Morality and Politics: Do You Try to Make Moral Choices?

 

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?

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    And I don’t know your feelings on Bill Clinton’s problems in the 90’s but are you saying that it was morally wrong for the Republicans to treat him the way he was treated?

    Clinton had serious legal problems during the course of the Paula Jones debacle, serious enough that he lost his license to practice law. The sad thing about Clinton was the, I believe wrong, precedent-setting and unanimous decision by the Supreme Court to allow a civil lawsuit against a sitting president to be heard at all. Had it not been for that frivolous lawsuit, none of the Monica Lewinsky information would have seen the light of day. The press played the sex angle to the hilt. Nevertheless, you are comparing apples to oranges, the glaring difference being that cries of impeachment began the moment Trump took office and well before he fired Comey. No such cries were heard when Clinton put his hand on the Bible in 1993.

    True the timing is different, but is that a difference of degree or kind? The Clinton election to me seemed less wrought (maybe not less hard fought) but the stakes of partisanship were less keenly felt back in the early 90’s. Isn’t that what we have learned from the various social science studies looking at political polarization. To me it seems that the animus to Clinton built over the course of his presidency for various reasons, and in 1998 when an excuse became available to allow of such a move as impeachment to be taken it was. All that build up of emotion looking for an outlet was just already baked into the cake by the 2016 election for Trump. He started out at the maximum level of hate and so all that was or is missing is the justifiable pretext. Now it exists in the charges of obstruction based on the Muller report. So whether just or smart or whatever we have just reached that right mixture of animus and opportunity that allow for impeachment to be considered. We now live in a world were everything just happens faster…not different. 

    • #91
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    It is also claimed that Constantine marked an enormous and lasting temptation and destruction of the true Church, as the incentives all pointed to collaborating with Caesar in the false name of God. From Ezekiel 22:

    I’d be careful there. That has been used to justify some rather horrific things against both Catholics and Orthodox.

    Specify “that,” please, and distinguish from the judgments and warnings across the whole of the commonly accepted canon that princes/kings usually seek flattering priests and prophets, and that the supply of such priests and prophets has always been ample. 

    It is very hard for a church sponsored by Caesar to render him only his due and to speak the whole truth, hard enough apart from state entanglement.

    That said, I’m thinking we’re starting to veer off the OP topic. 

    • #92
  3. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    You support him because he was elected? Im not sure that makes sense, because Obama was elected too

    Perhaps you’re confusing accepted with supporting. For example, most Republicans accepted the fact that  Obama was elected despite serious misgivings about and lack of support for his policies yet there was no movement by Republicans to impeach him.

    Obama had primary opponents, but was supported by his party once elected. The same can be said of Trump who had many primary opponents but since his election now has the support of 91% of Republicans, 37% of Independents and 12% of Democrats according to the latest Gallup poll which you may access here. The same poll also shows his overall rating 2% higher than Obama at the same time in his presidency. 

    • #93
  4. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Now it exists in the charges of obstruction based on the Muller report.

    He was not charged with obstruction as Mueller said he could reach no conclusion. The report is available online here. Please read it for yourself

    • #94
  5. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Andrew Klavan put it best. I paraphrase slightly, “The biggest moral decision is whether I get to be free or not. Donald Trump’s many flaws are secondary to the question of freedom.” Trump lets gays and Christians live free lives in equal measure. His sexual predilections aren’t as important as what he does to the country. I will leave G-d’s judgement to G-d.

    I’m troubled by Klavan’s focus on freedom, though I am an admirer of his work. I think that liberty is an important value, but it is often in tension with other important values.

    I’ve heard Klavan say things like: “I just want you to be free.” I don’t just want you (or me) to be free. I want you (and me) to be virtuous, and successful, and have a meaningful life and a valued place in our society.

    Obviously, Klavan’s statement will appeal somewhat more to libertarians and somewhat less to conservatives.

    Liberty and virtue are in tension like man and wife are in tension. They need each other.

    Just so. You can’t be good without the opportunity to do evil. 

