I am cringing while I write this post, in a way I never have. I don’t trust that we can have a civil conversation about this topic; that I may open old wounds and create havoc. I’ve asked myself over and over whether I can trust all of you to be decent, moral human beings. I think I can trust you; I hope I can because this question has been nagging at me for months, and I need your help to resolve it. Let’s make this an opportunity to do it together, in our search for truth and understanding. That means putting aside the need to win or be right; I don’t think either of those efforts will be successful.
All that said, I have been struggling with my own morality related to politics.
First, if you know anything about me at all, you know I strive to be a moral person. I’m not bragging about it; I feel compelled to do it. Most of the time, I think I do that with ease; I have clarity about my values in relation to how I act, what I do and how I treat others.
I bring up these questions as I’m nearly finished with a book by Charles Lane, called Freedom’s Detective , a book about Hiram Whitley, the man who began the Secret Service. That organization was originally started to find counterfeiters but eventually was key in rounding up the Ku Klux Klan during and following Reconstruction. It was a fascinating story, but I was especially struck by Whitley himself. He was an excellent manager and strategist, but he was also a liar, thief, finagler, and also showed many other disreputable attributes. Eventually, he was fired, but he did great things under the Grant administration. He was both celebrated and condemned in his time. He made me think of Donald Trump.
That led me to the issue that has been bothering me the last couple of years, particularly after 2016: how to frame and comprehend and hold true to my own morality, particularly in relation to politics. Part of my problem is that I hold people I connect with or feel connected to, to a high moral standard. If you want to be my friend, you have to be a decent person. Figuring out what a “decent person” is might be a key part of this discussion.
I also believe that most of you who participate on Ricochet are moral and principled people. I can’t think of a better place to initiate this discussion. So here it is:
In terms of morality, Donald Trump is a mixed bag. In fact, I guess I could say that most of us are. Some of you believe that G-d will be the final Judge of whether we pass muster on the morality measure.
I wonder how you weigh the question of who to support in any area of life when the person is far from the perfect person. Regarding Trump–
-I realize that many of you might have decided that you would vote for just about anyone who could “clean out the swamp,” no matter their moral attributes or limitations.
-You may have decided that morality was not an issue, that the country was in such dire straits that the questions about the morality of the person you voted for were irrelevant.
-Since we are all a mixed bag, you may have decided that Trump was sufficiently moral, given how he treated his family, how he cared for our veterans, how he loved America and wanted to help us, and the other moral traits he showed.
Please do not use this post as an opportunity to defend Trump or yourself, or to bash others who do not. And for those of you who don’t like Trump, this post may not be for you.
This post is primarily about the moral choices you make regarding politics and politicians, not necessarily attacking or defending particular officeholders or candidates. As a point of information, I didn’t vote for Trump or support him before the election (and I say that without judgment of those who did); I made judgments about his character and reputation. But the simple fact that he is president means for me that I will support him when he does good things, and criticize him when I think he doesn’t. On balance, I think he has done a good job.
To me, supporting him is a moral choice, because the country elected him.
In that vein, what did you think of Hiram Whitley mentioned earlier? What role, if any, does your morality play in your political choices? Does morality play a different role in the policies you support versus the persons for whom you vote?