Doubling Down on Double Dealing Douche Bags

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What or who is a doubling down, double dealing douche bag?  Ever since Trump took center stage two egregious behaviors have become the norm in Republican politics.  The first is lying.  The second is doubling down on stupidity, arrogance and greed.  Trump set the bar on these behaviors and his loyal followers keep lowering the bar.  Many good hearted but naïve citizens of America are amazed with each new low and the media is constantly asking “How low can they go?”  There appears to be no low.  Lows with Republicans are like a black hole.  You can put an infinite number of lows into a black hole and never reach the bottom or fill it up.

I will save my comments on lying Republicans for another blog and today focus on doubling down behavior.  The latest example of this is Douche Bag Governor DeSantis and his ill-conceived and mean-spirited stunt of sending immigrants east to Martha’s Vineyard.  His followers think this is just grand behavior and applaud him when he responds to criticism with “doubling down behavior.”

DeSantis provides an excellent example of doubling down behavior:

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said he intends to use “every penny” of the $12 million his state budgeted to relocate migrants and set the expectation for buses and “likely more” flights full of migrants paid for by the state.” — CNN

No compassion.  No remorse.  No backing away from a cruel stunt that hurts the lives of others.  Did you know that the immigrants he sent to Martha’s Vineyard with lies and misinformation were not from Florida but were from his fellow Douche Bag governor’s state of Texas?

So, what does it mean when we say that someone is “doubling down.”

“The phrase “double down” means to put forth an additional effort or risk in a situation or argument, even if you know the outcome will be a mistake or will be negative.” — Wikipedia

Doubling down can involve putting more effort into an approach that has not yet worked or even an approach that seems to be working but needs more commitment.  Thus, there can be a positive connotation to the phrase “doubling down.”

when-i-say-stupid-things-i-double-down-lie-and-make-it-worseUnfortunately, too often when it comes to Trump and his supporters, the behaviors that they are doubling down on have negative consequences.  This is because the efforts that they are doubling down on are either wrong or dangerous.  A few examples:

  • Trump doubling down opposing masking during the Corona Virus
  • Trump doubling down on assertions about a rigged election
  • Trump doubling down about his executive privileges
  • Trump doubling down on his appeal to White Power and privilege

When Trump and his followers double down it is because they know that they are mistaken or lying or corrupt.  The efforts of Trump and his sycophants have increasingly created a negative connation for the term “to double down.”  Why would any “good” person that we elect to help lead our country double down to support evil intentions?   Well, first it is because they are not good.  They do not give one red cent about morality or ethics.  They are pursuing what is known in ethics as a Utilitarian approach.  If the behavior is useful to their ends, then they will pursue it.  Obviously, doubling down is very useful to Trumpists.

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How is Doubling Down Useful?

In answer to the above question, you must be ready to accept the peculiarities of certain people.  For instance, there are people who believe:

  • The Trickle-Down Theory
  • Tax breaks for the rich will help the poor
  • Trump won the 2020 election
  • There is no climate change
  • The world is flat
  • 9/11 was a CIA effort
  • The moon is made from green cheese
  • Elvis is alive and living upstairs in Graceland

Doubling down behavior somehow (do not ask how, it just does) convinces some of the people noted above that the douche bag engaging in pursuing lies and criminal behavior must really know what he or she is doing.  Lincoln said that you can “fool all of the people some of the time but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”  Doubling down behavior is designed to lull us into thinking that we are wrong and that the person doubling down is right. Why we ask ourselves would anyone keep pressing an issue if they are wrong?  Why would people that we think must be smarter or more knowledgeable than we are stalk mistaken goals and objectives?  The answer which too many of us fail to understand or believe is that some of the people we elect are more focused on their own self-interests and do not care one iota about their constituencies.  Unless of course, they want your money or vote.

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We live in an age where the acquisition of things, the acquisition of power, the acquisition of riches and the acquisition of fame far override the value of the ideas that our Founding Fathers believed in.  If you add in the values that Jesus preached, you would not be able to recognize or understand what Republicans stand for.  They say they believe one thing, but then they pursue a completely different agenda.  The Republican Party today is the party of hypocrisy, lies and greed.  Lincoln would hang his head in shame at the behavior of his old party.  Jesus would probably throw most so-called Christians today out of his church just as he did with the money lenders.  As the song should go, “The Times they have a changed.”

