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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Myth takes

by Brenda Looper | May 4, 2022 at 4:19 a.m.
Brenda Looper

When I was in grade school, our library had a copy of illustrated Greek myths that I kept checked out for the better part of a school year simply because I loved the stories. I often think of that book when I see memes on Facebook using artworks of one of the 12 labors of Hercules--slaying the Nemean Lion--labeled something along the lines of "Hercules trying to give his cat a pill."

Which could just as well be me trying to apply ointment to the irritated skin around Charlie's eye (dang pollen). When my furry one was alive, his regular vet almost always gave me liquid medication because pilling that freakishly strong boy was a nonstarter not just with me, but the vet techs. Thank the good lord I haven't had to do much on the medication front with Charlie; I'm badly out of practice.

The myths I deal with on a daily basis aren't as entertaining as those Greek myths. They're political myths, but not on the level of Manifest Destiny ("the idea," according to History.com, "that the United States is destined--by God, its advocates believed--to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent"), or even of Parson Weems' apocryphal tale of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Let's take a look at a couple; you might see why I'm an independent.

• All conservatives are racist misogynists, and all liberals are snowflakes who want to corrupt and indoctrinate your children and abolish the police. I've talked before about the dangers of overly broad generalizations, and both parties have the tendency to do just that. Victoria Parker wrote in The Atlantic in December that the research she and three colleagues conducted found that people were more likely to correctly characterize the other side's stance on standard policy issues, but not culture-war issues, showing "a false polarization in which one side excoriates the other for views that it largely does not hold."

Rather than believing that a local candidate believes something based on the party with which they affiliate. why not try doing actual research? You probably have more in common with them than you think. To take it a little further, I wouldn't be averse to the idea of not putting parties on the ballot at all to force voters to be more diligent in vetting of candidates.

I know. As Charlie says when I call him back in after outside time, I'm mean.

• Republicans and Democrats haven't changed positions over the years. Another version of this claims that the left has shifted far to the left over recent years, but the center and the right have remained stable. To the contrary, Pew Research notes in a study of Congress that "both parties have moved further away from the ideological center since the early 1970s. Democrats on average have become somewhat more liberal, while Republicans on average have become much more conservative."

So, there's been a shift on both sides, with a larger one on the right. Further, the middle, "where moderate-to-liberal Republicans could sometimes find common ground with moderate-to-conservative Democrats on contentious issues, has vanished," since 2002 in the House and 2004 in the Senate. The fringes on both sides are loud, but less powerful. If their numbers increase, though, more tumult than laws will be made.

But the lie goes back much further, with people claiming that the parties haven't changed since they were formed, which would pretty much be an impossibility. During the Civil War, Republicans tended to be from the North, and Democrats from the South. Today it's the opposite (with the addition of the heartland for Republicans and the coasts for Democrats). PolitiFact talked to Carole Emberton, an associate professor of history at the University of Buffalo. "Although the names stayed the same," she said, "the platforms of the two parties reversed each other in the mid-20th century, due in large part to the white 'Dixiecrats' flight out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

By the time the act became law, it was the Democratic Party, Emberton said, that supported so-called liberal causes that "had been the banner of the Republican Party."

But sure, keep saying the parties are the same ones formed by Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln in the 1800s. Heck, the Republican Party of today is not even the same one it was in 2012.

As you read this, I'll probably be back at home tapping away on my computer, if not on my way in to the office for a few hours. Charlie's mom Sarah has by now returned home, and I've had to bid adieu to that sweet little cat (don't worry, I'll be visiting a lot; Sarah may get sick of me).

I've really enjoyed my time with Charlie, and I'll miss his excited eck-ecks whenever Kevin and Bill show up. But the past month also made it very clear to me that while I love pet-sitting, I'm still not ready for another furry one or three. Hopefully I will be sometime in the near future. Those head bumps are the best.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.


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