A rash of false equivalency has hit the political debate since the deadly white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville in mid-August. From Obama administration officials to the abortion lobby to earnest young socialists, commentators on the Left have seemingly made it a deliberate strategy to lump white nationalists and Nazis in with everyone to the right of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Call them the Liberal Lumpers. If they have an aim, beyond simple venting of spleen, it's to delegitimize the entire Right by lumping conservatives in with the white nationalists and other foul creatures of the "Alt-Right."
And it's an especially despicable game the Liberal Lumpers play, because the effect is often the opposite. Whether they mean to or not, they are mainstreaming the racists and extremists by asserting their equivalence to mainstream conservatives.
If you saw young men chanting "Jews Will Not Replace Us," Americans marching with Nazi flags, and a white supremacists murder a woman and try to murder many more with his car, and then thought: "I'll use this to score political points against Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch," you might be a Liberal Lumper.
"‘I condemn White Supremacy, but vote for Trump's agenda' is the new ‘I send thoughts and prayers to the victim, but vote against gun safety'," tweeted Obama White House alumnus-turned-CNN analyst Dan Pfeiffer.
Condemning or mocking those who pray is standard Democratic fare by now, but Pfeiffer took this one a step further. He was saying it is pointless and hypocritical to oppose white supremacy if you also support tax reform, repeal of Obamacare, and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.
The abortion lobby got in this game, too. Linking to an article criticizing pro-life groups for not speaking up about Charlottesville, the twitter account for abortion advocacy group NARAL wrote, "Anti-choice groups & white supremacists have something impt in common: They both want to control women's bodies."
Perhaps pro-lifers should be grateful the abortion folks simply said we "have something impt in common," and didn't say we are the same. But still, it's a little tough to take this criticism when the most prominent leader of the racist rump these days, Richard Spencer, enthusiastically supports abortion as a means of eugenics. In other words, NARAL probably shouldn't be throwing this particular stone.
Most counter-protesters would rationally choose to isolate and marginalize white nationalists -- to point out that even most of the people they disagree with share them as a common enemy. But the "Anti-Fascist" enthusiasts are doing the opposite: They try to explain why everyone they disagree with is in fact a fascist.
"Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand" was the sign waved by the Workers World Party in Durham as vigilante iconoclasts tore down a statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier. That slogan was chanted in Dallas, Boston, Durham, and Charlottesville over the past few days, according to reports.
One day an "Antifa" or Black Lives Matter activist is calling for Robert E. Lee statues to come down, and the next day another is defacing a statue of Saint Joan of Arc. What effect do you think this has on casual observers -- dragging down Joan of Arc or dragging up Lee?
The pinnacle of liberal lumping came last week when CNN ran a feature under the headline "Here are all the active hate groups where you live."
CNN's page relied on the "hate-group" database published by the notorious Southern Poverty Legal Center, a fraud of an organization run by a particularly cynical millionaire liberal. Lumping is the point of the SPLC. They collect lists of Nazis, KKK chapters, and white supremacists like Spencer, pick up this collection of filth, and then smear it all over conservatives they really don't like.
The Family Research Council, a prominent social conservative group in Washington D.C. is on the list for opposing gay marriage and promulgating standard Christian teaching on sexuality. The SPLC's list helped a gunman, Floyd Corkins, find FRC's headquarters. He showed up there well armed with the intention of killing as many staffers as he could. A massacre was averted only because he wasn't very good at it.
Most Americans don't know what "Alt-Right" means. Donald Trump bizarrely and destructively said that "many good people" were marching with the white nationalists in Charlottesville. If you take those two points of confusion, and add in the liberal lumping, you spread the confusion that maybe the Alt-Right is more than just the crowd of racists that it is.
And if CNN's reporters and commentators are telling you that FRC is a hate group and Republican senators are Nazi enablers, any viewer or reader is justified in distrusting CNN's assessments on such matters, and perhaps even wondering whether the genuine hate groups aren't just getting a bad rap. Well, Jake Tapper says its White Supremacists marching, but CNN calls all sorts of conservatives racists -- so how do you know?
Do we want clarity or fog? The Lumpers have made their choice in favor of fog. And if they continue to call the shots on cable news, they'll succeed in expanding support for the fringe.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.