Thursday, January 30, 2020

Assume a Hypocrite

Can you imagine the outrage of [Wayne] Grudem and other Trump supporters if, in 2012, Barack Obama had coerced, say, China into announcing an investigation into and digging up dirt on Mitt Romney, and then justified it by saying that a president has the power to ask any nation to undertake any investigation?
Peter Wehner "There Is No Christian Case for Trump"
To borrow a line from Han Solo: "I can imagine quite a lot." But the problem with imagined hypotheticals is that they are just that, imagined hypotheticals. For all that Mr. Wehner believes that Professor Grudem and other backers of President Trump would have howled in outrage if President Obama had sought to coerce a foreign nation into assisting them politically through illegally withholding aid payments, the fact remains that because President Obama did no such thing, there's was nothing for them to be outraged about. And so while their political biases may appear to be obvious, there is no valid avenue for accountability. Claiming that, in the name of consistency, that people should behave in a real situation in a manner that comports with an imagined one is pointless at best.

Calls for consistency in matters of politics like this are almost universally wastes of time. In large part because most people don't start with a principle and then derive an understanding of whom they should support. Rather they start with their interests, and derive their principles in a manner than supports those interests, regardless of the compromises or inconsistencies that this causes. This is in large part, I believe, because people don't view concepts of right and wrong independently of what is good and bad for them. In other words, people tend to lean towards conceptualizations of right that align with their perceived interests, at least over the long term. I don't know of anyone who signs up for an idea of right that consigns them to a lifetime of uncompensated misery and loss.

If all is fair in love and war, it's possible that a lot of President Trump's support can be chalked up to the "Culture Wars" in the United States. And for all that the Culture Wars come across as a sideline in the broader contexts of American political, civic and economic life, for those people who see themselves as dedicated culture warriors, it's a high-stakes conflict where the consequences of losing are indistinguishable from fatal. And as the perceived stakes increase, so does the perceived need to come out on top of the conflict.

A general dislike of being open about one's interests, and one's willingness to do what it appears to take to protect or advance them, is perhaps the largest driver of apparent hypocrisy in public life today. A lessening of public piety concerning letting the chips fall where they may in the name of "principle" would do a lot to release people from the need to pretend that they have higher priorities than looking out for themselves and their futures.

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