Revisiting the simplistic "all or nothing" mentality

By Scott Tibbs, May 23, 2019

One of the worst things about politics is the simplistic "all or nothing" mentality that says "you are either 100% on my side or you are evil." This has become more prominent with Donald Trump as the Republican Party's leader, but goes back farther than that. I have criticized that mentality among Republicans several times, and the purpose of this post is to point out that some Democrats are just as bad.

Obviously, I fully understand that Trump is a deeply flawed man, especially in his personal life. Even as a political leader, he is far too sensitive and thin-skinned, with the urge to use the political flamethrower against anyone who criticizes him without any sense of proportion. In some ways, watching Trump act this way is like looking in the mirror, which is not a good reflection of me. Anyway, I committed to supporting Trump when he is right, and opposing when he is wrong. I have done that.

I have never said that Trump is the only hope for this nation. While he has been good on policy, and his combative style can be a refreshing change of pace after years of too many Republicans not fighting back, it would be best to have someone else as the Republican nominee for President in 2020. Realistically, that is not going to happen, but it would be ideal if Trump would step aside and allow someone else to lead the party. But I do not live in a perfect world. I live in the world as it exists now, not as I wish it was.

This brings me to the next election. Like it or not, 2020 will be a binary choice between Trump and whoever the Democrats nominate - and all of the Democratic candidates for President are terrible. As far as I am concerned, the choice for a conservative between four more years of Trump and the destructive policies and poisonous identity politics that Democrats are championing is obvious. With that said, do not judge Republicans who cannot vote for Donald Trump on principle. I may disagree, but they have legitimate reasons for making the choice they made.

A corollary to the "all or nothing" mentality around Trump is the fallacy of composition. I frequently have bad Republicans thrown at me, lumping me in with them. But one bad Republican (or 100 bad Republicans) does not damn 62.9 million people who voted for Trump or the thousands of Republican elected officials around the country. "Nut-picking" is a fundamentally dishonest argument, and one that can damn both parties.

Evil serial killer John Wayne Gacy was a Democratic Party activist before his crimes were discovered, and even had his picture taken with the First Lady when Jimmy Carter was President. There are plenty of politicians and activists who are corrupt or outright criminals. Will always find bad people in both parties, but that does not mean all Republicans or Democrats are bad.

So when I disagree with or even outright oppose specific Republicans, and I am charged with "hypocrisy," I have a simple question: What would you have me do? Am I supposed to vote for the Democrats, who I disagree with 95% of the time? That is not going to happen. Should I vote for the Libertarian candidates who never have a chance to win? I have voted Libertarian in the past and probably will do so again, but that is not the right choice for most races, especially when there is a qualified Republican candidate.

As I said, I live in the world as it is, not as I wish it was. Politics is always a compromise, and every candidate who has ever ran for office is flawed in some ways. The question is not whether we can vote for a flawed candidate, but what flaws are disqualifying and what the harm would be if the opposing candidate is elected instead. In other words, we have to be adults, not simple-minded children.

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