Scott Tibbs

Defending opponents and criticizing allies

By Scott Tibbs, January 28, 2022

One of the worst things about our politics is the "all or nothing" mentality, and that has led to a great deal of confusion about what people actually believe. There are two common errors that spring from this: Defending someone on a specific thing does not mean support for that person generally, and criticizing someone for a specific thing does not mean opposition to that person generally.

The second one ought to be obvious to everyone with the smallest bit of common sense, but sadly it is not. Anyone who has children knows that you can deeply love a child while disapproving of his behavior. But somehow this does not translate to politics, and it has gotten much worse since 2015. There have been many times I have disagreed with various elected officials or political candidates, some of whom are personal friends. That disagreement obviously does not mean I am suddenly opposed to that person generally. But criticism or disagreement is too often seen as a sign of disloyalty or even betrayal.

Do I really need to say it? This is what a cult looks like.

The same applies in reverse. I have defended Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats and many other Leftists at both the national level and the local level. This does not mean I support any of them or would vote for them. I have also defended specific Republicans I generally do not support. But far too often, a specific, targeted defense of someone who I believe is being unfairly or falsely attacked means that I must suddenly support that person. We cannot ever defend those we disagree with, or we will be a supporter of that person. But what this really means is that we cannot think for ourselves.

Look, all of this needs to stop. People should be allowed to think for themselves without having sweeping assumptions made about them. Politics has often been described as "warfare by other means," but Republicans and Democrats are not opposing armies literally shooting at each other on the battlefield. (And please spare me examples of political violence. That is the exception that proves the rule.) We are people who are fighting in the marketplace of ideas, in elections, and in legislatures. If we can never be critical of our own side or defend the other side, we are street gangs fighting over turf instead of people who are serious about policy.

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