“Pride can make one a stronger person in the one sense, or so it is often believed, when based solely on the surface, but in the other, and much more frequently, a stronger devil. When pride is undeniably found out of an evil, it saves face by doubling down.”  ― Criss Jami

destruction

Documents a chronology of the potential end of our democracy.

Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2022

“I found this a difficult book to read because it shows how successful the republican party has been in destroying facts, reality, and our democratic foundation in order to move us towards an authoritarian minority rule nation. It was interesting to add up the number of related events through the decades since the onset of Newt Gingrich in 1994, that have been driven by lies, conspiracy theories, slander, and violence, or at least threatening it. Trump is truly a symptom of an underlying national decay that panders to the absolute lowest base instincts of human nature. Frankly, the book is harrowing and fatalistic in leading the reader to assume that the fix is in and our democracy in at least the near future is doomed. While we tried to “go high,” it seemed only to embolden the worst among us that going “low” was the path to their success.” — Richard Nelson

Taking It to Extremes – Part 4 of 5 – Conservative versus Liberal

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1 and Go to Part 4 below)

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about the famous “Golden Mean” of Greek philosophy.  The mean was basically a rule that said the best way of living is to balance extremes.  Another way of looking at what this rule implies is that evil or bad things happen when we over do something.  We need to take all things in moderation.  Thus, drugs, smoking, guns, watching TV etc., are not evil or bad in themselves but when we take them to extremes, they became dangerous and counterproductive.

Life is an ongoing struggle to find our proper balance.  However, it may never be a question of equal balance because the proper balance can never be static.  There are many dimensions or polarities in life where it is not really a matter of moderation or balance but more a matter of dynamically imposing a temporary order between two extremes.  The concept of Hegelian Dialectics comes to my mind as an aide in thinking about this process.

Dialectical thinking can be described as: “The ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures.”  This is a much more complex process than simply balancing extremes.  The more I thought about it the more I decided to add a corollary to the Greek Rule.  Since I think time has easily proved the value of the Golden Mean, a corollary by definition is a proposition that follows from and is appended to one already proved.  My corollary is as follows:

John’s Corollary:

Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the other concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

I want to discuss this more by using five pairs of concepts that I think are critical to our world today.  I want to show you how the distortion created by proponents of each concept is dangerous to life as we know it.  I do not use the word dangerous loosely or frivolously or for effect.  The battle between these ideas is destroying life as we know it on this planet.   The proponents of each side of these polarities seek to destroy the proponents on the other side.

Rather than looking at things from a systems perspective and trying to dynamically adjust the system, opponents are driven to allow one idea to dominate to the exclusion of the other idea.  Witness the name calling between conservatives and liberals today.  Each side demonizes the other side and assumes God is on their side and Satan is on the other side. Liberals are evil to conservatives and conservatives are evil to liberals.

Here are the five pairs of concepts we will look at in the next few weeks.  This week we will look at number four on my list.  We have already discussed the “efficiency versus effectiveness” dimension in part one of this blog series and the “growth versus development” dimension in part two and the “society versus economy” in part three.

  1. Efficiency versus Effectiveness
  2. Growth versus Development
  3. Society versus the Economy
  4. Conservative versus Liberal
  5. Rights of the Individual versus Rights of the Group

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Part 4.  Conservative versus Liberal:

Being a Liberal was once a label that someone could be proud of.  Today it has become a name of scorn.  Those to the left of liberals including progressives and radicals regard Liberals much like salt that has lost its flavor.  Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.” – Mathew 5:13

