Antiquated Norms vs. No Norms at All

A piece at RedState argues that Republicans should abandon their "antiquated" sexual morality in order to forward otherwise promising candidates.
As we’ve learned the hard way, not a single piece of the conservative agenda can be implemented—or even pursued—without solid control of all three branches of government. Still, some believe that these crucial majorities are less important than the moral character of individual candidates and office holders. We need Republicans who will do what is necessary to get elected and keep Democrats from holding office.... Unreasonable litmus tests are being applied to candidates by some Republicans, as if marital fidelity or refraining from soliciting sex with children were reliable indicators of whether a politician can be trusted to vote in a way that gives his party political victories.

...the GOP still foolishly squanders political potential still in its prime all for the sake of an antiquated obsession with honor and virtue. This is why even when Republicans win, they lose. The desire to be represented by honorable people who practice what they preach is... naive and unrealistic.... Republicans should all be focused above all on winning elections over Democrats and winning legislative victories even if the results don’t match their campaign rhetoric. Instead, many Republicans inexplicably choose to live in a fantasyland where truth and decency are considered more important than victory.
I am pretty sure he's joking, but not completely sure. The argument has a kind of pragmatic validity, and there is some reason to think that Republicans are in fact doing this.

The problem is that the old standards are the only clear standards. By age, by sex, and by nationality, there is no agreement on where the line is. "[F]emale respondents were much less tolerant of men looking at women’s breasts than their male counterparts were: among Americans 64 and older, for example, half of women but just a quarter of men said they would consider such ogling sexual harassment.... [A] quarter of French women under 30 believe that even asking to go for a drink is harassment, whereas almost none of their counterparts in Britain and Germany share that view."

Among Americans, more men than women in the 18-30 bracket feel that asking a woman out for a drink is sexual harassment. It's a quarter of young men who fear to make the request lest they be guilty of a moral crime, and only a fifth of young women who are prepared to feel harassed by being asked out for a pint. Young men and women do seem to agree, one in three of each, that it's sexual harassment to tell a woman that she's attractive to you if she's not your girlfriend or wife. But that leaves two-thirds of each who disagree.

Mike Pence's solution was widely mocked at first, and continues to be warned against as a viable option. Well, I agree that there could be some problems arising from the "Pence rule" as well; and I don't wish to adopt it myself, nor do I feel it is necessary to do. I'll bet we won't be hearing that Pence is guilty of this kind of bad behavior, though. His standard may well be antique, but it is at least a clear and bright line that keeps him out of trouble. Those are thin on the ground these days.

My guess is the real danger isn't that we'll adopt the Pence rule anyway. The real danger is that we'll learn both that (a) powerful men have indeed behaved horribly on both sides, but also that (b) neither side's voters are willing to punish them for it as they prefer victory to morality. The end result of this moral panic over sexual misbehavior by powerful men then is likely to be, ironically, a new license to engage in sexual misbehavior if you are a powerful man in politics. Powerful men in corporate life may be punished for it, but politicians may find that their voters won't; and if the voters won't, the donors won't; and if the donors won't, Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Christopher B said...

I have no problem with the GOP rejecting candidates who have been been either found guilty of such incidents in court, or who have had credible contemporaneous evidence presented in such a way that it can be examined by all parties as well as independent observers. I don't support rejecting candidates based on rumor, speculation, or incidents where primary evidence is likely to have vanished due to the passage of time, or for which no evidence exists beyond the recollection of interested parties.

Anonymous said...

The Woman And The Angel

An angel was tired of heaven, as he lounged in the golden street;
His halo was tilted sideways, and his harp lay mute at his feet;
So the Master stooped in His pity, and gave him a pass to go,
For the space of a moon, to the earth-world, to mix with the men below.

He doffed his celestial garments, scarce waiting to lay them straight;
He bade good by to Peter, who stood by the golden gate;
The sexless singers of heaven chanted a fond farewell,
And the imps looked up as they pattered on the red-hot flags of hell.

Never was seen such an angel -- eyes of heavenly blue,
Features that shamed Apollo, hair of a golden hue;
The women simply adored him; his lips were like Cupid's bow;
But he never ventured to use them -- and so they voted him slow.

Till at last there came One Woman, a marvel of loveliness,
And she whispered to him: "Do you love me?" And he answered that woman, "Yes."
And she said: "Put your arms around me, and kiss me, and hold me -- so --"
But fiercely he drew back, saying: "This thing is wrong, and I know."