    • #95
  6. SecondBite Member
    SecondBite
    @SecondBite

    One should not expect to see clearly through muddy water.  Right and wrong are black and white, but people come in all shades of gray.  In a situation with many people and conflicting goals, you have a mess.   In the case of right or wrong actions by politicians, the morality has to be weighed against their individual effectiveness, which is not a systemic decision, but an individual decision.  No one expects perfection, the issue is how much imperfection can one stand and still vote for someone.  We all have different standards depending, in part on where we stand on the political spectrum.  So, of course Democrats are inclined to overlook Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes and I am inclined to give Trump a hell of a lot more rope than I would give a Democrat.  That doesn’t mean I approve of him at all.  I just think at this point he is much less dangerous than the alternatives.  Morality is broadly shared with a lot of individual variation and the political system achieves practical results in spite of individual differences with regard to moral assessments.  When the broadly held morals of the populace are sufficiently outraged, the offending politician will no longer be able to retain office.  It doesn’t happen very often, so we spend a lot of time in the muddy waters.

    • #96
  7. SecondBite Member
    SecondBite
    @SecondBite

    I guess the bottom line is that, if someone refuses to support Trump for moral reasons, that person has a different assessment of the potential for harm to the country than I do.  We can argue with each other about the incorrectness of our respective assessments, but in the end I think we have to respect the fact that honest thoughtful people can come to different conclusions.  I think that respect is what is missing from so much of our political discourse right now.

    • #97
  8. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    I just can’t get excited about this.

    presumably – Trump’s self-described sexual assault of women. 

     

     

    • #98
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SecondBite (View Comment):
    So, of course Democrats are inclined to overlook Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes and I am inclined to give Trump a hell of a lot more rope than I would give a Democrat. That doesn’t mean I approve of him at all. I just think at this point he is much less dangerous than the alternatives

    Well said. Of course we are influenced based on the party we associate with! Thanks, @secondbite.

    • #99
  10. Jon1979 Inactive
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    And I don’t know your feelings on Bill Clinton’s problems in the 90’s but are you saying that it was morally wrong for the Republicans to treat him the way he was treated?

    I didn’t support impeachment of Clinton, but on the other hand there were crimes, and evidence of crimes, which were the basis of the procedures. I thought at the time that it was mostly payback for Nixon and for a number of right wing politicians and business leaders who were being destroyed over sexual harassment by the left while they demanded a free pass for their own intern dalliances. Turnabout may be fair play, but it is detrimental to the country.

    That said, no, it isn’t fair to compare Clintons treatment to what is happening with Trump, since there still isn’t one sliver of evidence of collusion, the basis for the whole farce. Clinton did harass an intern in the while house. He did lie under oath. He did suborn perjury. That is not conjecture. All the charges against Trump are.

    Clinton’s election in 1992 was part of an overall “Year of the Women” theme created by the Democrats and supported by most of the media, supposedly in reaction to the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. And in the aftermath of the ’92 election, the same two groups banded together to oust liberal Republican Bob Packwood from his Oregon Senate seat over sexual harassment claims.

    Basically it was the pre-Internet version of #metoo, but where the harassment claims were only meant to target one side of the political aisle. That Clinton already was dealing with bimbo eruptions (their term) with things like the Paul Jones accusations was the soil on which the Lewisnky scandal was planted, and getting Clinton off in the eyes of the public meant going as far as attempting to spin the notion that oral sex wasn’t sex. That’s the atmosphere that helped desensitize the public to sexual activities that would have previously been career-enders.

    • #100
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    I just can’t get excited about this.

    presumably – Trump’s self-described sexual assault of women.

    Except that she is peddling a lie, which she knows is a lie: “sexual assault.” But lying is justified for the Frenches in their loathing of President Trump and his voters, who do not need or heed French. If President Trump is reelected and continues to follow through on political promises, unlike the crew French et. al. have covered for over the years, the well is going to run dry for the French family business.

    • #101
  12. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    I just can’t get excited about this.

    presumably – Trump’s self-described sexual assault of women.

