Political irony: the similarities of opposing political extremes


Want to know what the “gay-rights” movement and the enforcement-only immigration crowd have in common?  Then read on.

Photo credit: AJ Alfieri-Crispin

A number of news stories in recent weeks have highlighted ironic positions taken by groups across the political spectrum on various issues. I will highlight some of these stories here to illustrate what I call “do as I say but not as I do” politics.

The intolerant preachers of “tolerance”

On June 2, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll asking Americans whether they would be “more likely” or “less likely” to vote for a presidential candidate who is Mormon or whether the candidate’s affiliation with Mormonism “wouldn’t matter” to them. Poll participants were told to disregard the current candidates running for president and to express their general feelings about supporting a candidate who has the “trait” of being Mormon.

While one might expect religious groups that traditionally oppose Mormon beliefs to be unlikely to vote for a Mormon candidate, only 34 percent of “white evangelicals,” and just 23 percent of Republicans, said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon, whereas 41 percent of “liberal Democrats” opposed the idea. Note that poll participants expressed these opinions without being told what political views these hypothetical candidates might have.

And these poll results were not a fluke. A Gallup poll published last week found that 27 percent of Democrats were unwilling to support “a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a Mormon” while 19 percent of independents and 18 percent of Republicans were unwilling.

These results are curious given that liberals often preach the virtues of “tolerance” for all people and label those who disagree with them as “intolerant”; and yet, a large proportion of them refuse to vote for a presidential candidate simply because he or she is a Latter-day Saint, even though an LDS candidate could share their liberal political views. Given that Democrat U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is Mormon, liberals should know that the views of Mormons are not uniformly conservative.

The intolerance of some liberals seems to contradict their oft-professed belief in being tolerant and unprejudiced. Of course, some conservatives and people of other political persuasions also use blanket judgments to rule out candidates with traits they might not prefer, but these people don’t preach tolerance, at least not the brand of tolerance liberals promote.

In a separate story, the Associated Press recently reported that “gay-rights” activists are increasingly embracing the role of an intolerant, “relentless bully” toward those who have honest disagreements with all or parts of their political agenda. Having gained some political traction and momentum, these activists who decry “anti-gay bigotry” and portray themselves as victims of intolerance now refuse to offer “tolerance,” as they define it, to people whose religious, political, or other beliefs conflict with their own.

Evidently, the liberal definition of “tolerance” doesn’t extend to groups – even minorities – with whom they disagree. For them, it seems that “tolerance” equates to “tolerance for us but intolerance for them.” Such a view of “tolerance” is actually a subjective principle void of meaning which can be used to advance one’s political agenda as well as mask, justify and embrace one’s own intolerance toward his or her political opponents.

What part of “amnesty” don’t you understand?

You might remember “The List.” It included names (mostly Hispanic), birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and even some Social Security numbers and medical information of people in a state-government welfare database (having applied for benefits either for themselves or their children). Two state employees illegally compiled and released “The List” believing the people on it to be illegal immigrants. In reality, many people on “The List” were legal residents and several were about to gain citizenship legally. Both of these state employees recently accepted plea deals for their crimes allowing them to avoid jail time in favor of probation, a fine and community service.

A reasonable, thinking person might expect those who preach the importance of the “rule of law” (as they define it) in illegal immigration debates to support the punishment of these two lawbreakers. One might even expect them to praise the legal outcome as the “rule of law” in action.

Instead, some “rule of law” advocates opposed this legal action. For instance, the president of the Utah Minuteman Project – one of the most vocal members of the state’s “rule of law” chorus that opposes “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants – called these state employees “patriot whistleblowers” and lamented that they were prosecuted at all. That’s right, one of the ringleaders of the anti-amnesty crowd wanted amnesty for those who supported their cause using illegal means. A group of supporters for these lawbreakers even paid for their criminal fines.

Evidently, for the enforcement-only crowd, the “rule of law” is not necessarily about following and enforcing the law but about using or abusing the law to further their political goals. In other words, in the minds of these individuals, the authentic meaning of the rule of law – that we are a nation governed by laws, inasmuch as those laws are both just and reasonable – becomes the arbitrary rule of men. Ironically, the Utah Minutemen are defending and supporting the very thing our country’s original minutemen struggled and died fighting against.

The greatest irony of these news stories is that liberals and the enforcement-only immigration crowd – from opposite ends of the political spectrum – have both managed to morph foundational ideas of a free society (tolerance and the rule of law) into political buzzwords and catchphrases to serve their own political interests.

Their muddying of the meaning of basic principles of freedom in the public mind is a precursor to a diminished, if not meaningless, definition of freedom in society. Furthermore, if elected leaders become beholden to such irrational, ideological extremes in order to remain in office, then our liberty will face significant danger.

This is what the “gay-rights” and enforcement-only movements have in common, and it is why authentic, freedom-loving conservatives in Utah should vigorously oppose them.