Then sweetly she mocked his scruples, and softly she him beguiled:
"You, who are verily man among men, speak with the tongue of a child.
We have outlived the old standards; we have burst, like an over-tight thong,
The ancient, outworn, Puritanic traditions of Right and Wrong."

Then the Master feared for His angel, and called him again to His side,
For oh, the woman was wondrous, and oh, the angel was tried!
And deep in his hell sang the Devil, and this was the strain of his song:
"The ancient, outworn, Puritanic traditions of Right and Wrong."

- Robert William Service

Grim said...

I used to know a guy who recited Service poetry by heart. All of it, I think; but I never heard him do that one.

Anonymous said...

I read the article as the author comparing two candidates, one who stepped down and one who didn't. He doesn't get into the evidence of actual innocence or guilt. The one who stepped down appears to have proof leveled against him. Since he is on the out, that removes him as the cause of GOP degeneracy. So we come to Judge Moore. Different people have come to different conclusions on the Judge's innocence, but I think the article is written with the assumption of guilt.

Thought experiment: If the Moore is innocent, should he act differently than he is? Inference is the charges are political and that a possibly innocent man is being permanently smeared. If Moore is guilty, and it is provable, do we assume that the State of Alabama will or will not remove him? If they remove a guilty man, will they not have upheld the highest ideals both in assuming innocence until proved, and in removing evil? If they fail to remove him, they will validate the no-longer hyperbole of the article.

The WAPO talking about GOP discarding values in favor of power is laughable because they ran the piece that Sen. Franken should not be forced to resign on what appeared to me purely power politics.

Stc Michael

Tom said...

The article is satire, but the question is serious. Hypothetically, would we rather have morally upright but mostly ineffective representatives who let the Republic slide into the tyranny the left has in mind, or personally vile representatives who actually achieved our policy objectives?

The left has replied over and over that their policy objectives are more important than the moral character of their representatives, and that seems to have worked out well for them as a political movement.

The right is now asking the question.

Tom said...

I shouldn't have stopped there, of course. Part of this is the clear double-standard and the sense of political crisis.

Since the left will support a morally vile politician who advances their agenda (e.g., Bill Clinton), they don't lose effective politicians to moral outrage. The right does lose effective politicians to moral outrage, and it seems often just to the accusation of immoral behavior. There is a clear double-standard.

At the same time, the left seems to be winning, and the country seems to be getting to the point of no return. People are beginning to take ideas like secession and a second civil war more seriously. So, the stakes seem very high, and the cost for losing a few immoral but effective politicians could be the Republic. What's worse, a guy like Moore getting into the Senate, or 2 more squishes on the high court? What's worse, a guy like Moore in the Senate, or a path to voting left-wing legally for 20 million illegals?

I read it somewhere and I've had the thought myself: The "Republican Civil War" is between those who think the US is in a political crisis and those who think we're in a period of normal politics.

Cassandra said...

People are beginning to take ideas like secession and a second civil war more seriously.


How many people? And is this just "internet-talk" or serious talk?

I'm not trying to be a pain - but I think it's important to distinguish between entertaining remote possibilities and actual serious discussion of secession/civil war as policies we're prepared to implement.

Because both probably involve killing other people, and from my seat in the peanut gallery, that's not something I'm willing to do lightly. And it worries me to see it suggested that our bar has gotten that low.

Tom said...

Notice my qualifiers: "beginning" and "more seriously". I'm not predicting a civil war or attempt at secession, and I'm talking more about the general mood or perceived situation than any actual threat of civil war. But there has been increased discussion of those things, some right here. There has also been an increase in political violence with Antifa, BLM, the shooting of Steve Scalise, and some other incidents like the attack on Rand Paul that might well have been politically motivated.

World War I was largely thought impossible in 1910 because the economies of Europe had become so intertwined that most people thought no European nation would dare go to war with another. Sure, there was talk, but there's always talk, and people ignored it. 1914 told a very different story. The American Civil War 2 won't break out like that (Where would the army of secession come from?), but the fact that so many well-educated Europeans so deeply misread the political situation in Europe is a useful caution that I try to keep in mind.

It's difficult to point out legitimate potential dangers and yet not sound like an alarmist. If I sound too alarmist, my apologies, but at the same time, we seem to be in a political climate similar to 1968, but we seem to be missing some of the things we had back then that provided social cohesion and prevented greater violence. So, I don't think I'm being an alarmist.

I don't know. Would anyone here be surprised to see assassination attempts on Trump or other Republicans over the next 3 years? I wouldn't. How many on the right still trust the FBI not to play politics? And if they don't trust the FBI, what about the Secret Service or other police agencies? What happens if there are several political assassinations over the next few years and the federals don't seem to do anything to prevent more?

