6 Pleasant Surprises About Political Myths You Had All Wrong
What all of us want out of politics is the one thing it will never give us: simplicity. We want to go to the polls and know that we're on the light side of the Force and are voting against the Sith, who are easily identifiable by their frustratingly ignorant bumper stickers. The real world is never that neat, which is why most of us agree that reality is an asshole.
So when we set out to debunk political myths, we're not going to just flip the coin ("Democrats are the REAL racists! Republicans are the REAL big spenders!"), because that would be making the same damned mistake in the other direction. We're simply going to point out that even the most straightforward political truths you've always heard aren't nearly as simple as people would like you to believe.
Myth: Universal Health Care Is A Liberal Democrat Invention
It was the biggest, ugliest political fight in recent memory. In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. And as might be expected, not a single, solitary Republican senator voted in favor of it.
Not even sick old Senator Illheart.
This, we were told, was the culmination of a decades-long battle over universal health care between Left and Right. Making a government-backed health care program available to all Americans has long been a wet-dream of the Democratic party going back to President Johnson, who signed Medicare into law in 1965. Republicans, meanwhile, have kicked and screamed the entire way, insisting that a "socialized" health care system would transform us into a nation of commies -- or worse, Canadians.
It's true that the Affordable Care Act will undoubtedly go down as the biggest part of President Obama's legacy (especially since we call it "Obamacare"), barring a spontaneous war against China in the next year. But he can't exactly be credited with coming up with all that original of an idea. Especially when it's a much more watered down version of the plan floated by the very Republican Richard Freaking Nixon.
Ah, yes. Ol' "Tricky Doc" Nixon.
That's right, Nixon proposed a universal health care plan to Congress way back when the American Dream was to recover from the decade-long acid trip that had been the 1960s. And he did it not once, but twice: in 1971 and again in 1974. Like the Affordable Care Act, Nixon's Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (or CHIP) was intended to extend affordable health insurance coverage to every last American via a harmonious combination of employee-based coverage, assisted coverage, and expanded Medicare.
In fact, Nixon's second proposal was met with enthusiasm in the Senate ... until a little thing known as Watergate obliterated any chance of "Nixoncare" entering the national lexicon.
Plus, everyone forgets Nixon's plan to turn Watergate into affordable housing.
Not that the Republicans owned the idea. Even before Nixon came along, Democrat Harry Truman tried and failed to get universal healthcare passed. Republican Dwight Eisenhower then pushed for tax breaks to get insurance companies to cover poor people, and for employers to cover their workers.
Thirty years after Nixon's failed proposals, Republican and future presidential candidate Mitt Romney enacted what amounted to Nixon's plan in his home state of Massachusetts. Romney believed his ... wait for it ... Romneycare program was "essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need."
"Even if 47 percent of them can kiss my ass."
Again, the point here isn't to argue that government-funded healthcare is good or bad -- feel free to debate that among yourselves -- only that it's not some socialist pipe dream that represents the end of a long battle with Republicans. Presidents from both parties have been trying to get something like Obamacare done for seven decades.
Myth: Republicans Love War, Democrats Are All About Peace
Most of our readers spent their formative years with George W. Bush giddily plunging the US into one war after another, while the older members have vivid memories of Ronald Reagan threatening to push the button on Armageddon in every speech. Meanwhile, things were fairly peaceful during the Clinton and Carter years.
"You may criticize my tactics, but I got us through the Cola Wars."
The picture that paints is clear: If there's one thing Republicans love more than their guns, it's using said guns to enforce truth, justice, and the American way abroad. Democrats, on the other hand, are all about gun control and diplomacy and pacifism, which is a fancy word used to indicate that they're too dainty to do freedom's dirty work. Hell, President Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize back in 2009, before they'd even got the new name painted on the White House mailbox.
This might be the ultimate example of "Judge by what they do, not what they say in stump speeches." Republicans love to talk tough on foreign policy, and Democrats love to smear Republicans as warmongers. But when you examine what occurs during their administrations, you get quite a different picture.
