Barney: The Left and The Right are Not Two Sides of the Same Coin


Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sebastian Barney, Opinion Writer


The range of political ideology in the United States is partially constrained to a left versus right dogma. We’ve seen this play out year after year, election cycle after election cycle, where we always have to hand political power over to another Democrat or Republican.

This is all types of problematic, but it’s how American politics operate.

In Tennessee on April 6, three Democratic lawmakers faced expulsion from their legislature due to their participation in a peaceful protest. Meanwhile, Republican politicians received next to no punishment for much worse acts.

Aside from the blatant erosion of democratic institutions and the invitation of fascism, Tennessee shows the reality of politics in the states. Politics on the left versus the right get treated unevenly. Pretending that the two are two sides of the same coin is an unacceptable and soft position — which welcomes failure and violence into our communities and politics.

Gun reform activists held a simple protest in Tennessee. A bunch of children and their parents protested at a state capitol on a normal day. They did not force themselves in, nor did they instigate any violence. Yet, the right-wing politicians in charge of the Tennessee legislature felt that the political dissent amounted to an insurrection led by representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. They thought the act so egregious it warranted the expulsion of the two Black lawmakers.

This is a clear double standard. On Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump and right-wing fascists attempted insurrection at the U.S. capitol. This wasn’t some conspiracy peddled by ANTIFA or the left, but an attempt to undermine our democratic institutions using a violent mob during a joint session of Congress. The insurrection received little punishment for those in power who helped perpetuate the act.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar got ousted from her position on the foreign affairs committee in February because the right-wing deemed her outspoken support of Palestine antisemitic. Democratic lawmakers quickly pointed out their hypocrisy — since the Republican party allows Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to sit on the committee while she spews anti-Jewish rhetoric and maintains relationships with known white supremacists.

The media is also guilty of this double standard. Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson makes this obvious. Her support of sensible gun legislation, universal health care, free or reduced cost post-secondary education and other standing points are oftentimes dwarfed by a gross and fictitious misrepresentation of her ideals. CNN and other outlets peddle her position as radical, despite her saying nothing extraordinary.

Even in Utah, Republican lawmakers call the left crazy and corrupt, only to turn around and ban healthcare and defend corruption from the right. Politicians spout critiques of cancel culture while they simultaneously try to make it easier for them to shut down dissent.

A clear double standard exists between the left and the right in this country. We can’t pretend the issue doesn’t exist. The examples don’t exist in a vacuum, we need to pay attention to policy.

The left advocates for food as a human right, education even if you’re poor and treating trans people as people. The right advocates for the eradication of “transgenderism” from public life, banning books and failing to concede elections.

Many people like to stay out of politics out of frustration because everyone is “just as bad” as everyone else. That’s far from the truth — it’s important that people learn just how much damage they’re doing by clinging to ideologies because of stubbornness, short-sightedness or some kind of allegiance. It’s not fair to place the left and the right on the same playing field, because they’re not two sides of the same coin.

The consequences of ignoring this reality cause a consistent shift toward actual radicalization. As we continue to compromise with the ideology of right-wing radicals, we allow reality to slip from public policy. Media outlets such as CNN or MSNBC getting equated with the radical left is a false narrative. Indulging this idea means constraining acceptable politics to the right.

There isn’t an easy solution. The left has come to expect low standards from the right. When a Republican says “all lives matter in response to the basic acknowledgement of Black lives, we already expect it. It’s as if our minds are numb to the grim reality that justice isn’t real.

The way I’ve described the situation makes it sound hopeless, but it isn’t. We simply can’t allow ourselves to fall complacent to the double standard. We need to call it out.

As of now, Gov. Spencer Cox and other Utah Republicans have failed to condemn the fascistic actions of the Tennessee legislature. As leaders, it’s their duty to stand up to injustice, even if it isn’t in their own backyard. More than likely, they won’t. They benefit from the system, so they have no incentive, but it doesn’t change the fact that they should.

It can’t just be the left that calls out the double standard. American politics isn’t a binary, despite what we’ve been conditioned to believe. The issue is, calling out one side means choosing sides. Staying a centrist and pretending that we live in a horseshoe chooses a side as well. As the saying goes: silence is violence.

Pretending like the American left and right are the same is an untenable position. Election season is coming up and if we really want change, we need to concede these facts — continuously yielding to the radicality of Republicans and pretending that their position is valid will only lead to fascism.


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