Civil War 2.0? I don't think so. But something kind of like the IRA vs. the black-and-tans? Maybe. Antifa and BLM are already moving that direction.

Tom said...

Well, the IRA vs. black-and-tans is not really the best analogy. I just mean low-level partisan guerilla violence. Maybe assassinations and reprisals, some partisan-vs-partisan fighting (Antifa vs. Antiantifa?). That sort of thing.

Grim said...

If you're hunting for an example that fits, how about 'A lifelong union supporter goes to the Republican softball team and tries to kill everyone'?

Cassandra said...

I really don't count individuals (at least until there are sufficient numbers of them) as harbingers of broad social trends.

There have been individual crackpots throughout history.

Tom's examples (Antifa, etc.) might be better, but there have also been groups of extremist crackpots throughout history. We usually call them terrorists, or just criminals. I'm not yet sure that Antifa is anything new.

What I'd been looking for here would be either a surge of individuals (more than a handful) or several groups with broad-based popular support. Dems kept trying to call Iraq a civil war, but I never thought that term applied.

james said...

"Violent popular revolts generally have to cross a major barrier: the threat of repercussions to me and mine. When enough people cross that line you have the revolt, but before that happens there'll be one guy (an oddball) who snaps, then another, and then a few more, and then people start organizing to protect themselves and the revolt starts to begin. (Civil wars driven by powerful players can play out differently.)"

Cassandra said...

Shorter version: talk is cheap :p

Actually participating in/fomenting civil war, not so much!

Grim said...

When we started talking about this years ago, Eric Blair used to say that the harbinger would be state resistance to Federal authority. So take California's move to become a 'sanctuary state' -- i.e., to refuse to enforce Federal laws it does not like -- which other states are considering following.

Actually, the whole Ninth Circuit is starting to look like organized government resistance to the rest of the government. I'm not sure that 'civil war' is that far-fetched a concept.

E Hines said...

As is the Hawaiian Federal trial court system.

Eric Hines

Tom said...

Well, Cass, my overall point is NOT that an actual civil war is likely. It is about what people believe is going on, and what they decide to do based on their beliefs. If people believe we are in a political crisis, they will be more willing to focus on getting results rather than on the virtue of the result getters. On the other hand, if they do not think the US is in a crisis, then virtue becomes more important. That's my main point.

On the other hand, one assassination sparked World War I.

Ymarsakar said...

Gotta love the unions, or else. Civil War 2 in the USA is inevitable. What would be illogical is to think human history makes a nation immune to civil conflict. That's not consistent with cyclical history and factions. The longer a nation goes without a war, the more certain they will be in one.

The problem with living near DC or the Virginia area south of DC, is that the bubble really doesn't tolerate talk about an accurate future. If DC or Hollywood had known the future, individuals would have decided to do other things, perhaps.

Part of the Deep State cover strategy, is that the class that believes themselves rulers in DC and Hollywood, are merely the outer onion layer of cannonfodder. This onion goes deeper than DC. Which is probably why even nuking DC isn't going to solve things permanently.

Hate is the first prerequisite for civil war. Republicans lacked it but Democrats had it before 2012. Blacks even expected Hussein to be assassinated by whites. Which was not useful at the time, so didn't happen, but another false flag might still happen and be blamed on Republicans or racism.

Republicans, conservatives, and patriots now know hatred. Too bad they don't want to control it but are controlled by it. With two factions, at least, that hate each other, civil war is easy to do.

After the Divine Counsel changed members and expelled 1/3rd of the rebellious elohim, after the crucifixion mark, the pattern remained consistent. Until uniquity is ripe amongst humans on a land or nation, punishment will not come. But when they do become ripe, which is up to 4 generations, then they are guilty under divine law for having ignored the warnings to repent or be destroyed.

If the Pilgrims had not repented of socialism, they would have been destroyed off the face of the land. Jeremiah's people ignored him or tried to kill him, and the Babylonians took them out. Either way, humans killing humans is as easy a way to get rid of evil: less micromanagement from the Divine Counsel.

None of this is why I thought in 2007 that civil war 2 was inevitable. That was more of an individual revelation than a logickal one.

Ymarsakar said...

The Southern states decided to secede because they believed this would avoid war or that it would not lead to war. Interestingly, it was that decision that created the war.

I think the Divine Counsel did to them what the previous one did to Ahab and other kings that the Most High wanted to get rid of. They created a plan to lead or deceive the nations into falling for the trap and cleansing each other.

