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State of Disunion
Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0
The Republicans Have Reached Peak Hypocrisy
From alleged sexual assaults to private emails, the GOP has been giving the Trump administration a free pass and punishing Democrats for the same offenses. And we're letting them.
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As news broke earlier this month of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual harassment, the GOP lept at the opportunity to, somehow, blame Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel took to Twitter, a tool that has repeatedly been used by the President of the United States to publicly humiliate women, to ask, “Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?” McDaniels and other GOP backers and right-wing news pundits—and even CNN—have made it clear that Clinton and the Dems should be returning the donations Weinstein made to their campaigns and publicly calling out his behavior.
Of course, it’s not that Weinstein’s behavior shouldn’t be called out; it should be, and it has been. But McDaniel and white conservatives are happily blaming Democrats in this situation while having spent the last year backing Donald Trump, a renowned sexual predator who has racked up enough sexual harassment allegations himself to make a reasonable person question the man’s competency to head up a company let alone a country. As Slate put it, the Republican Party is against sexual harassment if the person accused of it isn’t Donald Trump.
The Republican response to Weinstein is the tip of the iceberg. The GOP and white conservatives have reached peak hypocrisy in 2017. From Tomi Lahren admitting she’s still on her parents’ health insurance—only possible due to Obamacare—while simultaneously opposing the Affordable Care Act to Trump himself defending Nazis and white supremacists who led the Charlottesville rally but calling for the firing of NFL players who kneel in protest of police violence against Black people, it has been a long year of hypocritical face-palm moments.
David Helfenbein, a political commentator who worked for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, says the hypocrisy of politicians has risen to new heights. “Increased political polarization due to media fractionalization, gerrymandering, and other causes has led to an increased number of politicians who govern simply to win re-election,” he says. “And yes, the situation has gotten worse.”
But while hypocrisy happens on both sides of the aisle, it seems to be particularly common, and problematic, among conservatives, Helfenbein explains. “There is a difference in mortality between the parties. That was first mentioned to me by my professor, David Eisenhower at the University of Pennsylvania,” he says. “The Democrats are proponents of public morality through programs like welfare (social good programs). The Republicans are proponents of private morality (good family values, pro-life). This creates a platform for both parties. The Republicans can more easily criticize the Democrats for having bad family values (he had an affair!) whereas they would never do such a thing.”
Hillary Clinton’s emails may have been the biggest non-story story of the last year—but great fodder for conservatives. Mainstream media butchered coverage of that “scandal,” and conservative media continues to latch onto it to this day. As we began to learn more and more about the Trump administration’s involvement in Russia’s interference in the election, the conservative media quickly changed the narrative, finding any excuse to go after Clinton again, never mind that the election is long since over. In recent weeks, we’ve also learned that at least six Trump officials, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, used their private emails for White House business—the exact Clinton “crime” that prompted conservatives to chant “Lock her up!”
There’s there’s a whole slew of other instances. We’ve seen the same people who called Women’s March and Black Lives Matter supporters “paid protestors” enthusiastically support Vice President Mike Pence’s obviously choreographed stunt to walk out of a football game (costing taxpayers at least $200,000) after NFL players kneeled. Trump has repeatedly called for the firing of Jemele Hill and NFL players for calling out injustice, and conservatives have nodded along, all too happy to forget that they supported county clerk Kim Davis who refused to do her job because she’s anti-gay. In fact, if anything, the Trump administration, and by extension the entire GOP that supports the president’s policies, seem to be anything but patriotic, despite demanding respect for the flag. By consistently wanting to shut down journalists, football players and legislators who challenge him, Trump is going against the essence of our basic, fundamental right to freedom of speech. It seems that the more his base equates democracy with leftist ideology, they’re intending to rewrite the Constitution—the very thing we’re supposed to be patriotic about.
It shouldn’t be considered an accident or coincidence that conservatives are consistently hypocritical. Psychologist Steven Rosenberg says that hypocrisy in light of the political climate is a form of deceit. “This is defined as the false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character, especially with respect to religious, moral, or political beliefs. It is also the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another,” he says. “Politicians use hypocrisy to fool the public and gain political benefit. They do this by making claims to possess knowledge that they lack. Also, they may exhibit loyalty that they do not possess. This behavior serves to protect the power, privilege, and positions of those who continue to be hypocritical.”
When public pressure forced Republican congressman Tim Murphy’s resignation, after news broke that he asked a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion, it seemed to be one of the few instances where a conservative has actually paid a price for being hypocritical. And that’s only because he was caught doing something privately immoral that also happens to run completely counter to the GOP’s public agenda. It’s an example of legislating one way and living another way, Helfenbein says.
It’s this moral hypocrisy that we should be more critical of. White Christian conservatives are supposed to the beacon of goodness and rightness; it’s why they supposedly legislate as Christianity were a state religion, voting against women’s right to reproductive health and the like. But the party still supports the administration, which has time and time against proven they simply don’t care about poor people or minorities. It’s the cruelty of the administration that we should worry about. Is the lack of response, and lack of attention, to Puerto Rico the Christian thing to do? Is taking away medical care for children a moral move? What about dragging disabled people away from a hearing because they questioned a healthcare bill? This is what we’ve come to expect from the party that sees itself as morally superior.
Andrew Selepak, director of the University of Florida’s social media master’s program, offers another take on why hypocrisy in politics is becoming more obvious. From his perspective, hypocrisy in politics isn’t getting worse; it’s just that technology is changing. “With social media and so many online news outlets and 24/7 news channels, we are simply becoming more aware of hypocrisy from politicians or anyone famous,” he says.
Certainly, the ability to compare what a politician is saying today with what they tweeted a few years ago is a fairly new phenomenon. “With so much digital material being created, it is hard to hide anymore from the things we do wrong,” Selepak says.
That’s how we’ve been able to be reminded of the hilarious and sad fact that Trump constantly tweeted about Obama golfing during the eight years he was president, but now Trump has golfed by far more than any other president—a total of 69 times as of this week at a cost of at least $74,230,534.
It’s important to note that the conservative media is also to blame in the hypocrisy of politics, as Brian Beutler wrote in Crooked last week. He pointed to Sean Hannity’s acceptance of Julian Assange in the wake of his support for Donald Trump, despite once calling him an enemy. “The most influential figures in conservative media today cannot be shamed out of hypocrisy, because they are, at best, completely indifferent to those notions,” Beutler wrote. “In some cases, they’re outright hostile to them. When the assumption of deep-seated good faith doesn’t hold, the value of scrutinizing hypocrisy plummets.” When it comes to the hypocrisy of the right, conservative media is not oblivious to these missteps, they’re downright furthering the agenda of politicians they favor knowing they are hypocrites.
But if the public is taking note of the hypocrisy and calling out Republicans, and still nothing happens, what then?
Says Selepak, “Then it is left to the voters to decide whether to elect them again. Some politicians have resigned once their hypocrisy is exposed, and that is a positive. Some politicians have not, almost as if they believe they are above their own hypocrisy. Sadly, when we excuse hypocrisy from our politicians and reelect them, the fault then no longer lies with the politician but the people.”
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