It’s Saturday, which is supposed to be the day I bask in the joy of all the awesome things I’ve read over the past week. But the Roy Moore scandal happened, and the sound of a thousand conservative voices defending Roy Moore have pissed me off, so here we are.
But I don’t really want to talk about Roy Moore. I want to talk about Erick Erickson, or more broadly, the bizarre persecution complex that so many conservatives seem to have.
(Before I launch into my screed, by the way, I want to acknowledge a couple of things. First, although there are a lot of conservatives–particularly in Alabama–either arguing that the 34 witnesses in the Washington Post story are lying or proclaiming that, hey, child molestation isn’t that bad, many conservatives are also insisting the Moore leave the race: I think John McCain was the first, but there have been others. Secondly, I haven’t checked the Weekly Standard, but the National Review has pretty consistently been on the side of morality and human decency. And Erickson’s own site has also argued that Moore’s behavior with teenagers is unacceptable. So consider this your #NotAllRepublicans caveat.)
The article I really want to talk about is Erickson’s “I Don’t Blame Roy Moore Voters For Sticking With Him.” The very title of this article simply infuriates me. Even if I sympathized with Erickson’s persecution complex, this would be an absolutely ridiculous stance. Feeling left out of the national zeitgeist is not an excuse for defending child molestation! It just isn’t, full stop. The two things are not parallel.
Further, how badly treated can he and his fellow conservatives really be? They hold both houses of Congress. They hold the Presidency, insofar as Trump has any grasp on a political philosophy. They hold 34 of 50 governorships (about to go down to 32, yes, when the new governors of New Jersey and Virginia take office, but that is still a pretty hefty advantage). And they control 32 of 50 state legislatures. And they have plenty of control over media outlets: Fox News and Breitbart are the best known, but the notoriously conservative Sinclair Broadcasting controls 173 local stations in almost 80 markets, and this number is due to go up to 233 soon. So just looking at the raw numbers, it’s difficult to take this claim seriously.
But let’s examine Erickson’s argument a little more closely. Here is Erickson’s evidence: a “militant atheist” committed a shooting in Texas. Now I’m not sure if he is holding all progressives everywhere responsible for this shooting, but the shooter seems not to have been motivated by an animus toward religion but rather by a dispute with his ex-wife’s family. Also, he seems to have had long-standing mental issues. But I’m going to assume that Erickson wasn’t using this single incident in a small town as an example of how conservatives in general are mistreated by progressives, because I think he’s surely smarter than that. Erickson also claims people on social media said that the congregants “got what they deserved.” Really, Mr. Erickson? I follow approximately seventeen million people on Twitter, and most of them are progressives, and I never saw anything remotely like that. And when I Googled “Texas church shooting deserved it,” the first entry was an article from a reporter at the Dallas News expressing chagrin for the way the media had descended on the town, and none of the other search results had anything to do with the victims deserving it. Did someone somewhere say something stupid? There are more than 300 million people in the United States, so probably. But it certainly wasn’t a general sentiment. Most of the commentary I saw was horror at how many children were involved. Erickson also says something news stories about “chainsaws attached to machine guns,” which I admit I never saw and don’t understand. Googling that got me a bunch of how-to videos on YouTube that I have no desire to explore. Moving on.
The next claim is that “a Muslim ran over a bunch of people in New York” (true, although I don’t think he was a progressive) while “Democrats were patting themselves on the back for showing Trump voters running over muslim [sic] kids on television.” Again I did not comprehend what Erickson was talking about so I turned to Google. (Nota bene, Mr Erickson: linking to your examples makes it much easier to follow your argument.) This time the first four entries were to Erickson’s own site and his Twitter account, but I did finally hit pay dirt: this was a Latino Victory Fund ad attacking the Republican candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie. Important point: it was not run by “Democrats”; it was run by an independent progressive group, who was forced to take it down after a backlash from pretty much everyone, including the Washington Post, which I’m sure Erickson considers a liberal rag. It is difficult to see this ad as part of a mainstream trend since the ad barely survived a weekend. Certainly I don’t think Erickson’s claim that “Democrats patted themselves on the back” for it holds up.
Let us not forget, by the way, that Gillespie himself ran ads attempting to tie his Democratic opponent to MS-13 and child pornography. If I were Erick Erickson I would use these ads to claim that the right is “out to get” the progressives in the country and it is therefore justifiable for me to defend child molestation. (I’m sorry, I’m still not following the steps of that argument very well. Also it’s not clear why I would want the right to defend child molestation. I am happy to say I am solidly against child molestation.) I’m not Erick Erickson, so I will just chalk it up to Ed Gillespie trying to win an election.
Next: Erickson brings up the CBS lawyer who made fun of the victims in Las Vegas. At last! A story prominent enough that I remember it and do not need to Google! That happened. That was horrible. Everyone I knew thought it was horrible. Which is why the woman was summarily fired. Again, there are more than 300 million people in this country. You cannot hold the progressive movement as a whole responsible for every gross, awful thing that someone says on Twitter. You seem like a smart man, Mr. Erickson. Do you want me to hold you responsible for everything Sean Hannity says? I bet you don’t. While we’re on the subject, Sean Hannity has spent the last several days essentially calling Roy Moore’s victims liars. Guess what? Unlike the CBS lawyer, Sean Hannity still has his high-paying job. (Oh, and to Erickson’s point about a national media “complicit” with progressives? Where did I learn about that CBS lawyer? Oh, yeah, the national media. Whereas all the anchors on Fox News tend to stare at their shoes and mumble when, for instance, the president’s former campaign manager is charged with conspiracy against the United States. I’m just saying.)
Erickson’s list goes on and on: it’s not fair that gay people are suing bakers and florists. It’s not fair that trans people have the audacity to live in the world. It’s not fair that the left wants to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches. (Erickson’s assumption that all religious organizations are his particular stripe of conservatism is interesting. I belong to a synagogue full of liberals, and it would also lose its tax-exempt status. Lots of churches are also progressive.) None of these things are aimed at conservatives! That is to say, gay people, trans people, progressives in general do not wake up in the morning and think, “How can I screw over the Religious Right today?” Making room for people who are not cis or heterosexual or white or Christian to fully exist in the world may be inconvenient, but it is not an attack. It’s not about Christian conservatives at all.
Here’s what Erickson concludes from all this: “I don’t blame the Roy Moore voters for thinking people are out to get them because people really are out to get them.” I do not think that conclusion follows from the evidence. Some isolated apparent liberals said some dumb things on social media, true. Guess what? There are some conservatives who say some really dumb, offensive things on social media. It’s not reasonable to assume that outliers represent an entire movement on either the left or the right.
But more importantly, progressive policies are not weapons aimed at conservative Christianity. Gay people don’t want the right to adopt children or get married because they are “out to get” Erickson and his friends; they want these rights because they want to be acknowledged as full members of society. Similarly, people who argue for gun control aren’t trying to take your toys away just to be mean; they are legitimately concerned about violence in society. They aren’t pretending; this isn’t some anti-Christian-conservative agenda. This is true of every issue that progressives care about: we (like you, I assume, Mr. Erickson) want the country to be the best country it can be. We may disagree with you on how to achieve that goal. But we don’t hate you and we aren’t trying to hurt you. It’s just that Christian conservatives aren’t the center of the world, and they aren’t the only people in the country whose needs have to be accommodated, no matter how much you want to believe that they are. That’s not an attack. That’s just a fact.
And no, Mr. Erickson, since apparently it must be said, facing disagreement, no matter how vigorous, does not entitle Roy Moore voters to defend child molestation.