The junior senator from Caledonia County has crafted a masterpiece of both-sidesism. Sen. Joe Benning’s essay, “With Work, We Can Heal This Divided America,” blames conservatives and liberals alike for our stark political differences.
Now, these are tough times to be a thoughtful Republican. Joe Benning is one of those. He’s a conservative but not an ideologue, and he brings a defense attorney’s perspective to his work on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But this essay…
Benning acknowledges the intolerance in his own party:
…my party must absolutely divorce itself from those promoting intolerance, conspiracy theories, bigotry and hate. The extremist mentality which led to the unfortunate events of Jan. 6 cannot go unchecked.
A bit understated, but fair. He then indicts the Democrats:
Coordinated extremists shouting down speakers they dislike, physically breaking up rally-goers gathered for a cause they disagree with and randomly destroying property are not petty concerns. They are harbingers of the very same “ends-justifies-the-means” intolerant mindset now infecting extremists on the right.
Plenty of truth there. Intolerance does exist on both sides. But it is far from evenly distributed. The vast majority of the intolerance, hate, and conspiracy thinking is on the right.
The Democratic Party has few, if any, true extremists in their ranks. Those with extreme views are almost entirely fringe actors outside the party. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is under the control of extremists.
It’s extremism to depict Democrats as socialists who hate America. It’s extremism to support Donald Trump after his shameless attempt to throw out the election. Republican leaders freely accept extremists within their ranks. When was the last time you heard a peep from Congressional leaders about the conspiratorial rantings of Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar or Lauren Boebert or Ron Johnson or a few dozen others I could name?
A solid majority of House Republicans voted not to accept Joe Biden’s victory. That’s an extreme and anti-democratic position. Republicans across the country have stopped trying to win free and fair elections; instead, they’re working as hard as they can to block people from voting. Plenty have even admitted that that’s what they’re doing.
Remember House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s refusal to give a straight answer about QAnon? Remember Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell say he’d have no trouble backing Donald Trump for president in 2024, only days after excoriating the ex-president for his efforts to stage a coup?
Meanwhile, on the left, are there any equally fringey Democrats in Congress? Some conservatives would cite the likes of AOC and Ilhan Omar, I suppose. But they are committed to working within the political system. They aren’t trying to overthrow the government or undermine democracy. There’s no comparison between AOC and MJT aside from the triple initials.
Yes, there have been protesters who committed vandalism and even the occasional act of violence. But the vast majority are peaceful. The left’s extremists are small in number compared to the extremists on the right.
The Democratic Party shouldn’t be expected to answer for those people. They have no connection with the party. Indeed, they see both major parties as essentially interchangeable; they see the political system as rigged by the power brokers on both sides, and in need of radical disruption. The Democratic Party doesn’t speak for them, and has no influence over them.
Each side has some work to do, but they’re not in the same league. The Republicans have far, far more work to do than the Democrats.