Cognitive Dissonance with Ukraine: Tribal Divisions, Hypocrisy, and the Search for Integrity

Cognitive dissonance… the inability, whether willful or not, to change one’s own opinion when faced with contrasting or inconsistent beliefs. This is one of many phenomena that I have noticed among the populace whenever it involves a political discussion. Particularly when the contrasting view illuminates some hypocrisy with their candidate of choice.

“Arithmetic of an alternative plan: 2+2 plus the enthusiasm of the workers=5”. Soviet propaganda poster by Iakov Guminer, 1931

Strange phenomenon, but completely understandable? I mean, who likes to be wrong? Who can admit it when they are wrong? Maybe only the best of us can, because I know that I am guilty of this as well. But the fact remains that this problem, and it is a problem, plagues the system at its core. Maybe that is by design, or maybe that was a flaw in our design (some may say). But I digress. This problem needs to be addressed regardless of the why it happens, but we will get to that point later.

Case Study 1: Ukraine

For today’s exhibit, let us start with Ukraine — the Bidens and Trump’s phone call. The current controversy in D.C. is over impeachment of Trump. “Over what?” you may ask. And rightfully so. Long story short, Trump was caught in a phone call asking the Ukrainian leader to look into the Bidens, referring to Hunter Biden and his professional arrangements serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.

The potential problems here are two-fold for Trump: 1) Asking a foreign government for dirt on a political rival, and 2) Potentially a case of quid pro quo (information for US funding). It should be added that the second point is murky at best, as neither the Ukrainians knew of any sort of quid pro quo arrangement for the information, nor did Trump explicitly state his request as such within the phone call. This is why the impeachment inquiry is taking place. More interestingly for me is the supposed dirt Trump was asking about on the Bidens.

Back in 2017, Joe Biden was joking about how he handled a situation in Ukraine regarding a “corrupt” attorney general, overtly stating that if Ukraine wanted the US money, that they in turn had to remove this AG. This was all while he was serving as Vice President. On its surface, this sounds exactly like what Trump is being accused of: quid pro quo. The story doesn’t end here, however. Hunter Biden was serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company in Ukraine. This company was being investigated for money laundering by… you guessed it, the same AG that Biden was publicly bragging about, twisting the Ukrainian Government’s arm to fire.

Apologists have argued that this move was decided by the Obama Administration, not Biden. But you have to admit, the optics here are horrible. So, how about a mental experiment: if you switch out the Bidens with the Trumps, would you be aggrieved? If you weren’t upset before but are now, then this is a great example of my first words in this article — cognitive dissonance. There would be absolute outcries for Trump’s immediately removal from office if he did anything close to this for Junior. That much is clear. Here’s another case study for this phenomenon: Bush and Obama

Case Study 2: Bush v. Obama

When Bush Jr. was in office, the liberals were consistently aghast to the atrocities taking place in the Middle East, and rightfully so. But when Obama was virtually doing the same damn things, liberals became silent, seemingly because “their guy” was the one doing it. Why?

At the surface, this could be boiled down to petty partisanship, he was a democrat. However, my glass-half-empty analysis of this problem would suggest that the liberals refused to critique Obama the way they did Bush because he was also black.

“Yeah, I know that he has expanded our military interventions abroad. And he has vastly increased our drone attacks, murdering innumerable innocents in the process. But at least we elected an African-American!”

To this day, many of my liberal peers still refuse to look critically or honestly at Obama’s foreign and domestic policies, unlike their continued ire for W., or resentments towards Trump over the same policy decisions (deportations, for instance, under Obama’s administration being far greater than of Trump’s). They simply reflect back upon him with fondness, despite all of this. If anything, their fondness has grown in perfect correlated congruence with their resentment of Trump. This again, my friends, is also cognitive dissonance.

However, Trump sucks too, I won’t debate you there. But if you come to me clamoring about the “good ol’ Obama days”, I will simply remind you of his atrocious foreign policy, massive increased usage of drone strikes, the fact that he vastly expanded the surveillance state, that he oversaw massive increases of wealth redistribution to the very wealthy and very few (as he courted wall street folks before anyone else!), bailing out of Wall Street instead of Main street during the great recession, persecuted more whistleblowers than any other president combined, having pushed for a mandatory insurance reform (Romneycare) that virtually everyone hated (besides the coverage for pre-existing conditions), and more!

And don’t try and convince me that he wasn’t merely a socially liberal Bush 2.0, because he was. He just threw a couple of bones out there to placate the masses, and it worked. So, what should we do?

Find Some Damn Integrity

Honestly, I would be happier if the continued hypocrisy actually meant that the left were honest and willing to address many of the critiques I laid out for Obama that Trump is merely perpetuating. But instead, all we get is rage about his tweet of the day. “Impeach the MF!” “Vote Blue no Matter Who!” (regardless of policy positions). Quite tiresome and ineffective.

Now, it is far too easy to slip into the mindset of excuse making for someone on your team. And it is difficult to admit that your team wasn’t as “good” as you thought. The notion that your team also holds some skeletons in their closet is never an easy pill to swallow. But, I would argue that this is almost entirely avoidable if you avoid this way of tribal thinking entirely, the “my team, your team” dichotomy.

If we intend to solve any of the serious issues facing our nation, or the world, then we need to learn some integrity. We need to be honest with ourselves whenever “our team” screws up, and learn to call it out. Call out fellow peers as well who indulge in this classic hypocritical excuse making. Address the inconsistencies, and absolutely denounce any excuses made when the truth is clear as rain. And maybe, we could get at the root of the problem, of how we elected a reality TV star as president, instead of continually making disingenuous excuses for why you lost *wink wink Hillary*.

The Obama-type presidency happens when liberals stop paying attention, when they become complacent. For the record, they haven’t in a long time: cite Bill Clinton. We see this with Trump today, with his supporters too, and their abandonment of conservative values. Kind of hilarious, really. But sad, very sad. And farther down this path we go, the more that we will claw away at eat others’ throats, cannibalizing this country from within. But then again, maybe this all was by design.

Trying to make sense of the insanity that is modern society. I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate for the sake of argument. Not a fan of authoritarians.

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