We’ve all heard it. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all said it. “He did it too,” or “She started it.” As any adult would know, this is a child’s argument. This argument is one we are very keen on rooting out of our children by telling them, “So what? Two wrongs don’t make a right.” It is very interesting to see and hear people tell children that argument is inappropriate, but we are completely comfortable with full-grown adults making those types of arguments. The leaders of our country are full-grown adults, making decisions that will impact the world, our country, and individuals like you and me. Yet the type of debates they have are the same type of fights that six-year-old’s have on the playground. “Well, the Republicans did it first.” Or “Well, the Democrats did it too.”
Let’s talk about the most recent example. Sexual assault allegations against politicians. Governor Cuomo in New York has been accused of multiple sexual assault allegations and when Democrats are challenged with why they do not cast Governor Cuomo out, one of the responses I saw was “Wow, the Republicans never cared about this when Trump did it.” My response is, “So what? It’s still wrong!” We have to give credit where credit is due; the majority of the Democratic leadership has condemned Cuomo and said he should step down, yet there are prominent leaders who have not. But my point in this article is not to count how many people have or have not asked Cuomo to step down but rather we cannot use the bad behavior of the opposing party as justification or as a defense for bad behavior in your own party. In the instance of Governor Cuomo, Democrats should have the humility to respond to the allegations by saying, "You know what? You're right. Governor Cuomo should resign.”
Now, before everyone thinks that I am just going to bash on Democrats in this article, let’s talk about Republicans a little bit. Back when Trump made the decision for the zero-tolerance policy in immigration, this led to thousands of families being separated. Children as young as four months old, torn from their parents arms. The common excuse from the Republicans was that the Democrats and Obama did it too. So what? I didn’t know the line for moral choices is based on what Obama did. What magical wand did Obama have to wave around and make locking up children in cages justified? What about Obama's terrible decision justified Trump locking up children in cages? Trump’s decision to lock up children and separate families was still wrong regardless of who did it too!
The question I want to ask both parties is, does the bad behavior of your opponent all of a sudden make your behavior good? What magical transformation happens that moves the moral lines of society by saying he did it too, or she started it? Your behavior and conduct does not become better or worse depending on what someone else is doing or saying. Let me put it this way, bad behavior is still bad behavior and it’s still not justified by what your opponent is doing. In case anyone is trying to think of loopholes, wrong is still wrong even if someone else is doing wrong. My favorite way of putting it is, “Oh, so just because your friends are doing it too, you would jump off a cliff?” (Quote belongs to my mom and everyone else’s mom.)
Imagine being in court for murder and then saying that you are justified or that you should not be found guilty or that there should be no consequences for what you did just because the Zodiac Killer murdered too. Who in their right mind would sit in that courtroom and say, “You know what? Joey here makes a great point.” Yet we do it every single day. For example, we go in and talk about the deficit. Republicans justify their additions to the deficit by pointing out what Democrats add to the deficit. Democrats justify their bad decisions with “Republicans did it too,” and it’s a never ending cycle. So what is the consequence?
The consequence is that problems don’t get fixed, and we blow holes in our moral code instead of repairing our morality. Imagine, had Trump been cast out of the Republican party for the sexual harassment allegations, Democrats would have faced an even bigger pressure to kick out Governor Cuomo from office. Now, one might say, well now, sexual allegations can be the new impeachment. But that’s not the point of my article. One can defend themselves from sexual harassment allegations, but this finger pointing as to what the other side is doing as a justification for your own behavior has to stop. If it doesn’t stop, problems in our country will never be fixed, the behavior of politicians will never change, and we will remain in the same rut that we are stuck in right now, because we do not have the courage to address our own problems from within our own party.
Many of us fear that admitting wrongdoing by our political party, or politician, will be a sign of weakness and open ourselves to attack. Dumbledore once said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” That is what proves honor. That is what proves that you are a party worthy of a people’s trust and confidence. Yet I admit that I am guilty of this mistake because I am not perfect. I need to improve. We are all guilty of it, and we all need to improve. If you are wondering why you should listen to me even though I am imperfect, then listen to scripture, which teaches that you should still do the right thing even if a hypocrite told you to do the right thing. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” So there you have it, just because a hypocrite told you so, doesn't mean they are wrong.
When we admit that our own party is at fault, it creates a powerful moment for change. It is strength not weakness. Admitting that you were wrong or that your party is wrong, or that the politician leading your party is wrong, makes you strong. Admitting faults gives you power to influence that politician, that party, or other people. Why? Because, as you admit that there is a problem, that there is something wrong, it sends a signal to others that this is not okay. But if you do the opposite, if you justify someone else’s bad behavior by stating that your opponent does it too, it sends the signal to the wrong-doers that you really don’t care that there is bad behavior and that they got away with it. This creates the result that politicians don’t care about their behavior impacting you. Justifying bad behavior creates the swamp. That is what creates slimy politicians. So please, admit when your party is wrong and demand change within your own party. It’s up to you as a Republican or a Democrat to hold your politician accountable because, in the end, civility begins with you and me.
About the Author: Mosiah Olvera was born in Mexico City and raised in Texas. He currently lives in Oklahoma with his wife and two kids. He holds a bachelor’s in Political Science from Brigham Young University–Idaho and is currently pursuing a law degree at the University of Tulsa. Mosiah is bilingual and a football and soccer fan. He’s passionate about helping others through the use of law and government, and he considers himself to be a conservative (but may be too moderate for today’s Republican Party). Overall, he works hard to understand both conservative and liberal views. Mosiah thinks himself fortunate to have experienced the American Dream, mainly by having achieved success despite growing up in humble circumstances.