Northeast Times

Should Dems adopt ‘Santorum’ strategy?

In this week's River­ward Rant, colum­nist Joe Quigley, looks at the of­ten sim­pli­fied, 'black & white' is­sues in polit­ics, when all too of­ten, there is a gray area that is over­looked.

In the March 21 edi­tion of the In­quirer, au­thor John Zi­m­mer­man — a lib­er­al — praised Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial hope­ful Rick San­tor­um for speak­ing in “simple, mor­al­ist­ic lan­guage.”

That’s simply be­cause San­tor­um doesn’t dwell on too many gray areas and likes to sep­ar­ate is­sues in­to two cat­egor­ies: Good and Evil.

Gay mar­riage? Evil.

Pro-choice? Evil.

Sec­u­lar? Su­per evil!

San­tor­um and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans have been us­ing “good and evil” lines a lot in the last few years. And to good ef­fect, at least polit­ic­ally, since a good chunk of the Re­pub­lic­an base buys in­to mor­al­ist­ic grand­stand­ing and is more loy­al be­cause of it.

Zi­m­mer­man thinks lib­er­als should ad­opt the same lan­guage, fram­ing ideas on key is­sues like health care and in­come in­equal­ity as either in­her­ently good or bad.

Oh boy, I really hope that doesn’t hap­pen.

Now, let me start by say­ing, I don’t care which way you lean polit­ic­ally. I hope we all can agree that this as­sault on crit­ic­al think­ing should stop as soon as pos­sible.

When voters ig­nore the gray areas of key is­sues, we end up with un­real­ist­ic fringe idi­ots in charge.

I mean, it’s like we already have diehard Glenn Beck lov­ers look­ing for com­mun­ists at the post of­fice.

Be­cause of di­vis­ive speech like this, we have evan­gel­ic­al Chris­ti­ans and angry Cath­ol­ics swear­ing that our gov­ern­ment is go­ing to swoop in and take their Bibles.

These people make lo­gic­al dis­course im­possible.

You can’t have a dis­cus­sion about a con­tra­cep­tion man­date when the guy you’re talk­ing to thinks Pres­id­ent Barack Obama was in­volved as a hi­jack­er on Septem­ber 11.

The “good and evil” ar­gu­ments with­in the Re­pub­lic­an party le­git­im­ized this non­sense. This coun­try already has enough non­sense for the left wing to en­gage in the same buf­foon­ery on a large scale.

Yes, as Zi­m­mer­man men­tions in his art­icle, the Amer­ic­an left wing did in­deed em­ploy sim­il­ar rhet­or­ic and ac­com­plished a lot be­cause of it.

At one time, the Amer­ic­an so­cial­ist move­ment had an al­most re­li­gious fer­vor. Eu­gene Debs, of the In­dus­tri­al Work­ers of the World, spoke like a preach­er. I mean, even Up­ton Sin­clair lit­er­ally equated so­cial­ism with the works of Je­sus Christ in the fi­nal pages of his nov­el The Jungle.

But very few is­sues can be lumped in­to a “good” or “evil” cat­egory.

Off the top of my head: slavery, Ad­olf Hitler, Joseph Stal­in, and the My Lai Mas­sacre were all evil.

Gay mar­riage and the private health-care in­dustry are not.

Mi­chael Moore, at the end of his film Cap­it­al­ism: A Love Story, calls cap­it­al­ism it­self “an evil.”

He makes a con­vin­cing case.

Ex­cept that he’s wrong.

Big busi­ness isn’t in­her­ently good or evil. What we should re­cog­nize, though, is that there are pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive ef­fects to everything. Big busi­ness can cre­ate vast amounts of wealth, which is pos­it­ive.

But it can also send your job to China, which is neg­at­ive.

When we vote to im­ple­ment a cer­tain idea or sup­port a cer­tain cause, we need to be able to bal­ance the pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive. You can’t do that if you think your opin­ion al­ways has the mor­al high ground.

If you start be­liev­ing that the op­pos­ing side is evil or bad or some­how anti-Amer­ic­an, you’re prob­ably not go­ing to have a de­cent ar­gu­ment. (But you may find your­self in a pres­id­en­tial primary.)

It’s called nu­ance, folks.

A siz­able part of the Re­pub­lic­an base has already for­got­ten it. And as evid­enced by some knuckle­head mem­bers of the Oc­cupy Wall Street crowd, a great num­ber of left-wing­ers have for­got­ten it as well.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, large crowds who have been whipped in­to a frenzy aren’t go­ing to have a very lo­gic­al ar­gu­ment. They usu­ally just turn in­to mobs shout­ing slo­gans.

A lib­er­al mob and a con­ser­vat­ive mob aren’t go­ing to thought­fully re­cog­nize the pos­it­ive sides of their op­pos­i­tion’s ideas.

In­stead they’ll just start yelling at each oth­er.

We don’t need Demo­crats em­ploy­ing the same lin­guist­ic dra­mat­ics that the Rick San­tor­ums of the coun­try like to use.

Sure, us­ing such rhet­or­ic can be really awe­some if you just want to get more people on your side, but for the coun­try as a whole, it’s not a bright idea.

In­stead, crit­ic­al think­ing is, well, a good thing. ••

 ldquo;River­ward Rants” re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­bor.com, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river­wards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com.

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