Many conservatives finished the year angry about the same thing they were angry about at the beginning of the year: liberal double standards.
As I write this, GOP House whip Steve Scalise is in hot water over reports that he spoke to a group of racist poltroons in Louisiana twelve years ago. Whether it was an honest mistake, as Scalise plausibly claims, or a sign of something more nefarious, as his detractors hope, remains to be seen.
But one common response on social media is instructive. Countless conservatives want to know: Why the double standard? Barack Obama was friends with a domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers. His spiritual mentor was a vitriolic racist, Jeremiah Wright. One of his administration’s closest advisers and allies is Al Sharpton, a man who has inspired enough racial violence to make a grand dragon’s white sheets turn green with envy.
Meanwhile, the Democratic party venerated the late senator Robert Byrd, a former Klansmen himself. He was one of 19 senators (all Democrats) to sign the Southern Manifesto opposing integration. One of his co-signers was William Fulbright, Bill Clinton’s mentor.
When Republicans are in power, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” When Democrats are in power, dissent is the racist fuming of “angry white men.”
Peaceful, law-abiding tea-party groups who cleaned up after their protests — and got legal permits for them — were signs of nascent fascism lurking in the American soul. Violent, anarchic, and illegal protests by Occupy Wall Street a few years ago or, more recently, in Ferguson, Mo., were proof that a new idealistic generation was renewing its commitment to idealism.
When rich conservatives give money to Republicans, it is a sign that the whole system has been corrupted by fat cats. When it is revealed that liberal billionaires and left-wing super PACs outspent conservative groups in 2014: crickets.
When Republicans invoke God or religious faith as an inspiration for their political views, it’s threatening and creepy. When Democrats do it, it’s a sign they believe in social justice.
One can do this all day long. But while examples are easy, explanations are hard.
I don’t know who first said, “Behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard” (and as far as I can tell, neither does the Internet), but whoever did was onto something.
What looks like inexplicably staggering hypocrisy from the conservative perspective is actually remarkably consistent from the liberal perspective.