There is a saying that I have come to despise, based entirely on its overuse by people on trashy reality television shows who are obviously lying or taking the side of someone who is obviously lying — "There are three sides to every story — yours, mine and the truth." It comes from Robert Evans, the guy who produced Rosemary's Baby and The Godfather, in the documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture.
Usually this is amended to "and somewhere in the middle lies the truth," which would be very wise and reasonable sounding were it not for the simple fact that sometimes people lie. If one person describes events as they occurred, even if it is from their own perspective, and another person is fabricating something entirely out of thin air, the truth is decidedly not "in the middle."
So it is with all "both sides" arguments. People who use them like to think they sound very fair and reasonable and wise, they think it is a way of avoiding conflict and rising above pettiness. But like that "the truth is somewhere in the middle" nonsense, it cannot be applied to all situations.
Sarah Isgur, former Jeff Sessions spokesperson and current staff writer at the Weekly Standard spinoff The Dispatch — not to mention a "political contributor" at ABC — decided yesterday, on the anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, to tweet about how, actually, "both sides" are at fault here, even though "both sides" did not invade the Capitol and smear their urine and feces all over the walls of the building.
Today has been frustrating. We're acting like this was 9/11 and we know who the enemy is. But who is it? What is this fight about? Jan 6 didn't spring spontaneously from the foam of the far right.
No, not spontaneously. It took a lot of effort over a lot of years to get to that point. Decades of conditioning people to believe that it is not just their right but their obligation to overthrow the government if they don't like what the government is doing. Decades of dog whistles, of Southern Strategy, of rightwing talk radio, of conspiracy theories, of "Real Americans" vs "Coastal Elites," of nurturing the parts of those people that were frightened of change, frightened of "the other," frightened of irrelevancy. Then there were all those months of President Donald J. Trump telling people they were going to have an election stolen from them, and a lot of hours that very day of telling them it was happening and that they needed to go and stop it.
It definitely wasn't spontaneous, for sure.
As Americans replaces religion & civic institutions with politics & partisanship, that energy needed somewhere to go. Every election became an existential crisis because we're told that losing means *they* will come for *you.*
It's not a lack of religion that's putting people at loose ends. There is no lack of religion on the Right. And they were very much in evidence on 1/6.
Literally no one is preventing these people from going to church or believing in their religion. No one is stopping them from joining their local rotary club, either.
And the fact is, if Republicans win, they absolutely will come for us. They will come for our reproductive rights, they will come for our ability to vote, they will come for our health care. That is very different than the "they will come for you" rhetoric that is deployed on the Right. It means something different. Because when Republicans say "they will come for you" they are generally not talking about legislative initiatives. They are talking about actual people. They are saying "These people/immigrants/people of color/gay people/trans people/feminists/college students who you are supposed to be better than are going to come for your stuff and destroy your way of life." Also, FEMA camps. They actually think we will put them in FEMA camps.
The Red Queen phenomenon: As one side ratcheted up the crisis rhetoric ("They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic"), the other side responded by ratcheting it up more ("Democrats want to shut your churches down permanently")
Again, literally no one is trying to shut churches down permanently. That's not a thing. The opposition to people physically going to church during a pandemic had absolutely nothing to do with religion and everything to do with not wanting people to gather in groups where they could spread the virus and then go on to spread that virus to other people.
However! Republicans in office are going around passing actual laws that are "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic." In fact, it was Sarah Isgur's actual job to publicly defend many of these laws, including Trump's Muslim ban. As part of this job, she also pushed a narrative that undocumented immigrants were scary "dangerous criminal aliens" when in actuality, they have a far lower crime rate than do American citizens.
In one case, you have people being judged based on their actions and statements and in another, you have people being judged based on some shit someone made up. There is a difference. It is fair for me to judge Sarah Isgur on her statements and her chosen career path; it would be unfair of me to decry her for being a cannibalistic serial killer. See how that works?
The extreme partisans believe this is good vs evil instead of good faith disagreement on the best direction for the country. They used to caricature the other side to score political points---but now they really believe it. And as we've seen, the consequences can be deadly.
Except it can't be a "good faith disagreement" if one side is just making shit up. Did we put children in tunnels under Central Park? That would be evil, if we did it. But we didn't. Making shit up is the opposite of a good faith disagreement.
If anything, many Democrats are positively desperate to believe that Republicans are not all bad. They pine for what they believe were the "reasonable Republicans" of yesteryear, who largely held the same opinions but were less gauche about it. They would be thrilled to be given an out in terms of believing that the January 6 contingent were the exception rather than the rule, but the Right has largely come to the defense of those who invaded the Capitol that day, which makes that a rather difficult thing to do.
Very few people on this website seem to know that a majority of GOP voters support legal status for dreamers and same sex marriage in surveys. Most Dem voters don’t want open borders or to shut down religious practice.
For the most part, people have largely gotten over same-sex marriage upon seeing that absolutely nothing changed for them after Obergefell, that their heterosexual marriages were not suddenly less special and that none of the other things they feared had come to pass. That being said, the majority she is referring to is 51 percent in the most recent poll, up from 47 percent the previous year. As for "legal status for dreamers" (54 percent of Republicans), exactly who does that help if they are voting for people who do not support DACA?
It's very telling that Isgur keeps going to the well of "Not all Democrats want to shut down religious practice and shut down all of the churches permanently," given that exactly no one wants to do either of these things. It's not 51 percent or 54 percent, it's 100 percent who do not want to do that. That would be like me saying "Most people named Sarah don't go around killing puppies," thus implying that there is still some connection between being named Sarah and puppy murder.
What we don't want is for people to be discriminated against or to have our tax money used to promote someone's religion. Much like not wanting people to gather in churches during the height of the COVID pandemic, that is not about having a problem with religion as much as it is very obviously about protecting other people.
If you ask me, this is literally the only thing that Isgur can come up with that could possibly sound reasonable to someone who knows absolutely nothing about the political divide in this country. What is she going to say? "Not all Democrats think everyone should have health care!" or "Not all Democrats think people should make a wage they can live on!" or "Not all Democrats think people should have family leave after giving birth!" That's all true, but it's not going to scare people like insinuating that a healthy portion of us are coming for their novenas.
Even with the open borders thing. Sure, some of us on the Left support open borders. I am one of them. That being said, absolutely no one has proposed any legislation proposing to open up the borders and if anyone ever did, there would be exactly zero chance of that happening. We can't even get stuff that the vast majority of the country wants passed, how on earth would we get open borders?
Jan 6th was awful, violent, tragic, and criminal. The people responsible--the ones who there and the ones that weren't--struck at the core of what this 233-year experiment has been about. But if we want to prevent the next time, we need to broaden our conversation.
But disingenuous "both sides" nonsense, as good as it apparently feels, is not the way to do that.
Wonkette is independent and fully funded by readers like you. Click below to tip us!