All too often Liberals seem to lack the desire to take a strong position.  They seem to prefer to walk a middle road that often goes nowhere.  Once upon a time a Liberal was defined as: “One who is open-minded and not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways.” — Meriam WebsterBasically, a liberal was someone who was willing to change and was quite comfortable with change.  The political definition of a Liberal was someone who was committed to individualism, liberty, and equal rights. Liberals believed that these goals required a free economy with minimal government interference.  Today, we have a new concept for liberals or “Neo-liberals.”  A Neo-liberal is defined as someone who believes “in market-oriented reform policies such as ‘eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers’ and reducing state influence in the economy, especially through privatization and austerity.”Wikipedia

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The definition of a “Neo-liberal is somewhat of a paradox since it contains many of the same concepts as we see in a definition of a political Conservative.  If you accept (as many pundits claim) that Democrats are liberals and Republicans are conservatives, then it would be almost impossible to tell the difference between a Neo-liberal, a Conservative, a Liberal, a Democrat and a Republican.

I have always hated to be called a Liberal.  The liberals that I knew seemed like the proverbial salt that had lost its flavor.  Bleeding hearts who were more than willing to give anything away as long as it did not impact their well-being. They would not stand up in the face of adversity and they always wanted to acquiesce when the going got rough.  Never one to stand up and fight, Liberals exemplified a Democratic party that I thought was beset by cowardice albeit they were always civil and polite.

But that brings us to the Conservatives.  This is the other extreme of my Conservative Liberal dimension.  Today Conservatives are the Tea Party zealots who have little in common with traditional Conservative values.  The current Republican Party has become the residence for what we should to be calling “Neo-conservatives.”

People hold signs at a Tea Party Patriots rally calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthcare law on Capitol Hill in Washington

People hold signs at a Tea Party Patriots rally calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthcare law championed by President Barack Obama, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 24, 2012. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next Monday to Wednesday over the fate of Obama’s healthcare law, a battle with legal, political and financial implications for the U.S. healthcare system’s biggest overhaul in nearly 50 years. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS HEALTH CIVIL UNREST) – RTR2ZTA0

“Conservatism in the United States is a political and social philosophy characterized by respect for American traditions, republicanism, limited government, support for Christian values, moral universalism, pro-business, opposition to trade unions, strong national defense, free trade, protectionism, anti-communism, rugged individualism, advocacy of American exceptionalism, and a defense of tradition and Western culture from the perceived threats posed by communism, socialism, and moral relativism.”  — Wikipedia

The traditional definition of a Conservative was someone who wanted to conserve or someone who did not relish or look forward to changing.  It was more of a careful orientation to established policies, procedures, and institutions.  Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines a conservative as someone who: “a: Tends or is disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions: Traditional conservative policies. b: marked by moderation or caution.”

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Once upon a time a grudging respect existed between Conservatives and Liberals as exemplified in the show featuring Gore Vidal and William Buckley called “Firing Line.”  Each side knew that the truth politically and socially lay in a balance or a dynamic Hegelian tension between the two ends of the continuum.  I often thought of myself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  In the old days, this would have had me with a foot in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  That day is long gone.  Murdered, assassinated, and executed by Right Wing Pundits and Corporate Capitalism that has no use for social benevolence or taking care of the sick and needy.

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Starting in 2000, I listened nightly to AM 1280 in Minneapolis, also called “The Patriot Radio Station.”  This station was a haven for right-wing commentators like Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Mike Savage, and Hugh Hewitt among many others.  Day in and day out, these fascists would spew out slander about Liberals.  Liberals were associated with all the bad in the world and none of the good.

I wrote a blog four years ago about these right-wing nutcases called “Bigots, Liars and Right-Wing Radio Talk Show Hosts.”  In this blog, I explored the lies, calumnies, slanders, and bigotry that characterized most of their discourse.  For seven years, I tuned into the station.  Sometimes, I listened during the day and other times at night.  Always it was the same drumbeat:  Liberals bad.  College Professors bad.  LGBTQ bad.  Socialists bad. Democrats bad.  Nowhere on any radio station in the country were people or talk show hosts using the same derogatory comments to define Conservatives.  I have no doubt that the lies and hatred spewed forth on this station as well as other right-wing stations have poisoned the USA population against the ideas of Liberalism.

