By George Coyoy
For as long as I can remember I was force fed the notion that Republicans are racists-sexists-bigots-homophobic-Islamophobic-right-wing Christian fundamentalists who hate the poor and believe the earth is flat. I was told Republicans are science denying, unsophisticated mouth breathers who think that rock ’n’ roll and the hippity-hop are the devil’s music and that women who use birth control are harlots. They also believe those harlots shouldn’t even be out of the kitchen to begin with, so if you’re a woman reading this get back in there! To be a Republican or, even worse, a conservative Republican, was the social kiss of death. It was unimaginable that any reasonably intelligent and moral person would fit such a description. Or, at least, that’s what the culture surrounding me claimed. You can imagine my surprise when I finally did my own research into politics and found that all of this was pure, raw, uncut nonsense.
I’m a millennial who grew up a half hour outside of New York City, liberal HQ. As such I was highly influenced by MTV, Comedy Central, and other bastions of left-wing intellectual thought. Though I was never particularly interested in politics, looking back I was a default liberal like most others who grew up the way I did. This is to say that what I gathered from school, entertainment, and media in general was that the liberals were the good guys and the conservatives were the bad guys. Republicans were the big, bad, racist wolves looking to blow down my house of freedom. Conservatives were the big, bad, racist wolves looking to blow down my house of freedom while smacking me in the face with a bible. In short, I found myself viewing the political landscape through a Manichaean lens despite not knowing a single thing about politics.
Eventually I made the decision that I was going to get informed. Politics had infused everything surrounding me and I had the sense that there were lies being thrown at me from every direction. The outright lies surrounding the tragic Trayvon Martin case, among others over the preceding years, had sent me into a fury and made me determined that I would learn about politics. I decided that I would learn “both sides” as best I could, that I would hear them out without cynicism and with an open mind, eager to learn so that I could come as close to knowing the truth as humanly possible.
I began, I learned, and I was shocked to find out that all of my previously held assumptions were based on lies. No, Republicans weren’t racists who hate the poor and don’t believe in global warming. Not even close. The positions held by the conservatives I listened to were extremely nuanced and, surprisingly, strongly supported by history, evidence, and reason. But why would so many people lie about these arguments? Did they simply not understand the nuance in the arguments or were they purposely misrepresenting them in order to gain a political edge? I didn’t understand why this was the case, or why it should be the case and so many people seemed to simply not care. For whatever reason, I thought others would be genuinely interested in fair, honest debate about complex issues in a civil manner. In short, I didn’t understand politics.
As this grand narrative began to unravel, so did many other little ones. No, the world isn’t going to be overcome by a flood in five years if we don’t all start driving electric cars by yesterday. No, the war on drugs isn’t a racist conspiracy cooked up by white politicians for the purpose of oppressing young black men. No, the gender pay gap isn’t due to some evil white heterosexual Christian men seeking to dominate women. My first exposure to the conservative counter-arguments left me in a state of shock. Why had I never heard these positions before? Why have these arguments always been misrepresented? And how in the world is Thomas Sowell not a household name? This was all very confusing to me, but onward I marched.
The more I understood, the more cynical I became about politics. I’m not a cynical person in general, and I generally can’t stand those who are, but there are few areas as full of willfully obtuse or ignorant people as the world of politics. Given the unique ability of politics to enflame the soul, it only follows that opportunists ready to fan those flames rise to the top. Perhaps they’re carried there by all the smoke they’ve created.
Hence the forthcoming “Big Lie” series. Given my experience in seeing these big lies dismantled, I look forward to dismantling them for all of you. This will not be a series where I act as a special pleader for the Republican party or conservatives. This will be a space where I debunk some of the popular myths told about right-leaning people in general, be they Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, etc., for the purpose of bringing more clarity to your mind and the public conversation. To be sure, the pathetic inability of most Republicans and conservatives to effectively communicate their positions is partly to blame for The Big Lie. I won’t pull my punches here – the “right” generally sucks at this, whether it be writing, story telling, or speaking with anything resembling charisma. This is largely due to both cowardice and a glaring lack of talent, but that’s a conversation for another day. This is simply an attempt to communicate these ideas in a more effective manner, hopefully persuading many in the process and having clear disagreements with those who still buy into The Big Lie.