Both the North and the South were guilty of breaking the US covenant with the Most High. Thus there would be divine consequences, not just mortal and human law consequences.

After they secede, the territories could be annexed or otherwise led to the Slave Faction, and they could get re acceptance into the union as a "US State", which would pressure the Union, as they had sympathetic Democrats up north. This would allow the Southern states to enforce their own laws and to create conditions that would favor them when they brought a ton of slave states as former territories back into the Union.

Kansas vs Missouri was a minor war that ethnically cleansed free soil settlements. The Secessionists were going to wage a more "important" war against the territories like Utah, to make them comply with "Slave state" philosophy. Once the territories fell, as it was a stated goal in the secession documents, then the "Union" would have no choice but to comply with Pro Slave state demands to re unify the land.

This, however, was not what the original contract with the Most High, or the god of this land, was about. The elohim decided it was time for humans to learn a lesson.

Things like Hollywood and Planned Profit being exposed fits the same pattern as Jeremiah and Noah's days. First the warning... then the hammer.

Why not just change one's behavior instead of angering the gods? Well, why do people believe civil war 2 will never happen in the US... same thing. Why did Jeremiah's people believe him to be a false prophet, everything he said would happen did happen.

Ymarsakar said...

The Service poem, even though it doesn't mention the Fall of the Watchers, 1/3rd of the Host of Heaven/Divine Counsel, nor Peter/Jude's comments on what happened to the angels that rebelled and were cast into Tarterus (hell was created for the angels not mankind), summons up quite the correct theology over why the Watchers fell.

What people may know as the Host of Heaven, the direct vassals and lieutenants of the Most High, the Sons of the God or the Sons of the Most High (where in which sons were given heirdoms and authorities in the kingdom), rebelled because of one thing. Women.

They fell to the lures of the daughters of Adam, wishing to create their own celestial family, to mimic the Most High's creation and his sons. Azarael was already punished, along with the ring leaders, which consisted of 33% of 70. 70 is generally a number that pops up for counsels, oligarchical structures to determine policies. It mimicks what goes on in the non physical world.

Genesis six, 1st Enoch, Jude, Peter 2, makes mention of these events. So does Paul's letters, when he advised the Greeks that they should have the women cover their heads, due to modesty, and also for the reason of not tempting the angels... just to be safe.

Even Soddom and Gomorrah, by the testament of Lot's writings, reflected a strange desire for strange flesh. One that bordered on the original sin of the Angels.

It was not by man's sin alone that things of this world decayed and collapsed. Man was appointed mortal sorrow, to use the Hebrew translation of the patriarch names under Adam. It was the angels, and elohim, that first brought corrupt knowledge to primitive and innocent humanity, violating a form of the First Directive. As a result of corrupt knowledge in war and seduction, humanity fell under Nimrod and created the Tower of Babel as a gateway to kill the elohim, even the Most High, and replace their rule.

Cassandra said...

Well, Cass, my overall point is NOT that an actual civil war is likely. It is about what people believe is going on, and what they decide to do based on their beliefs.

For what it's worth, I didn't think you were suggesting we were on the verge of civil war. But if we're not on the verge of civil war, is it really a good thing for people to *think* we are? I have two personal frustrations with the Internet (and with today's culture):

(1) The elevation of emotion and sensationalism over carefully thought out commentary/analysis. Social media is particularly bad in this regard - it seems to me to breed a sort of contagious hysteria that (IMO) is inimical to perspective and critical thinking. This is exactly what Rahm Emmanuel was talking about when he said, "Never let a crisis go to waste" - playing on people's fears and intentionally bypassing reason in favor of emotion. It's what I see people doing with Trump - "ZOMG!!!11! He's WORSE THAN HITLER! REPUBLICANS ARE WHITE NATIONALISTS! THE KKK IS TAKING OVER!"

It's just silly, and not something I want to see more of.

(2) The way it promotes misuse of the availability heuristic - I keep seeing people citing a handful of incidents in a nation of over 320 million people as though they were representative of some real problem (Black Lives Matter and the current hysteria over sexual "assault" are great examples of this kind of distortion, but conservatives do the same thing on issues we care about). It's propaganda, and particularly effective propaganda at that because it uses fear and anger to short-circuit our rational minds.

If people believe we are in a political crisis, they will be more willing to focus on getting results rather than on the virtue of the result getters.

Are we in a crisis? Or are we living through the normal back-and-forth of human events, in which things swing back and forth like a pendulum? I'm not sure we have a common definition (heck, I'm not sure We the People have many common understandings these days, if we ever did). When I read US history, I see innumerable crises, and innumerable gross abuses of power. Periods of excess, followed by periods of adjustment/correction. That seems to be how we learn - from making mistakes and being reminded (painfully) why we had rules in the first place.