I know I stated off with my own less than positive slant towards Liberals but my attitude has more to do with Liberalism as it exists today and less with the traditional notion of a Liberal person who is willing to change and accepts change when needed.  Similarly, I have nothing but the deepest respect for the traditional values of a Conservative who is oriented towards caution and discretion when it comes to change.  Nevertheless, which ever side I choose to be on, it goes without saying that according to John’s Corollary:

“Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the other concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

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Conservatives need Liberals and Liberals need Conservatives.  Many people are condemning the extreme partisanship that has divided America.  I could not begin to list all the books that purport to both describe this partisanship and propose to have a solution to end it.  Most of these solutions are what I would call “pie in the sky” or looking at the world through “rose collared classes.”  There are many reasons for the divides that exist.  I am not a big believer in the idea that simply condemning the partisanship will end it.  What is my solution, you have every right to ask?  Am I any more pragmatic and less naïve than many of the pundits out there?   Sadly, I do not think there are any fast solutions, and I am not sure how many that I might propose would be workable.  But here goes my short list:

  1. Just as Nazism was outlawed in Germany, we need to outlaw and label as terrorist organizations many of the right-wing groups that exist in America.
  2. We need to broaden the definition of hate speech to make it a crime to label people and equate them with evil just by virtue of their job or title. Unless an organization advocates violence and bigotry they should be entitled to respect.
  3. Establish a bi-partisan group to monitor media and to restore some balance to reporting in terms of objectivity and factual relevance.
  4. Expect schools to teach critical thinking and not simply recite facts for Standardized Achievement Tests. Students need to learn to see the pros and cons in any position or argument and to understand that the world is not black and white.
  5. Create a national award system for journalists and commentators that are able to bridge the divide between left-wing and right-wing positions and who seek to find a solution that is win-win.
  6. Create a higher standard for ethics in the Legal Profession. Today the Legal profession in the USA actively aids and abets the right-wing fanaticism that is fueling much of the hate in this country.

Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.  ― John F. Kennedy

I am open to other ideas.  If you would share any, please send them to me via email or post them in the comments section.

Republicans:  Why They Were Once a Great Party but are Now the Party of Hate, Bigotry and Greed – AKA Donald Trump– Part 1

dumb-republicansToday the Republicans have become the party of Dumb and Dumber.  The likes of Palin, Bachmann, Inhofe and Sessions are not so mute testimony to the fools that now dominate the Republican Party.  Add Donald Trump to the hand and you have a five ace hand of losers.  Every day, we read of some new evidence that shows how bigoted, hypocritical and vile the core beliefs of the Republican Party have become.  The leadership of the Republican Party seems to have no integrity.  Half of them spend their time trying to explain the inane and dangerous comments spewed out daily by their party nominee. A candidate so devoid of any character or morality that many in his own party are trying to dissociate themselves from him.  What is left of the party leadership are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  There is no longer any true leadership in the party. Trump and his supporters are destroying what once was a grand old Party.  The party of Lincoln, which stood for freedom and equality has now become a party of fear, greed, intolerance and hatred.

Today, the Republicans even hate themselves.  They are now trying to destroy their star candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections.  A gross Neanderthal who equates money with character and morality named Donald Trump has upstaged the Party’s chosen one to rally the extremists who have now come to dominate the Republican Party.  The grand old Party which once attracted many progressives who believed in the power of the individual over the power of the state now is controlled by a clique or power structure which has no connection to the traditional core Republican values. (I will say more about these values in this blog)

“Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.”  – Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson  

In addition to those who I would call the traditionalists, the Republican Party has attracted a large contingency of supporters that we can divide into the following five blocs:

  • Bigoted Voters
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  • Uneducated White Male Voters
  • Greedy Voters
  • Fearful Voters
  • Religious fundamentalist Voters

