertheless engage the debate, somehow, someway, you'll end up on the defensive. And you also know that no matter what you do or don't do, the whole episode will soon be forgotten and the Democrats will pay no apparent price for it.

So, if you're conservative, by temperament especially, if not ideologically (yet), your strong instinct is to simply shake your head, shrug your shoulders, turn, and walk away. Normally that instinct is noble and praiseworthy. It is, in fact, what distinguishes you most attractively from the party of leveling meddlers. But, sadly, these are not normal times.

The problem for us, in part, is that the very qualities that identify us as conservatives, leave us ill-suited for political battle. All things being equal, we'd just as soon be left alone, and leave everybody else alone as well. Eager to return to our private and personal passions, we avoid political disputes whenever possible, and look for quick fixes to them when they arise. But for the other side this is decidedly not the case. And, given their understanding of politics (another post perhaps), it both never will be, and never can be otherwise. What we avoid, they embrace. There is, for them, no compelling argument to which one must surrender, no last word that silences, no coup de grace that finishes the fight.

Early 20th-century German sociologist Max Weber famously observed, correctly I think, that, "Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards." Unfortunately, this is precisely the nature of the political struggle in which we are engaged. Therefore, at least with respect to confronting the immediate problem of the Double Standard, while endlessly pointing it out, waving one's hands, stomping one's feet, and yelling loudly may feel uncomfortably out of character, and even finally fruitless, they are nonetheless essential aspects of the "strong and slow boring" that is key to ultimate political victory. Persevere!


  1. I understand your assertion that we cannot win the debate. I would suggest, however, that we are trying to win the wrong debate. Conservatives, including myself, are simply wasting our time crying foul when it comes to media partiality. We end up looking like kids complaining to their parents about perceived inequities. It seems to me that we simply need to let it go. Is there a double standard? Of course there is. Had a Republican made those same comments as Reid would the media and Democratic Party have gone nuts demanding action? Of course they would have. Would any of it have been justified? No.

    The debate we need to win is not one with popular media but one with the public. If our core beliefs are correct we need to demonstrate them. If Reid were a Republican would any Republican be critical of him, probably not. (Rightly so I might add) The fact is whether it is Lott, Dodd, or even Reid our grounds for attack should be the positions they take and the tactics they use, and not simply something as childish as, “they did it first.” When one of our own is criticized unjustly we should certainly defend them but never should we engage in the same behavior when it is our opponent.

    Maybe I have more faith in the American people than I should, but quite frankly I think they see through more than we think.

    Conservatives need to fight the battle but in that battle they should hold themselves to the same standard they believe should be applied to them.

    Is the media lost, maybe or maybe not? In either case we need to get over it. When one is at war, it is foolish to complain about the resources or allies the other side may have at their disposal. What we need to do is recognize where we are and fight the battle with the resources that we have not the least of which is the fact that our worldview is the correct view.

  2. "Crying foul"? There's no crying in politics. Thanks very much for the comment. Perhaps I should have been clearer. I imagine doing this persistently, to be sure, but with a solid measure of detachment. I have faith in the American people as well, and I don't think it's misplaced. But they're not always paying attention to things poltical. (God bless'em!) If highlighting the Double Standard becomes at least part of the always present background noise, it'll serve its slow but sure purpose, i.e., level the playing field. And on a level field, they cannot beat us.

  3. I think in many ways its become clear that no only is the public aware of the nonsense in the media but is, in a way, voting with their remotes. The greatest offenders (MSNBC) have the worst ratings and they continue to fall. Another prime example of the fact that the publics feelings are well known is the presentation of the "fairness doctrine". What a euphemism! I think its great that they are presenting this legislation 1. because I dont see it passing and 2. because its essentially forced the liberals in the govt to show their cards. They see whats happening to their ability to propagandize and they desperately need to protect their medium. In this respect we have the liberals on their heels and we need to keep pushing.

  4. As much as I wish your assertion that "there's no crying in politics" was true it appears to me that crying is what we hear most. Maybe my point would be better made by saying that the best way to point out the Double Standard, which I fully agree exist, is by demanding consistency on real issues and not something as insignificant as Reid's comments were. When some in the Republican Party demand a resignation of anyone for nonsense such as this they undermine any point they may be trying to make in regard to a double standard.

    Maybe the better position would be to simply dismiss Reid’s comments as insignificant and then point out the fact that when a Republican makes similar comments they deserve the same “pass” as it were.