On Broken Political Parties

One of the hot political terms in 2016 amongst those of us who fancy ourselves in the political know was the phrase “false equivalence.”  I think there’s been a bit of a tendency in large swaths of the general punditry to engage in a fairly enormous false equivalency about the state of American politics even a year and change after the 2016 election came to its close.  Both traditional conservatives and progressives seem to argue that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are broken political entities.

Those on the left combine absolutely warranted (though vastly out of proportion) criticisms of the Democratic National Committee based on its performance during the 2016 election with resentment at the result of the primary process to argue that the Democratic Party as a whole is completely broken.  Those on the traditional Republican right happily co-opt these criticisms in what is little more than an effort to smear the stench of decay emanating from their own party onto something else.  Anything else.

The fact is that one party is an imperfect, often frustrating, but largely functional political coalition that advocates reasonably well for the policies on which its competing interest groups are able to agree, and that the other is utterly and completely broken.

The latest evidence:  Joe Arpaio is running for Senate as a Republican.

Several weeks ago, the Republican National Committee began funneling money back into the special election campaign of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a credibly accused sexual predator.  Only a handful of Republican Senators expressed concern about the accusations and only two – Jeff Flake and Richard Shelby – publicly called for Republicans to vote for someone else.  Even before Roy Moore was accused of sexual assault and all manner of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, he was a bigot who believed homosexuality should be illegal and that muslims should be banned from public service and was removed from the bench twice for failing to perform his duties.  Those who expressed concern only did so after he was accused of sexual predation.  The rest was tolerable even to that few.

Moore lost narrowly, but only after a former White House chief strategist and the President himself endorsed him, fully aware of the allegations.  The strategist, a vocal proponent of toxic nationalism and racism and the head of a publication known for its abhorrent headlines and support for radical “alt-right” ideologues.  The President, a credibly accused sexual predator himself.

Against Moore, Democrats ran a former prosecutor, well-known for his prosecution of the Birmingham Church bombers.

When news broke that Michigan Democrat John Conyers was well-known by staff to be a serial harasser and had settled at least one claim with taxpayer money, he was forced to resign by his caucus and constituents.

When news broke that Texas Republican Blake Farenthold was well-known by staff to be a serial harasser and had settled at least one claim with taxpayer money, House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Michigan Democrat John Conyers to resign.  Farenthold is still seated.

Joe Arpaio was an openly racist, brutally cruel, and (quite literally) sadistic sheriff for twenty years in Maricopa County and the greater Phoenix area of Arizona.  He was convicted of criminal contempt of court for failing to adhere to a federal court order related to his rampant racial profiling before being pardoned by a president whose campaign is actively being investigated for its illegal ties to foreign powers (four members of that campaign have already been indicted for crimes – one of whom was appointed as National Security Advisor when the president took office).

He is now – apparently – running for Senate in Arizona.  It’s very possible he will end up competing for the Republican nomination with Kelli Ward (who gleefully called for McCain to resign following his cancer diagnosis).

Democrats are running Kyrsten Sinema, a perfectly normal two-term U.S. Representative for Arizona’s Ninth District.

It becomes harder with every passing day to place our two political parties on equal ground.  I generally find myself far to the left of the Democratic Party as a whole and far less doctrinaire than those on the far left.  It’s an infuriating institution that often takes five steps back in order to take one step forward.  Its performance is sometimes mediocre and its choices are often puzzling.  The DNC itself has reorganizing to do but the party is a much larger thing  It’s a functional political coalition that advocates for and struggles to balance the needs of its constituents.

It's opposition is utterly broken.