A Special False Equivalence Award To Tom Friedman

Dave Johnson

In Sunday’s NY Times Tom Friedman fights hard to keep his ranking at the top of blogger honor lists.

Friedman’s op-ed Down With Everything is a masterpiece of false equivalence. In it, Friedman identifies various problems with our political system while he obscures the primary cause. Reading this op-ed, a reader would never know that there is a corporate&billionaire-funded conservative movement at work, influencing our politics. (For reference, see Sunday’s NY Times story, Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist.)

Friedman writes that “several factors are combining to paralyze our whole system.”

Problem one, “we” are using “senatorial holds now being used to block any appointments by the executive branch.”

Problem two, “we” are “effectively requiring a 60-vote majority to pass any major piece of legislation, rather than 51 votes.”

Next, “our political divisions have become more venomous than ever” and “partisans will soon be demanding that consumer products reflect their politics: “We’re going to have Republican and Democrat toothpaste.” ” Note that these are “our” divisions and “partisans” are to blame.

Then there is the “huge expansion of the federal government.” I don’t think he is talking about the huge increases in military spending, or the huge increase in interest debt since Reagan, or the huge increase in corporate power over all of us. But if he isn’t talking about those, what is he talking about?

And the big one: “the increasing importance of money in politics, have hugely expanded the number of special-interest lobbies and their ability to influence and clog decision-making.” Expanding on this, it is “too many highly focused special-interest lobbies.” And, putting it another way, a “collection of minority special-interest groups is now bigger, more mobilized and richer than ever.”

In Friedman’s world these things just sort of happened. “Partisans” came along and “divisions” occurred. False equivalence: both sides do it. Or, “we” did it.

Do I really need to spell it out? OK. “We are not blocking and filibustering everything. Corporate-funded conservative movement Republicans are. “Our” political divisions are not “more venomous” — just tune in to any corporate/conservative outlet like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or FOX News for ten minutes to identify the source of the problem.

And where does Friedman think the money in politics is coming from? Groups organized to help the poor, the sick, the retired, women, minorities, students, the environment, or almost any other concern of regular people? None of these “interest groups” (in this case: “citizens”) have the kind of power and money that wields influence over government and none of these have been getting their way for a very long time.

But that doesn’t matter, because both sides do it. It just sort of happens. Both sides are the same. So why bother to vote.

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