I will say more about each of these in Part 2 of this blog.   Suffice, it to say for now, that the voters in these five blocs have now taken over the Republican Party (I will also explain in Part 2 how and why this happened.)  Just like the Nazis took over Germany, the traditionalists in the Republican Party made a pact with the devil and the devil has now tinfoilhatrush3come to collect his dues.  The Traditionalists know that the candidacy of Trump will destroy the party.  There are indeed a large contingent of voters who will support Trump but by and large, the people in the USA are not so stupid or ignorant that Trump will be elected.  Mark my words on that!  Trump, who hates women, minorities, immigrants and anyone with a brain, will go down in defeat in the biggest landslide in history for our next Democratic president and he will take the entire Republican Party with him.  The stalwart traditionalists in the Republican Party understand this and that is why every day we see headlines like:

The Republican Party Tries to Take Out Its Front-Runner

“Trump has proven highly successful in manhandling a parade of bland Republican politicians. To him, Carson and Fiorina present different challenges because they both possess the outsider status that elevates them over Republican officials who have to deal with reality of some sort, and they symbolize demographic groups that are some of the biggest stumbling blocks for Republicans. The party wants to show the world that it has a black friend and a lady friend.”  — The National Memo

Returning to the concept of traditional core Republican values, you may well be wondering what they are.  The first core Republican value is freedom from intrusive government interventions.  The traditional Republican is not so much against big government as they are against a government that might try to dominate the will of the individual with the will of the state.  Hence, traditional Republicans hate the idea of gun control, federal regulations, government red tape, and government watchdog agencies.  However, they are not against “Big Military” since the military is seen as protecting those very values that Republicans cherish most.

“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”  — Barnhill, John Basil (1914)

A second core Republican value is the right to earn and keep as much money as possible.  “You earned it; it is yours to spend.”  This is a value that still resonates with much of our society.  The idea being that if I work hard, I should be entitled to spend my money anyway I chose.  What Republicans and many people in the USA hate most is the thought of working hard to earn a pot of money and then having that money taken away by a government agency to distribute to some unnamed “others.”

“That government is best which governs least;” — Henry David Thoreau

A third core Republican value is the value of a capitalistic economic system.  This value overlaps to some extent the two named values above but I believe it is a distinct value of its own.  In the USA, we are and have been a country strongly against communism and to some extent socialism.  The values of these two economic systems are seen to be in direct contradiction to the value of free enterprise and a capitalist economy.

“A market economy based on private property, buttressed by the rule of law, is truly the best environment for mankind. People will work harder and with ingenuity if they know they have earned rewards from that labor. When the rewards are given to them for nothing, there is frustration and despair. Capitalism benefits more people than any other economic system. To work for oneself and reap the rewards is a basic human aspiration.” –Sally Julian, Writer of ‘The Case for Capitalism’

The fourth core Republican Party is a conservative approach to adopting new laws or changes to the US Constitution.  Traditional Republicans have long resisted change to the US Constitution as well as new laws that they see as infringing on the rights and dictates of the US Constitution.  Hence, the Republicans have resisted many changes in the Constitution which were intended to create a more equitable society for women, minorities, disabled and those below the poverty line in this country.

Part of this resistance lies in the belief that a government cannot and should not dictate how people chose to live their own lives.  If you want to be a racist, that is your right.  If you do not want to hire women and minorities and the disabled that is also your right.  This core value has resulted in a fundamental contention between those who say that the constitution must be changed to reflect new times and new circumstances and those who do not want to see changes that might infringe on rights or responsibilities prescribed in the US Constitution.

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Kalamazoo, Michigan, August 27, 1856

The fifth core Republican value lies in the doctrine of fiscal conservatism (There are other important Republican values but I think these five are the most important).   Fiscal conservatism finds its roots in the theory of scarcity.  Money and time are both scare commodities and must be carefully managed.  Trends like cheap credit, government bailouts, deficit spending are anathema to a fiscal conservative.  A fiscal conservative wants a flat tax, balanced budget and strict guidelines for loans and government spending: “Thou shalt not run budget deficits.”  “Thou shalt not spend more money than thou maketh.”