World War I? That happened under the watch of Woodrow Wilson (Democrat). Speaking of World Wars, the States entered the second one under Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) and ended it under Harry Truman (also a Democrat), who ordered the use of a goddamned experimental doomsday device.
To be fair, by the second bomb, it was no longer experimental.
And speaking of Harry Truman, the Korean War kicked off with what he described as a "police action." Vietnam? While the situation there began to fester under Dwight Eisenhower (Republican), it was the resources dumped into the war by JFK (Democrat) and Lyndon Johnson (Democrat too) which transformed it into the shitstorm that has generated several hundred very depressing movies in the decades since. Nixon (Republican), of all people, gets credit for ending American involvement in Vietnam in 1973.
And as for our most recent example, some have described President Obama as "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades." That's because he poured troops into Afghanistan, overthrew a Libyan dictator without Congress's approval, conducted covert operations in Yemen and Somalia, and sends out more killer drones on an average day than Skynet. On the one hand, he reduced Al Qaeda's leadership to a smoking puddle. On the other, he was the first president to greenlight the assassination of a U.S. citizen for his ties to terrorism, without a trial or due process. But in neither hand will you find a peace-loving hippie.
"In deference to the Nobel committee, I will try to bomb no more than seven countries."
"But," you might rebut, "Obama ended the Iraq war that Bush started!" Nope -- Obama loves to tout his "ending" of the war, but the troops came home on a timetable signed by Bush just before he left office. All Obama did was keep that plan in place. And when it comes to spending money, lavishing cash on the Pentagon is one thing both parties agree on -- Bush's last defense budget was $626 billion, which was spent while fighting two wars. Four years later, Obama poured $700 billion into the military, despite the wars having supposedly wound down by then. That's because no matter who is in office, the budget rhetoric sounds remarkably the same: Asking the military to even make minor cuts around the margins means we might as well let Al Qaeda fly their flag over the White House now.
And while we're on the subject of wildly spending tax dollars ...
Myth: Democrats Are Big Spenders, Republicans Cut
This is supposed to be what lies at the heart of America's two-party system. Republicans want smaller government, while Democrats want more of it. Fortunately, there's an easy way to attach a number to this one: Just look at their budgets.
"Can't I get a summary?"
"That is the summary."
And sure enough, with a current federal debt exceeding $18 motherfucking trillion, it's clear who's been in charge recently. As every potential Republican presidential nominee will gladly tell you, it's only getting steadily worse, because President Obama is the biggest spender since the invention of the god-trusting dollar. Want to cut spending and get this deficit under control? Vote Republican!
This is hard to talk about without putting everyone to sleep via the anesthetic of long numbers, so let's start with a colorful chart. Wait, no, let's start with a GIF of a runaway golf cart plowing through a crowd:
It's a metaphor for, oh, everything.
Heh. Okay, now the chart. The bar graph below was created using numbers from the US Dept of Commerce. The bars represent how high the budget deficit got that year (higher = bad), and the color represents the party of the President (red = Republican, blue = Democrat). What you see are budget deficits exploding under Reagan and Bush, dropping to nothing under Clinton, exploding again under Bush II, and then dropping (albeit from sky-high levels) under Obama:
Now, before you start angrily sending us your own (much more complicated) graphs in response, we'll say right now that there are thousands of external factors at play here. Clinton didn't have to fight an expensive war, and the cost-cutting Republicans controlled Congress for much of his run. The second Bush's jaw-dropping spending at the end of his term was an effort to bail out the economy after everything went to shit in 2008. It's likely a Democrat would have done the exact same in his position.
But that's the point -- you can twist and turn the numbers all you want, and the one trend you'll never come up with is, "Democrats = debt spenders, Republicans = thrifty cost cutters." And it turns out that Obama's spending increases have been (at worst) pretty much flat or (at best) the lowest since Clinton's first term and the second-lowest since Eisenhower's.
But if you want spending decreases, vote for John Fuckthishit from the Tear It All Down party.
