Two Arguments Against ‘But Republicans did it too!”
The Party, obviously Democrats since Republicans in this regime are irrelevent, has a growing image problem. It has promised to “drain the swamp” (Nancy Pelosi) and “change” the way Washington does politics (Barack Obama). Tired of the overspending, earmarks, and overall vicissitude of the Republican Party in the last years, it was a message that resonated with voters. They believed The Party and granted them both Congress and the Presidency. Since then, they have squandered that promise, corrupted the system, and made it worse than before. Yet, The Party continues to use a moral relavitist argument to sidestep their worries. They claim ‘the Republicans did it too,’ more of a tautological argument than a pragmatic one, but it has held so far. However, since the blush is off the rose, it is time to hold their feet to the fire. Here are two arguments I believe cut through the equine feces and get to the basic dilemma.
1. Republicans held power in Congress for twelve years and between sex scandals and bribery convictions, they proved unworthy of holding power. Anything The Party has done so far isn’t nearly as bad.
First of all, this is a specious argument. You can’t argue your tax-dodging Secretary of the Treasury and Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee are simple blips on the radar screen. However, even given that, if the Republicans were so bad, and so evil, and you promised to do better, why is it that the scandals, like the Hit Parade, keep coming. Not as corrupt, wasn’t the promise. The promise was to make Washington a transparent, clear, democratic process that was open and honest without brokering, special deals and bribery. Obama promised the most ethical administration ever, and gives us political payoffs and open access to union special interests. Even given the argument the Republicans were terrible, The Party has proven unable to fulfill its promise. Therefore, it is not a fair argument to blame the next generation of prospective Republicans for the sins of their elders. The Party promised clean, they gave us muck. Time to send them home. Regardless of how bad others may have been, it doesn’t excuse your bad behavior in the least.
2. The Party is only reacting to political realities. That’s the way Washington works and they are only working to improve the system. To get things passed in Congress and made to work in the executive, deals must be made. When they made those promises, it was more political then real. But, they are making it better.
This argument fails on two fundamental levels. First, even if it is only political puffery that was used, it makes The Party look dubious at best. Let’s concede it is a necessary evil, then why is it wrong for Republicans to be pragmatic but noble for The Party? Why do you point to previous Republican ethical scandals as evidence of their malfeasance when you concede it is a necessary evil. You cannot have it both ways. Either it is wrong for both, or wrong for neither. If it isn’t wrong for The Party to do it now, it certainly wasn’t wrong for the Republicans to have done it in the past.
The second fundamental problem is, what is being done to make it better? You cannot have the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback, the Gator Aid, and other such schemes used to pass legislation and call it the sweeping up process. You cannot have only people from The Party in on closed door policy meetings and call the process improved. You cannot call up the politically inexpedient, offer them jobs to clear the field and call it an open democratic process. You cannot smear your opponents with grandstanding astroturf and political theater and call it a fair exchange of ideas. What is the plan to drain the swamp? Where are the pipes? Where are the drainage ditches? Where is the glass bubble we can stand and watch these policy meetings? Where is the honesty when the president won’t answer questions? There is no process.
Don’t lecture us on political clean hands when your own hands are filthy. Go, wash them, and come back. Otherwise, stop making moral relavistic arguments that don’t explain away your own dirt.