Its-not-Obamas-faultI must confess, that I am not critical of these five core values.  I have long ago learned the value of juxtaposing opposite viewpoints so as to provide a clearer roadmap to truth and progress.  Every “ism” needs a counter “ism” and a system where the two opposing viewpoints can debate each other and Aristotle’s “Golden Mean” needs a democracy.  Capitalism must be balanced against socialism.  Liberalism must be balanced against conservatism.  Individualism must be balanced against collectivism.  One of the strengths of the United States has been its ability to allow opposing viewpoints and to strive to find a consensus among dissenting political perspectives.  Sadly, of late the constructive dissent of old has given way to a practice of destructive warfare between the two dominant political parties that has put the good of each party over the good of the country.

However, to return to the theme of this blog, the dumbing down of the Republican Party, the majority of the Republican Party now no longer seems to understand or care about these five core values.  Instead, the narrow-mindedness and shear obstructionism of the five voting blocs that I noted above have taken precedence over political compromise and searching for 1193-20120917-NoSmartPeoplethe Golden Mean.  The “Stupid Voters” are hijacked by the anti-intellectualism that has always characterized much of the political right.  The “Ignorant Voters” already believe that voting-republican1they know the truth and there is no persuading them otherwise.  The “Greedy Voters” want to keep as much of their wealth as they can and have no concern for the poor or needy.  The “Fearful Voters” are worried about crime, immigrants, health care, growing old and losing what they have already worked hard to obtain.  The last of the five Republican blocs, the “Religious Fundamentalist Voters” are worried that their biblical Christian God will be taken out of the USA and replaced by an obscure assortment of new Gods from various religions that are confusing and esoteric.

The Traditionalist Republicans (many of whom I know and hope still tolerate my views enough to call me a friend) are aghast at this assortment of new Republicans and their extreme uninformed viewpoints.  The Traditionalists could reach across the aisle and talk to their Democratic counterparts.  The Traditionalists realized the need for dialogue, discussion and compromise.  Furthermore, the Traditionalists also appealed to many independent voters (Which I am and remain to this day).  They appealed to us because we while we could ally ourselves with Democrats over many social issue, we could also see the value in the economic policies and positions often adhered to by the Traditionalist Republicans.

I can see the value in all five of the core Republican values I described above.  God Forbid, I would ever live in a country that totally extirpated even one of these core values.  Nevertheless, while I am for a balanced budget and against deficit spending, I can see making some concessions to Keynesian economics during times such as the most recent recession.  I am also for less government intrusion in our lives.  However, unlike Perry who could not name even three government agencies he would abolish, I can name ten I would abolish tomorrow if I were able to.  I am also against government bailouts.  I did not think GM should have been bailed out although I could concede with the value of hindsight that it may have been the right thing to do at the time.  And while I am against big government, I can and am equally critical of big unions.  Nevertheless, in my USA, unions and government would still have a place at the table.  I would like to paraphrase a part of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

Let the Golden Mean ring from the hallowed halls of Congress!

Let the Golden Mean ring from the esteemed corridors of the US Senate!

But not only that; let the Golden Mean ring from the benches of the Supreme Court of the USA!

Let the Golden Mean ring from State Capitals in the east to State Capitals in the west!

Let the Golden Mean ring from every school and university of America.  From every village, city, town and hamlet in this great country, let the Golden Mean ring.

In my blog next week, I will explore how the Republican Party let stupidity, ignorance, fear, greed and intolerance come to dominate its political agenda.  If you are a Republican, you might not like what you are going to hear.  However, if you are a Republican, perhaps the truth that I have to tell could help you to understand what you must do to restore the Republican Party to its rightful place in the US political system.

Time for Questions:

Are you a Republican? What did you find that you disagreed with in my blog today?  What did you agree with?  Which of the Republican voting blocs are you in? Why?  Do you think the Republicans will take the next presidency?  Why or why not?  If you are a Democrat, what did you like or dislike about this blog? Why?  What do you think I should have added?

Life is just beginning. 