To give credit where credit is due, part of the accolades (or blame, depending upon whom you ask) for that goes to another Republican-controlled Congress, which has pushed against Obama-backed programs at every possible opportunity. But no matter how you cut it, the claim that Obama's spending has risen "slower than at any time in nearly 60 years" is mostly true, which is about as true as anything gets in the realm of politics.
Break it down to the state level. While "red" states tout the need for a smaller federal government, they're also more likely to receive government revenue than blue states. In 2010, for example, Massachusetts got 82 cents for every dollar it chucked into the national pool, while Alaska got $1.64. This correlation continues across the board, with the states more likely to support Republican candidates also being more likely to slurp from the federal milkshake.
Ironically, that even includes America's dairy farmers.
Why? Because the reality is that voters of every political stripe depend on government cash for one thing or another -- those Tea Party rallies were full of older Americans who need Medicare and Social Security to survive (70 percent of them oppose any cuts to those programs). Voters say they want smaller government, and Republican voters will only vote for politicians who talk a lot about cutting it. But those same voters will kick said politicians out of office the moment they can't afford groceries or arthritis medicine. "I wanted you to cut government, not my health care!"
Now let's shift to a less controversial subject: racism.
Myth: Affirmative Action Is All About Helping Racial Minorities Over White People
Affirmative action was legislated to help African Americans and others of ethnic descent get into college or break into the workforce way back in 1965, otherwise known as a scant year after the federal government slapped the states on the wrist and said, "No, you really can't require black people to drink water from a different fountain, because seriously, what the fuck?"
"Take it down, South Carolina. Unless you're dispensing rainbow water, because that would be awesome."
Obviously, race equality has come a long goddamned way since the mid-'60s. And as such, many Americans feel that affirmative action isn't needed anymore. Not only does the idea that African Americans need the government's help to land a job amount to racism of a different flavor, but these policies are now actively hurting white Americans. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Abigail Fisher, whose case became national news when she was rejected from the University of Texas in 2008 in favor of 47 minority students with weaker GPAs, lower test scores, and fewer extracurricular activities, all thanks to the college's affirmative action policies.
White people have benefited more from affirmative action than African Americans. Specifically, white women.
Don't take it from us -- those are the numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor. It's estimated that six million women are in "higher occupational classifications today than they would have been without affirmative action policies." And that's great! But that's also not what people think of when they think of affirmative action. Among white critics, it's come purely to mean "a less-competent black guy took my job thanks to reverse racism!" It's not that blacks and Latinos haven't benefited from affirmative action, by the way. They have -- but not nearly as much. Most of the gains have gone to white women -- and by extension, to white families.
"Mine in particular."
How did that happen? Two factors brought about this widely unexpected boon to white ladies. The original affirmative action measures were amended by President Johnson in 1967 to ensure equal educational and employment opportunities based on sex. And as we've previously discussed, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensured equal rights for women thanks to Howard W. Smith, a dickish Virginia congressman who tossed sex into the mix in a failed attempt to tank the act's passage.
So how come affirmative action didn't help Abigail Fisher, a white woman? Well, when you examine her records, it turns out that Fisher was most likely denied admission due to the oldest reason in the book: She just plain wasn't qualified. And of those 47 students who got accepted to UT ahead of her, an overwhelming 42 of them were white. If math was not your strongest subject in high school (in which case, you may face a Fisher-eque struggle getting admitted to UT), that leaves only five students of either Latino or African American descent.
Wow, look at all those minorities dominating the student body.
By the way, the congressman who accidentally helped women while trying to tank the legislation intended to help minorities? Democrat. Which brings us to ...
Myth: Republicans Are Racists, Democrats Are Colorblind
This one is easy. Blacks vote Democrat by a ratio of 12-1 over Republicans. Hispanics lean to the left by a 2-1 margin. And anybody paying attention to the presidential races right now can see why. Democrats are meeting with Black Lives Matter activists, while Republicans call them a hate group. Meanwhile, Donald Trump made headlines with his opinion on Mexican immigration: "... They're sending people that have lots of problems ... they're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
"Yeah, but does anyone buy that this guy is really a Republican?"