    Except that she is peddling a lie, which she knows is a lie: “sexual assault.” But lying is justified for the Frenches in their loathing of President Trump and his voters, who do not need or heed French. If President Trump is reelected and continues to follow through on political promises, unlike the crew French et. al. have covered for over the years, the well is going to run dry for the French family business.

    I agree completely. So many people just make stuff up about Trump.

    • #102
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Time to trot out one of the familiar sayings from the Book of Reticulator: 

    All choices are moral choices, including the choice of whether to take the oatmeal-raisin cookie or the chocolate-chip one. 

    • #103
  14. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Here’s another one. The Bulwark will get the first interview. 

     

     

    • #104
  15. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Now it exists in the charges of obstruction based on the Muller report.

    He was not charged with obstruction as Mueller said he could reach no conclusion. The report is available online here. Please read it for yourself

    Muller said he could reach no conclusion because department policies prevented an indictment being issued. So it would be unfair to say if he thought Trump should be indicted when he could never be and therefore have a chance to plead his case before a jury. Barr had a different opinion of the matter, namely yours, and other prosecutors think he should have been indicted for obstruction. 

    • #105
  16. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    I just can’t get excited about this.

    presumably – Trump’s self-described sexual assault of women.

    Except that she is peddling a lie, which she knows is a lie: “sexual assault.” But lying is justified for the Frenches in their loathing of President Trump and his voters, who do not need or heed French. If President Trump is reelected and continues to follow through on political promises, unlike the crew French et. al. have covered for over the years, the well is going to run dry for the French family business.

    I agree completely. So many people just make stuff up about Trump.

    Yes, but Hannity, Graham, and the rest  of the Trumper celebrities are all making piles of money, way more than David French, making stuff up about how good a person Trump is and how evil his opponents are. So what can we do? Everyone is clearly lying for their supper here. Right? 

    But we have already established there is no morality only power. 

     

    • #106
  17. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    I just can’t get excited about this.

    presumably – Trump’s self-described sexual assault of women.

    Except that she is peddling a lie, which she knows is a lie: “sexual assault.” But lying is justified for the Frenches in their loathing of President Trump and his voters, who do not need or heed French. If President Trump is reelected and continues to follow through on political promises, unlike the crew French et. al. have covered for over the years, the well is going to run dry for the French family business.

    I agree completely. So many people just make stuff up about Trump.

    Yes, but Hannity, Graham, and the rest of the Trumper celebrities are all making piles of money, way more than David French, making stuff up about how good a person Trump is and how evil his opponents are. So what can we do? Everyone is clearly lying for their supper here. Right?

    But we have already established there is no morality only power.

     

    I don’t disagree. I am just blown away and how inaccurate the rhetoric is in politics and media in the service of power and money. 

    The only answer is to decentralize the government, and think of how many Republicans are against that.

    • #107
  18. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    SecondBite (View Comment):
    No one expects perfection, the issue is how much imperfection can one stand and still vote for someone. We all have different standards depending, in part on where we stand on the political spectrum. So, of course Democrats are inclined to overlook Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes and I am inclined to give Trump a hell of a lot more rope than I would give a Democrat. That doesn’t mean I approve of him at all. I just think at this point he is much less dangerous than the alternatives.

    Isnt this though where the rubber meets the morality road? If you will give more slack to someone you agree with over someone you disagree with is that moral of you? Should you not judge all people equally? Is a biased judge a moral judge? 

    • #108
  19. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    SecondBite (View Comment):
    No one expects perfection, the issue is how much imperfection can one stand and still vote for someone. We all have different standards depending, in part on where we stand on the political spectrum. So, of course Democrats are inclined to overlook Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes and I am inclined to give Trump a hell of a lot more rope than I would give a Democrat. That doesn’t mean I approve of him at all. I just think at this point he is much less dangerous than the alternatives.

    Isnt this though where the rubber meets the morality road? If you will give more slack to someone you agree with over someone you disagree with is that moral of you? Should you not judge all people equally? Is a biased judge a moral judge?

