There was one commercial in last Sunday’s Super Bowl that made me cringe heavily, because it was emblematic of a lazy, destructive mindset that has plagued American discourse for a long time.
Though subsequently pulled from YouTube following news of DUI incident last year, Jeep’s platitude-ridden commercial depicts Bruce Springsteen driving through Kansas, discussing the small church that stands at the exact center of the contiguous United States. He uses this landmark as a metaphor for “the middle” of American politics, and he explains that “we need the middle”. He says that “freedom belongs to us all” and is “what connects us”. The commercial ends with the words appearing on the screen, “To the ReUnited States of America."
There is a common notion among Americans that seeking the middle ground is commendable, and I understand that the idea of “unity” gives many people a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I get that Jeep was trying to capitalize on this. What makes me cringe, however, is how lazy this notion is, and how blind many Americans are to the destruction it causes to political discourse.
Treating both sides of every issue as equivalently respectable and reasonable gives off the appearance of objectivity, but in actuality is extremely biased. True objectivity means acknowledging that some debates should not exist.Let’s face it: there are unbridgeable, fundamental differences between the left and the right in this country. The left wants to tackle climate change, an existential crisis. The right has been by-and-large denying the existence of anthropogenic climate change, considering it a hoax. The left wants Medicare for All, so that American can get treated when they are sick without going bankrupt. The right prefers to defend the endless greed of health insurance companies and preserve a system that caused dozens of victims of the 2017 Las Vegas Massacre to turn to GoFundMe for assistance on medical bills, because “freedom” or something. The left has been pushing for tangible freedoms for many years, such as legal marijuana, reproductive rights, and gay marriage. The right has denied these freedoms at every turn, often insisting that “freedom” means being able to use their bible to smack down other peoples’ freedoms.
News anchors and TV pundits often discuss these divisions from a “centrist” perspective, because they believe that remaining centrist somehow shows integrity and neutrality. They try to portray themselves as reasonable, neutral, unbiased purveyors of the truth, and they accomplish this by treating both sides of every issue as equivalently respectable and reasonable. “We have on two guests this evening: A congressman who says that we must rejoin the Paris Climate accord and take meaningful action to combat climate change, and a senator who says that climate change is really just a hoax, because there’s snow outside”.
Treating both sides of every issue as equivalently respectable and reasonable gives off the appearance of objectivity, but in actuality is extremely biased. True objectivity means acknowledging that some debates should not exist. When virtually the entire scientific community has been warning about the dire threat of anthropogenic climate change, there should not be a debate about whether we should take meaningful action and implement a Green New Deal; instead, the debate should concern the specific provisions of the Green New Deal. At this point, politicians who deny anthropogenic climate change should be mocked endlessly for being the villainous clowns that they are, instead of being treated as reasonable, respectable intellectuals who deserve equal air time next to those who are pushing for climate action. By attempting to “remain neutral”, the mainstream media has kept debates raging throughout the country regarding a variety of issues that should be considered undebatable. Centrism and neutrality are not synonymous; choosing “centrist” positions in order to appear “neutral” is a lazy cop-out for learning about an issue and supporting an actual policy position. This tendency has the unfortunate effect of shifting the Overton Window further to the right, when it already has shifted way too far to the right.
Bruce Springsteen’s ad implies that both the left and the right have a responsibility to move toward the center. This is based on two fictitious assumptions: First, that the Democratic Party’s platform is as equally reasonable and respectable as the Republican Party’s platform. Secondly, that America’s “far-left” is as unhinged and deranged as the “far-right”. However, neither of these assumptions is true. The GOP and the right-wing has gone completely off the rails, and this must be acknowledged.
147 Republican lawmakers voted against certifying Biden’s win the evening of January 6th, even after their egregious lies about election fraud had incited a white supremacist coup attempt earlier in the day that left 5 people dead. All 147 of them committed sedition, and yet not a single one of them has yet to face any meaningful consequences, despite Section 3 of the 14th Amendment clearly indicating that they are no longer eligible to serve in Congress. In fact, the only accountability that the Republican Party is interested in is scolding the few members of the party who voted to impeach Trump for his obvious crimes; The Wyoming GOP censured Liz Cheney, and the South Carolina GOP censured Tom Rice. It is clear at this point that the senate will not have the 17 Republican votes necessary to convict Trump, even though the evidence for his incitement of the insurrection is overwhelming.
The new darling of the GOP, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has denied that planes crashed on 9/11, has claimed that Obama is a Muslim, and has claimed that California wildfires were caused by Jewish space lasers. She has supported calls to assassinate the speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi as well as other prominent Democrats. And she, of course, was one of the 147 seditionists on January 6th. Instead of denouncing this lunatic, The GOP has fully embraced her. When she spoke at a closed-door House GOP meeting last week, her Republican colleagues gave her a standing ovation. A new poll found that the favorability rating for Greene among Republican voters is double the favorability rating of Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump.
Sorry, but there is no "seeking the middle ground" with the GOP. It has gone way off the deep end.
Jeep’s ad calls for a “ReUnited States of America”, but there cannot be unity without accountability. Donald Trump needs to be convicted. The 147 Republican lawmakers who tried to light our democracy on fire must be expelled from Congress. If unifying at the middle ground means that we just move on from January 6th as if it never happened, and we stop supporting the progressive policies this country desperately needs, then I have no interest in unity.