North Texas Daily

The art of the convenient scapegoat in politics

The art of the convenient scapegoat in politics

April 21
00:44 2016

Harrison Long | Opinion Editor


What has been unfortunate to witness in recent months as the election cycle has unfolded is the prevalence of one particular practice: scapegoating.

A Biblical concept, a scapegoat was originally an animal (see: goat) that had the sins of a village placed upon it before a priest made it wander the wilderness. The practice has survived, though it has translated itself to humans. For a case study in such, Washington D.C. is the place to go.

Rather than engage in conscious political discourse like elected officials should, it has become far easier to simply label your opponent an idiot, watch the public opinion turn on them, and then witness their downfall. Despite this political malpractice, the blame is just as much on the populace for discounting the entire political platform of an individual because another candidate said they were “terrible” and “needed a juice box and a nap,” rather than disseminate their views and make an informed decision. What a concept, right?

Even more so, candidates who adopt the label of a pariah of days past, think “McCarthy,” “Hitler” or “Nixon,” find it increasingly difficult to get their point across once the public’s approval has turned against them.

Thinking beyond the debate stage, those already in power are just as guilty of passing the blame when it comes to policy failure or archaic belief systems on those who often are unable to defend themselves. Think the painting of all Syrian immigrants, or Muslims at large, as terrorists that occurred when certain elected officials carelessly alluded to the possibility of their radicalism. Not only will this label prevail for years to come despite its inaccuracy, it often embeds itself in a regions ideology and will still be prevalent generations later. This is common if only because it is easier to persuade a concerned or scared populace to pursue arguably immoral solutions to a problem than those who are comfortable.

Quite possibly the most relevant example of this taking place is also among the most tragic. Germany, feeling slighted from their depressive economic situation and loss of territory following the Great War, elected Adolf Hitler in 1933. The new Chancellor of Germany quickly took to the stage to paint an entire race of individuals as the cancer plaguing the German people. The Jewish race, no stranger to anguish inflicted at the hands of those unlike them, adopted the brunt of the blame for Germany’s woes, and thus became the quintessential example of the negative impact of scapegoats.

One could only hope that politics might evolve to where this practice is done away with, though if the 2016 election cycle is what we can come to expect, we should brace ourselves rather than breathe a sigh of relief.

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