    Government is at least 38% of the economy. It also pushes people around on their rights and social issues. 

    How is this controlled? #1. We vote on political personalities that lie to us and then they get in there and push things around, either in our favor or not. #2. Discretionary Fed activity, but no one cares about that. It does however affect #1.

    What is to be done?

    Further research:

    https://twitter.com/Shabbosgoy?lang=en

    Government Is How We Steal From Each Other™

    • #109
  20. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

     

     

    • #110
  21. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    “If you like your doctor…” “God is in the mix.” 

     

     

    • #111
  22. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Sorry to keep bludgeoning this thread.

    I see a lot of anti-Trumper’s that are getting really excited about the big deficit. Trump and the Republicans are clearly creating a big deficit.

    Here’s my question: how do you improve spending with political will? What is the trend since 1971 or Ronald Reagan? If you want to pick a different starting point, just say why.

    How do you hold political power without Credit growth, spending, in the Federal Reserve not raising rates before or during your election cycle?

    I always recommend this: Watch the interview of David Stockman on real vision. It’s proprietary, but you can get a two-week pass.

    • #112
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Muller said he could reach no conclusion because department policies prevented an indictment being issued.

    Not true. Mueller specifically said that he did not factor in that criteria.

    • #113
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    making stuff up about how good a person Trump is and how evil his opponents are.

    Good and evil do not factor into their commentary. You keep making generalizations that are simply untrue, @valiuth.

    • #114
  25. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: What role, if any, does your morality play in your political choices?

    Not much, because of my pragmatism, and because I don’t let my political choices define my morality.  Others might think badly of me if I vote for Mr. X, but I don’t care.

    Not every choice in life is a moral choice: Do I buy vanilla ice cream, or chocolate today?  No morality choice there, unless you’re 100 lbs overweight and have congestive heart failure.  Then buying the ice cream is a bad choice (unless you’re celebrating losing 50 lbs.  In that case celebrate, then lay off the ice cream for another year).

    But there is a degree of severity involved.  For example, deciding whether or not to leave your wife for Sandra Bullock is a much worse moral choice (one I have to make every day, until my wife asks me if I’ve looked in the mirror lately).

    Finally, there is the lifeboat scenario.  However, this scenario was designed to reveal how different people make different moral choices based on their personal criteria, because every choice gives a win-lose result.

    • #115
  26. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

     

    • #116
  27. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

     

    • #117
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Stad (View Comment):
    Then buying the ice cream is a bad choice (unless you’re celebrating losing 50 lbs

    What about 49 lbs? Not a moral choice? 

    • #118
  29. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Muller said he could reach no conclusion because department policies prevented an indictment being issued.

    Not true. Mueller specifically said that he did not factor in that criteria.

    No, he said because an indictment could not be issued, they chose not to make a “normal prosecutorial decision” ie. if a Federal law had been broken, but that if they found no evidence of obstruction they would state that. At the end of his summary he says that they could not exhonorate Trump of obstruction out right, but that because they were not going to make a prosecutorial decision neither would they declare a law had been broken and that an indictment could be issued. So I don’t understand what your complaint is with my recap of Muller’s finding? They themselves state that their decision not to make a decision is because of the guidelines against indictment of a sitting president, with the odd exception that they would make a decision if it was clear there was no obstruction. Based on that one can surmise that to them it was not clear there was no obstruction. ie. there is evidence for it, which is laid out in the report, and everyone can just look at that and then determine for themselves if what they are reading is obstruction.   So in other words one can level charges of obstruction of justice against Trump based on the evidence for it in the Muller report. 

     

    • #119
  30. Keith Rice Inactive
    Keith Rice
    @KeithRice

    Valiuth (View Comment):

     

    But we have already established there is no morality only power.

     

    I think I missed that meeting. I will agree that it’s difficult to know and possibly as rare as a nugget of gold in a riverbed but I’m still not comfortable throwing out that baby with the river water.

    • #120
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