False Equivalence and Global Cataclysm

meteor2I realize this poll was meant to be “tongue in cheek,” but it’s a little disheartening that 25% of young people polled prefer a giant meteor to destroy the Earth than to have either Trump or Clinton in the White House. I find this upsetting not because I think this poll will impact the potential for global annihilation by meteor, but because it demonstrates the profound lack of understanding of the candidates, and is a reflection of the impact of promulgating the false equivalence myth.

Since most news outlets and a great many individuals do not wish to be viewed as politically biased, the trend when identifying a negative on one candidate is to mention something about the other that is seemingly related in order to avoid looking like one is being singled out. This has the effect of actually biasing reporting (or general expression of a viewpoint) when situations are not actually analogous or equal. This trend has changed recently within the media, to the detriment of Mr. Trump. His campaign benefited the most by this errant equation; without it, his poll numbers have plummeted.

Getting into comparisons of scandals is far too time-consuming. For the purpose of this campaign, I think policies are more important.  Fiscal and social conservatives will lean toward Trump simply because he is the Republican nominee, just as fiscal and social liberals will tend to default toward Clinton. However, examinations of policies will reveal that Mr. Trump’ are often not fully developed, do not always actually support the expected conservative platform, and are often criticized by independent groups as not accomplishing the stated objectives. Mrs. Clinton’s, on the other hand, align as expected with regard to the normative liberal platform, and in some cases have moved left due to the influence of more progressive candidates (like Bernie Sanders). Because she has had longer and broader experience in government her policy positions tend to be more detailed and nuanced, demonstrating a much deeper understanding of both domestic and global issues and the impacts of recommendations. Objective third parties tend to report that her policy plans are more likely to achieve the expected results. These are broad claims, and certainly there will be exceptions on either side. But, for the most part, only one candidate has sufficiently detailed and nuanced plans that are likely to achieve their stated goals and that align with stated party principles. If you don’t care for those principles then she’s certainly not the candidate for you, but maybe neither is Mr. Trump. (If you are an economic and/or social conservative, Gary Johnson might be someone you should look at.)

Also, only one candidate has actually made it a platform position to violate the constitution, US law, and international law. No, it wasn’t Mrs. Clinton. She does support stricter regulation of firearms, but she has never discussed wholesale confiscation or repeal of the second amendment as has been suggested. In his calls for bars to immigration of specific religious groups and monitoring of specific religions within the US Mr. Trump is threatening a violation of the first amendment right to freedom of religion and 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law. He further threatens freedom of the press by barring news organizations with which he disagreements from accessing his events. He has pushed for pulling shows off the air that he fails portray him in a bad light. He has hinted at jailing political opponents and reinstituting failed law enforcement policies that target minorities (4th and 14th amendments). He has suggested his supporters monitor minority areas to prevent voter fraud, inciting some to prepare to bully voters that do not support trump (14th and 15th amendments). His supporters have advocated the direct repeal of the 19th amendment due to his unpopularity with women. And he has advocated torture of prisoners and murder of families associated with terrorists (18 U.S. Code § 2340A – Torture; 18 U.S. Code § 2441 – War crimes). There are most likely more examples, but these easily come to mind.

From a policy perspective, the two main candidates are unequal. From a perspective of constitutional law, one of the two main candidates is absolutely unconscionable. If you are not a liberal or progressive then Hillary may be too bitter a pill to swallow, but you can certainly vote for Johnson. (While Libertarians do not purport to be socially conservative, their emphasis on a weak federal and strong state governments would have the effect of letting conservative states institute conservative social policies, so the net effect is the same.) If you are a liberal or progressive, Hillary is the best choice of those available. (She is better than Jill Stein as well, in my opinion). The two main candidates are about as unequal in terms of policy, qualifications, and understanding of the rule of law as any two candidates could possibly be. If you think that either choice plunges the nation and the world into ruination of the kind where only death’s cold embrace can bring you peace, then you aren’t paying attention. (Or you need to seek counseling for severe depression. Maybe both…)