The Problem with “Just as Bad” (or How to visit the sins of one side on everybody)

“The democrats are just as bad.”

We’ve all heard it. We all hear it. Every now and then we hear it like this (“The republicans are just as bad”) but somehow not as much lately.

Maybe that’s because the Democrats are not just as bad, because no matter how bad a driver you are, you will never be as bad a driver from the passenger side as you will under the steering wheel.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I know

The Democrats hold the White House and had big-assed majorities in the House and the Senate. Surely they were driving the car then?

Yeah, with the GOP’s foot on the brake and consulting a road map written by the GOP circa 1996.

Not since The DLC and it’s golden boy Bill Clinton started us down this road called interstate “the third way” has the base of the DP been driving a goddamn thing, except the DNC leadership crazy with its constant whining about silly shit like eroding worker rights, stagnant to falling wages, disappearing benefits, mounting personal debt and stupid stuff like that.

Whatever is a neo-liberal to do?

Anyway, back at the ranch…

the “Just as bad” trope has been around a long time and was usually reserved for 7 year olds who had just eaten a jar of cookies or 13 year olds caught wearing lipstick without permission.

It would show up among grown ups from time to time, but then that grown up would lose his grown up card and get sent to the guestroom to sit on gramma’s cedar chest and have a good long think about what he had done.

Then came our favorite school year (2007-2008) and the shit hit the fan. Apparently the the market wasn’t the best at doing a whole lot of shit and it was worst at actually handling other people’s money.

The priests of Market Fundamentalism had to field questions about what went wrong and that’s when you start hearing the “We didn’t see this coming, but neither did the other economists.” (actually there were plenty of other economists who did see this coming, but why let something like the truth stand between you and a good excuse.)

Pretty soon everybody, regardless of the topic, began their excuses with “the other guy is just bad.” Just as Bad became a bigger catch phrase than “Where’s the beef?”

What made it so catchy?

It does two things. two magical things.

It decreases blame on the offending party AND INCREASES blame on someone else.


Say you and your co-worker lose 100% of a client’s money. You lost 80% and your co-worker lost 20%. “Just as bad” makes the liability 50-50, making your liability decrease by 37.5% and makes you co-worker’s liability increase by 150%!

Who wouldn’t like that, huh?

This is why the GOP are more apt to use this excuse. Their ideas (if not their numbers) have held political power in this country since the Reagan Revolution. Those ideas hold the majority of blame for our current woes and if that ever got out…

Lord, ha’mercy! ‘Cuz the citizenry won’t.


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