Republicanism is the guiding political philosophy of the United States. It has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding.[1] It stresses liberty and “unalienable” rights as central values, making people sovereign as a whole, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption.  Wikipedia

Gandhi’s Seventh Social Sin: Politics Without Principle

We need to start off this discussion of Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin with a review of the definition of the term “Principle.”  There are many who would argue that politics today has too many principles.  Each side whether Democrat or Republican is firmly ensconced in their philosophical party principles which leave no room for discussion never mind negotiation.  A firm conviction that we cannot negotiate on “principle” has led us to some of the worst political situations we have seen in the long history of the USA.  We have always had “party” politics and there have always been back-room negotiations and political logrolling but never in our history have we seen the type of standoffs that seem to characterize Washington politics today.  Could these political standoffs be caused by rigid adherence to Party Principles?  Is Gandhi off-base with his Seventh Social Sin?  Do we need less principle in politics and not more?  Let us look at what the term “Principle” means by reviewing three different definitions or perspectives. 

Here are three different views of the term Principle

  1. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.  – Online Dictionary
  2.  A basic truth, law, or assumption – The Free Dictionary
  3. A principle is something primary that helps in explaining phenomena. A principle can be some existing factor in nature (principles of nature and being, or it can be a logical proposition or judgment (principles of reason) that is a starting point of a valid argumentation. The principles of reason cannot be proven, since in order to prove anything you need to have a starting point, and a starting point is a principle.  – http://www.hyoomik.com/phi205/arche.htm#arche2

Here are some examples for the third definition.  These are: “Principles of Reason.”  I add these so we can be more concrete in our discussion and less theoretical, if that is possible given the nature of the discussion.  Nevertheless, perhaps these examples can help us think more clearly concerning the concept of principles. 

  • The principle of non-contradiction: the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. The same proposition cannot be both true and false.
  • The principle of excluded middle: Either a thing is or it is not, there is no third possibility.
  • The principle of the reason of being.  Every being has a reason of its existence either in itself or in something else.
  • The principle of finality: Every agent acts for an end.
  • The principle of causality: Every effect has a cause.
  • The principle of identity: Every being is that which it is.  Each being is separated in its existence from other beings.

We have two issues raised by Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin that I think we must answer. 

First, does politics really need principles?  What purpose do they serve and why are they needed?

Second, can you have too many principles in politics and how do we determine if that is the case?

To answer the first set of questions, let us see what the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence has to say about Gandhi’s interpretation of this sin:

Politics Without Principles:  Gandhi said those who firmly believe in nonviolence should never stand for elections, but they should elect representatives who are willing to understand and practice the philosophy. Gandhi said an elected representative is one on whom you have bestowed your power of attorney. Such a person should be allowed to wield authority only as long as s/he enjoys your confidence. When politicians indulge in power games, they act without principles. To remain in power at all cost is unethical. Gandhi said when politicians (or anyone else, for that matter) give up the pursuit of Truth they, or in the case of parties, would be doomed. Partisan politics, lobbying, bribing, and other forms of malpractice that are so rampant in politics today is also unprincipled.  Politics has earned the reputation of being dirty.  It is so because we made it dirty. We create power groups to lobby for our cause and are willing to do anything to achieve our goals.  Not many among human beings have learned how to resist temptation, so who is to blame for the mess we find ourselves in?

In this interpretation, Gandhi implies that the “Evil” of politics comes about because of the lack of ethics that characterizes much political gamesmanship.  We would have to assume that the need for principles reflected by Gandhi’s ideas is connected to the need for a higher standard of behavior then what we most often see in our politicians.  Thus, politicians are unprincipled and unethical if they engage in lobbying, power games and other manipulative endeavors.  However, Gandhi does not clearly describe what an ethical political principle would be. We have to assume that most politics as practiced today would be considered as unprincipled by Gandhi.  Yet he does not provide us with a clear set of ethical political principles.   I conclude my answer to the question: Why are principles needed? as follows:  To provide a clear ethical path for political behavior and to help guide politicians in their search for truth.  

For the second set of questions (see above) we are dealing with a different issue.  If we accept that some political principles (unknown what they are) may be needed, then we must ask if too many of these principles might indeed be injurious to the political process.  I have already noted that we are frustrated today with politicians who are taking oaths to standby their party principles and thus gridlocking the entire political process.  Does this mean, we already have too many principles or do we have too many of the wrong principles?  To answer this question, let us take as an example a key principle that the Republican Party has stood for and see how our system of political ethics might be played out using this principle as a guide.

