Document The Atrocities

Today’s stupid fake equivalency comes from Cokie Roberts on ABC’S This Week (video). The exchange that follows comes from 3:36 before the end:

“Krugman: This is not just about McCain and what he did. The fact of the matter is, for a long time we have had a substantial fraction of the Republican base that just does not regard the idea of Democrats governing as legitimate. Remember the Clinton years. It was craziness, right? They were murderers, they were drug smugglers, and the imminent prospect of what looks like a big Democratic victory would drive a lot of these people crazy even if Sarah Palin wasn’t saying these inflammatory things. It’s going to be very ugly after the election.

Roberts: On both sides that’s true. I think that you’ve also had a huge number of Democrats who think that the Republicans are illegitimate, and that was particularly true after the 2000 election, and to some degree after 2004. And so you really do have at the core of each party people who are not ready to accept the verdict of the election.

Krugman: I reject the equivalence.”

I do too, on two counts. First, there is no analogy between 1992 and 2000. In 1992, there was no question that Bill Clinton won the election. He had 370 electoral votes to Bush’s 168. He got 5.6% more of the popular vote than Bush. It was not close.

In 2000, by contrast, Gore won the popular vote, and the electoral vote turned on Florida, whose results in turn were decided by the Supreme Court. And the decision in Bush v. Gore was very hard to explain as a principled decision: justices in the majority not only abandoned long-held positions on federalism, but announced that their decision should not be cited as a precedent in future cases. I really do not want to re-argue the 2000 election. But I think that the idea that there’s some sort of equivalence between doubting the fairness of the 2000 and 1992 elections is absurd.

Second, while a lot of Democrats had deep concerns about the outcome of Bush v. Gore, the overwhelming majority of us accepted that the courts had the right to adjudicate questions of law. As a result, most of us accepted the idea that whether or not George W. Bush had actually won the election in straightforward common-sense terms, he was entitled under the law to be our President.

Or, in short: we had a lot more reason to regard George W. Bush as illegitimate than the Republicans had to regard Clinton as illegitimate. Despite that fact, most of us accepted the fact that, like it or not, he was our President. We did not go around claiming that he had killed one of his closest associates, or was a drug smuggler, or hung crack pipes from his Christmas tree.

There is no equivalency here. None at all.

Maybe next week I’ll take on the (cough) challenging task of explaining why there is no equivalence between saying that Clinton was a murderer and saying that George W. Bush is a war criminal. Hint: it’s the same reason there would be no equivalence between saying that Bush held up a convenience store and saying that Clinton was unfaithful to his wife.

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