No Moral Equivalence

There’s a phrase that historians know very well, used by some to describe the Cold War: moral equivalence. What they mean by this is that both the United States and the Soviet Union were equally responsible for the Cold War, and that there was no real difference between them morally.

No difference? How many Stalins have we had? Yes, we have had our own holocaust (it’s called abortion), but in no way can you compare the two systems—a federal republic with fundamental rights protected vs. a totalitarian communism—and say with a straight face that they are morally equivalent.

There are some in our country today who are saying the same thing about the two political parties, that there is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. Both are equally to blame for where we are now. I do agree that Republicans have made some drastic errors in policy: No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug plan, and the bank bailouts come to mind. But when you look at the grassroots of each party, you see the difference.

Just compare the Democrat and Republican party platforms during the presidential campaigns. The true believers—the activists—are the ones who write them, and the contrast couldn’t be greater. The former calls for more government, the latter for less government. The former endorses the abortion holocaust, the latter demands its end. On every policy issue, there are stark differences.

Yet the Republicans have a way of undermining themselves. Take what has happened just this past week.

Sen. Ensign
Sen. Ensign

First, we got the news that Sen. John Ensign of Nevada had an affair with someone who worked for him. That dragged the Republican name through the mud. He resigned a leadership position in the party, as he should have. As a Christian, I believe that people must accept the consequences of their sins, whether Democrat or Republican. Those who want to be leaders must also be examples.

Keep in mind, though, that the other senator from Nevada is Harry Reid, the Majority Leader in the Senate, and the promoter of all kinds of legislation that violates Biblical principles. Who is worse?

SC Gov. Sanford
SC Gov. Sanford

Then the other shoe dropped as we learned that South Carolina governor Mark Sanford had been hiding an affair with an Argentinian woman. This one was bizarre because no one knew where the governor was for a few days. His office said he was out hiking on the Appalachian Trail, only to discover that he had been in Argentina. Not only was his affair an issue, but his absence from office and the possibility that he misused government funds over this. What he did was deplorable, and deserves sanctions. Personally, I believe he ought to resign for the sake of his own spiritual well-being, for his family, and because he has abused the trust handed to him by the voters.

Yes, these are problems. But does anyone remember this man?

Former NY Gov. Spitzer
Former NY Gov. Spitzer

His name is Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, also caught in a sexual scandal. He was a Democrat. He resigned from office over his indiscretions. The difference? He was not treated by the mainstream media the way a Republican is treated in the same circumstances. There is almost a glee that emanates from the media when a Republican is caught. When the culprit is a Democrat, the response is more muted.

There have been other Democratic scandals over the past few years, but they go largely unreported. How many people know that Democratic congressman William Jefferson is on trial for financial misdeeds? How about Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, the one that writes the tax laws. He is under investigation as well. When is the last time you heard about that one? And what of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, whose legislative bullying led to all the low-interest mortgages that touched off our current economic mess? Where are all the stories about them?

A political cartoon from last year makes the point quite well.

Republicans have higher moral standards. When they don’t achieve those standards, they look very bad indeed. But at least they have them, and we know when they have violated them. The Democrats, meanwhile, don’t have a very high bar over which to hurdle. When standards are low to begin with, it’s not hard to achieve them. The key, I guess, is to lower expectations to the point where they are already met.

There is no moral equivalence here. The differences are obvious.