It is well known that many of our elected officials have taken an oath not to increase taxes under any conditions.  The Norquist Pledge as it has been called was taken by “95% of Republican Congressional representatives.”   Many would argue that this is a bedrock principle of the Republican Party.  However, is it really a principle?  Is it a fundamental truth?  Looking at the three definitions for a principle that started this blog, does the Tax Pledge meet the requirements of a “Principle?”  If so, what evidence is there to link truth to the assumed outcome that we expect to be attained by a rigid adherence to this principle?  Will not increasing taxes always benefit the public good? Is it always best for the common people if taxes are decreased?  Will we all benefit by having fewer taxes?  A fundamental principle should have some fundamental truths or facts to support it otherwise what is the point of the principle?  Either a principle is true or it is a hypothesis.  If it is true, the results should be self-evident.  If the principle is merely a hypothesis, than good logic suggests that we should not be too certain of its validity until more evidence exists to either prove or disprove the principle. 

The logic of my argument so far seems to move me towards the suggestion that “Not allowing any tax increases” does not constitute a valid ethical principle.  I see no evidence that the greater good is always served by this principle.  Perhaps there are other party principles that might be less amenable to my critique since I simply selected one of the “principles” we hear most about and are most familiar with.  No doubt “too many” of these so called “party” principles would wreak havoc with our political system.  IN fact, we see this happening already.  I suggest we should call these unsubstantiated or principles either as false principles or hypothetical principles.  This would give more credibility to Gandhi’s Seventh Social sin.  Unfortunately, it still does not answer the question as to what a set of Ethical Political Principles might look like.  The following principles are one set that has some merit.   It includes eight principles that were taken from a paper by John L. Perkins titled:  Humanism and Morality.     

Non-maleficence: Do not harm yourself or other people. 
Beneficence: Help yourself and other people. 
Autonomy: Allow rational individuals to make free and informed choices. 
Justice: Treat people fairly: treat equals equally, unequal’s unequally. 
Utility: Maximize the ratio of benefits to harm for all people. 
Fidelity: Keep your promises and agreements 
Honesty: Do not lie, defraud, deceive or mislead. 
Privacy: Respect personal privacy and confidentiality.

You can see from looking at these principles that our problem is still not solved.  Some of these principles conflict with others and life is still not simple.  The Principle of Fidelity suggests that the Norquist Pledgers are doing the right thing.  However, you may also notice that this principle may be in conflict with one or more other principles on our list.  For instance, what if allowing a tax increase actually maximizes the ratio of benefits to all people?  Thus, the principle of keeping your Norquist Oath is in direct opposition to a principle that says to do no harm to others.  Very confusing!  Alas, life is never simple and no moral or ethical code can be found that does not have both contradictions and complexities that make conduct difficult.  This latter fact makes a strong case for holding any principle as a hypothesis and not allowing ourselves to be overly strident in its interpretation.  

In conclusion, I must admit to finding this Seventh Sin of Gandhi’s to be a very difficult one to follow and to provide any kind of a prescription for.  I discovered many authors who argued that an ethical or moral code for politicians is impossible and even counterproductive.  I also found many who argued that the need for a moral code for politicians is as important as for any other field of endeavor.  I lean towards trusting Gandhi in support of this Sin.  He has proven to be wise and insightful in almost all of the beliefs that are associated with his life.  Perhaps, I will see more clearly the argument for this Seventh Social Sin as I grow in wisdom.  For now, I am content to accept that our politicians need:

  1.  Moral guidance and moral principles to conduct politics with.
  2. The ability to search for truth as a fundamental principle underlying all other principles
  3. The acceptance and recognition that they may be wrong and being too exclusive of other options is a recipe for ineffective government and politics.  

Time for Questions:

What do you think? Do our politicians need a moral code or set of principles?  Do they already have too many principles? How strongly should they adhere to their principles? Should they be willing to compromise on these principles?  Is not allowing a tax increase really a principle?   Should they stand firm on this principle regardless of the outcomes?  When should we be willing to compromise our own principles? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

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