I just think the specific comparison of "Obama is a Muslim" to "Trump was installed by the Russians" is a false equivalency.
The topics are different, the goal is to use an item of moral or ethical importance for a group of people to get them against a political opponent.
and in that sense, they are the same thing.
Obama probably did spend time learning Muslim beliefs. Trump probably did get helped by the Russians and knows it can be linked to him.
Is either thing really that important in the big picture?
It's not just "the topics" that are different, it's their factual accuracy. Which is the whole point. "Probably did spend time learning Muslim beliefs" is like a thousand miles away from "is a Muslim." The right wing wasn't frothing at the mouth because Obama might be more familiar with the tenets of Islam than most Americans, they believed the fifth column had seized power. This remains a false equivalency, and one that becomes even sillier when you try to justify it like that.
Is it "really that important" that Russia interfered in an American election? Uhhh, yes, it is. Would it be "really that important" if Trump or somebody from his campaign actively colluded in the effort? Uhhh, yes, it would be. Are you serious?
phuqueue wrote:I just think the specific comparison of "Obama is a Muslim" to "Trump was installed by the Russians" is a false equivalency.
Well, I dunno. It is reasonably clear that the Russians wanted to install Trump and attempted to influence the election in order to do so. On that count I don't have any issues. Whether the Trump campaign knew about it seems less clear, although it doesn't seem SUPER unlikely given the meetings between various people around Trump and Kislyak, but we don't really know yet afaict. And whether there was any collusion seems yet less clear.
I mean here you're moving the goalposts because the thing that I called a false equivalency is "Trump was installed by the Russians" (which is itself a bit of an exaggeration, but it's fairly well established at this point that he received Russian assistance). I remain agnostic as to whether or not there was actual collusion, and I'm inclined to think Trump's actions to date make more sense if there was no collusion/Trump himself wasn't aware of whatever collusion did take place. That being said, I think collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a far more reasonable inference to make than the conspiracy theories that surrounded Obama, which were based on precisely nothing. I don't believe we should jump to conclusions before we have all the facts but I'd still say even "Trump colluded" is less conspiracy theoryish than "Obama is a Muslim" and so these two positions are not equivalent.
My fear is that Putin is particularly clever and deliberately created the appearance of knowledge/collusion to induce an investigation which would come up at least mostly empty, thereby vindicating and strengthening Trump while simultaneously weakening the media. In this scenario, Trump firing Comey only helps because it makes Trump look worse, strengthening the "liberal media's" collusion narrative which, of course, when the facts come out, make them look like the fake news Trump has been accusing them of being while making the Russia collusion story a baseless conspiracy theory widely believed by the left. Now, in the national narrative, who are the dummies believing in fake news and conspiracy theories? Unfortunately, I think Putin might just be that crafty. Of course, that's just my pet conspiracy theory (I take it an extra level deep, fam (DID I USE THAT RIGHT LOL GOTTA STAY HIP)) and while I don't believe it is true, I do believe it is within the realm of possibility.
Occam's razor, man. I'd also say, even if that's what happened, it's already spiraled beyond Putin's control. At this point the investigation could turn up no collusion and Trump could arguably still go down for obstruction of justice (and he sounds like he might want to add perjury). To say the least, he hasn't acquitted himself well so far and everything he says or does digs himself deeper. Not only that, but the mainstream papers of record like the NYT and WaPo have dutifully reported that no evidence of collusion has come to light, have run op-eds by conservative columnists arguing that Comey's testimony makes collusion less likely, etc. Trumpists who reject the "failing" NYT won't believe that, but they don't trust the mainstream outlets in the first place. It's harder to believe that the media's credibility will be destroyed in the eyes of anybody who trusted the media in the first place. And polls show that as it is, public trust in the media is historically low, so also hard to believe it can go much lower, or that it will matter much if it does.
Above and beyond that, though, an equivalence I see here is that both are attempts to delegitimize the president. People on one side see things they believe are facts and believe one of your statements, and people on the side see things they believe are facts and believe the other. Whether those things are actually facts kind of stops mattering when most people don't bother to find out, and this is, I fear, the new reality: every president from here on out will be illegitimate for some reason or other to 30-40ish% of Americans. Whether their reasons for believing this are actually true don't seem as though they will likely matter much.
I don't think the "attempts to delegitimize" can reasonably be considered "equivalent" if the arguments that underlie them aren't equivalent, except maybe if you believe a president is ipso facto never illegitimate. Otherwise I think you have to look beyond the "attempt" to what the attempt is based on.
I think it's somewhat unfair to make the argument that "every president" will be illegitimate to some large percentage of Americans from here on out, in light of the very unusual circumstances of Trump's presidency. Bush was also elected under a cloud, but the group that regarded him as "illegitimate" in the same respect that birthers regarded Obama or that some on the left now regard Trump (that is, that his taking office was itself fundamentally illegal) was comparatively smaller (and based their complaints on the unusual circumstances of his own election). He got a lot of "not my president!" rhetoric, but it was largely meant as a rejection of his politics ("I didn't vote for him, I don't agree with what he's doing, he doesn't represent me"), it was in most cases not a rejection of the fundamental legitimacy of his presidency, especially after he was decisively reelected. A lot has changed since then, it could be that the left will now reject any Republican president as vociferously and baselessly as the right rejected Obama, but I don't think Trump is an especially reliable data point.
It's also excessively pessimistic to believe that what we're experiencing now will become a permanent state of affairs from now until the end of time. American politics have been more divided and more polarized than this before and recovered. This kind of stuff ebbs and flows. I don't know how long we'll remain this polarized, how many election cycles we'll have to go through like this, but it will eventually get better. And then at some point farther in the future, it'll get worse again, and then it'll get better again.