That's right: He played the "good people" card. And is it a coincidence that the most reliably Republican region in America is the Deep South -- aka the old Confederacy?
On the whole, polls show that Democrats have a more favorable view of minorities and programs intended to help them ... because a lot of said Democrats are minorities. But when you limit the poll to white people, well ...
Respondents would like to limit everything to white people.
First, let's get some historical perspective here. Lincoln, after all, was a Republican. If anything, the Democrats were more racist in the century since -- when the aforementioned Civil Rights Act of 1964 went to vote, more Republicans than Democrats voted in favor of it in both the House and the Senate. This is considered a tipping point, when lots of racist Democrats -- particularly in the South -- switched parties and Republicans in turn switched their rhetoric to appeal to them. The South has been Republican ever since.
Therefore, Democrats of today are like the anti-Trump to the Republicans' real Trump, right? Let's answer that with a graph which, again, only shows white voters:
That's a comparison of the racial attitudes of white Republicans versus white Democrats, and where you'd expect a massive gulf, you instead see those two colors are happily strolling along right beside one another. More Republicans are openly negative in their views, but only slightly more. Despite the picture painted by the popular media, evidence reveals no major difference in the levels of intolerance between white members of the two parties.
The positive is that attitudes among both groups have gotten less hateful over the last 20 years, until there was a bump in the wrong direction after 2008. This is the year Obama was elected and certain (old, white) people decided there was something they didn't like about the guy.
"It's a sad day when we turn the White House over to a shifty, no-good Chicagoan."
And speaking of old white people ...
Myth: People Become More Conservative As They Age
As the famous Winston Churchill quote goes, "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." It's a phenomenon that we've all seen in action. Look at your grandpa -- the more he ages, the more he develops an unhealthy obsession with who happens to be on his lawn at any given time, and the more conservative his political ideals become.
"Taxing the rich to give teens rolling papers no longer seems such a great idea."
The elderly were the only demographic group that went for John McCain in 2008. The median age of a Fox News viewer is 68. It's the way the human brain ages. We all get old and cranky and start fearing blacks and gays.
First of all, Winston Churchill never said that shit.
"Don't quote me boy, cuz I ain't said shit." -- Winston Churchill, 1931
Second of all, the easy mistake is to assume that all of those old and cranky voters ranting about gays and minorities used to be open-minded progressives in their youth. That's not the case. They are simply from a time in which those were the prevailing attitudes. Society has gotten more tolerant over time (see the racism line graph above), and old folks are a little slower to come along on some issues. But they do come along.
A study was done which looked at polls performed over the course of 30 years, on everything from gay rights to gender equality to racial segregation. What it found was that society's movement toward tolerance wasn't due to bitter old people dying and getting replaced by shiny new liberals. The attitude changes moved in the same direction within groups as they aged. If you like graphs, here's one on weed legalization. Focus on the puke green line at the very bottom:
That's the oldest of the old people. See how they are always at the bottom in terms of support, but are also almost always edging up? The stereotype from the supposed Churchill quote would suggest the opposite -- that former pot-smoking hippies grow up and come to their senses (or if you prefer, become bitter and forget what it's like to be free). Here's a graph showing support for gay marriage. Again, the oldsters are the line at the bottom:
Exact same result. Their support for the issue has doubled in the last 15 years. They just lag behind because they were starting from the lowest point, because they grew up in an era in which a gay marriage was considered a sign of witchcraft. If anything, your perception of old people as angry Neanderthals shows how much the world has changed. Some day, kids may see you the same way.
There's probably all sorts of untrue nonsense floating around in that brain of yours. We're willing to bet a lot of you think artificial sweeteners will pretty much shut your body down. But not so fast. See why that isn't true in 6 Ridiculous Myths You Believe About Stuff You Use Every Day. Or maybe you think Amish people shun technology. Nah. Just read 5 Myths You Probably Believe About Major Religions and get educated.
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