Here’s a fairly obvious bit of hypocrisy: There are conservative Christians who think private business owners, like florists and bakers, should be allowed to discriminate against a certain group of customers (like gay people who want to buy services for their wedding). Telling them to treat all customers equally is seen as a violation of their religious freedom.
But when YouTube (also a private business) demonetizes a video for hate speech, as in the recent case of Steven Crowder, who used “lispy queer” as a slur against a gay journalist, the same voices call for “FREE SPEECH!” and denounce any attempt at moderation as a form of anti-conservative bias.
Or what about when conservatives call for public libraries to stop hosting Drag Queen Story Hours… but call it “censorship” when a conservative speaker is “deplatformed” at a public university.
Those are some of the examples noted by Adam Serwer of The Atlantic in a fantastic new essay. His argument is that a sizable fraction of the Right (political and religious) believe the rules of our liberal democracy only matter when they win; the moment they lose, they flip the tables, scorch the Earth, and act like everyone is out to get them. The same principles ought to apply to everyone… but only if their side wins.
It’s the same thing we see with the Republican Party these days — nearly synonymous with the Religious Right — where presidents can now, apparently, only nominate Supreme Court justices when Republicans control the whole process. Or politicians create racial and political gerrymanders but cry foul when a court calls for neutrality. Or when laws can be ignored when their party is in power.
Whatever their disagreements, the leaders of both the populist and establishment wings of the Republican Party have concluded that they cannot be allowed to lose power simply because a majority of American voters do not wish them to wield it. The president speaks of imprisoning his political rivals, and his voters cheer. He valorizes political violence, and his followers take note. His attorneys argue both that Congress cannot investigate criminality in the executive branch and that the president has the authority to end criminal investigations into himself or his allies, while ordering them against his opponents. Trump’s supporters exult in the head of state attacking private citizens who demand equal rights, then wave the banner of free speech exclusively in defense of expressions of bigotry. In the end, Trump will dictate the course of his party on these matters, and his base will do whatever he gives it license to do.
As the parlor game goes, What If Obama Had Done That? We know the answer. The Right would be demanding his resignation at every turn. They believe the rules don’t apply to them and they’re perfectly willing to look the other way when their side breaks the rules to their advantage.
It’s an entire culture dominated by hypocrisy, not fairness.
Tolerance only matters when Christians stand to lose something. The moment they gain enough power, though, accepting other people’s choices is no longer on the table. Gay people can be denied a marriage license, taxpayer-funded adoption agencies can reject same-sex parents, women can be forced to give birth against their will, etc.
The essay is a powerful summation of why our politics is so broken right now. Democrats and progressives in general are trying to create a level playing field for everyone while conservatives and the Christian Right are doing everything they can to bludgeon the other side while they can. The moment they think the rules are working against them, the rules go out the window.
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