I agree it's always possible that civil unrest could trigger a war, or even a civil war. But the precipitating event is generally not the true cause - it's just the tipping point of a chain of events that started long before the event we remember (this may actually support your point, Tom).

On the other hand, if they do not think the US is in a crisis, then virtue becomes more important. That's my main point.

Not sure I understand what you're trying to say here - can you elaborate?

Dad29 said...

To return to the RedState item for a moment: RS is tracking well with the other NeverTrump critters like Kristol. They find inane things to obsess over and commence strident obsessing at the drop of a Trump hat.

I was a Cruz guy. Didn't think Trump was going to do the right things. But so far, I have no complaints except his spend-more/tax less mania--which says he's a Real Estate developer. Imagine that!

As to Erickson & Co's pearl-clutch over Moore, I posted thoughts on that today. Moore may or may not be guilty of something (we know not what); but he ain't running for State Saint, either.

douglas said...

Dad29, you echo me pretty closely- Cruz guy, had my concerns over Trump but so far, not too bad, maybe even good. Of course, in an era where everyone is in a rush to choose sides and which side you're on is all-important, we kind of get left out in the cold while others drive the direction of things.

To the point Tom is making about how whether the public believe we are in a crisis makes a difference in whether or not we accept obviously flawed candidates- Think of soldiers. If we are at war and in existential peril, the guy who might otherwise be a mass murderer can seem like a great hero, and we've all seen movies like "the Dirty Dozen" that take criminals and use their 'talents' to uses favorable to the wartime cause. So it's seems pretty obvious that we're willing to have those who may not be moral exemplars go fight for us.

Our founders were an extraordinarily good group of men (writing and signing a constitution that limited powers they had to have known they themselves were likely to be the executors of), but they had some serious flaws as well.

Martin Luther King, Jr. led the civil rights movement and is rightly an icon, but was apparently also a philanderer, despite his being a reverend.

We do have to be careful of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. That said, I think many otherwise upstanding people who expect decency from their leaders were willing to support Trump because he appeared to be a fighter- one that might push the battle in the right direction. If you didn't see the election as a 'battle', then I think it would be harder for you to overlook the problems with the character of Mr. Trump.

Kipling said it well:
"An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,"

Let's also remember that since at least the mid-sixties (probably earlier, the left worked hard to tear down the moral bulwarks of society, including the notion that the appearance of propriety was important regardless of the actual nature of a man. Now they want to complain we're no longer so concerned with the appearance of possible impropriety? Be careful what you sow, it's been said. Wise words.

Texan99 said...

I was Walker, then Cruz, and I too am reasonably happy with Trump so far--deliriously happy if I'm to compare him with what I might have expected from the Clinton creature. As awful as I imagined her to be, her book disillusioned me about any remaining virtues she might have been guessed to have.

Grim said...

I was, of course, for Jim Webb. Nobody else was really close to him in terms of qualifications, not even the famous "Most Qualified Candidate in History," as President Obama put it in his endorsement. Highly decorated Marine, scholar, author, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, diplomat, historian, Senator. You don't see candidates like that very often.

Wasn't his year. America wanted something different.

Tom said...

Cass: But if we're not on the verge of civil war, is it really a good thing for people to *think* we are?

That was probably rhetorical, but in the interest of clarity, no, it's not a good thing. But talk about it has increased, and that's worth considering. Why has it increased? Is the sentiment a one-off reaction to an election with two horrible candidates, or is it a further escalation of the polarization of the last 20 years? I don't know, but I think it's worth noting.

I have two personal frustrations with the Internet (and with today's culture):

(1) The elevation of emotion and sensationalism over carefully thought out commentary/analysis. ...

(2) The way it promotes misuse of the availability heuristic - I keep seeing people citing a handful of incidents in a nation of over 320 million people as though they were representative of some real problem ...

I agree, with caveats. First, let me emphasize my agreement, especially with 1. I would add "objective" to your list, too.

My caveats are just that much of what today counts for "carefully thought out commentary/analysis" has become either amoral statism or implicitly Marxist and anti-American, and these things are just as bad as sensationalism.

For example, the whole transgender bathroom issue is rooted in very carefully thought out gender / queer theory social critiques (influenced by Marxism with its emphasis on oppression) that argue that gender is wholly socially constructed. These theories heavily use Derrida and his anti-realist ilk to "decenter" normal beliefs about gender as rooted in biology. These are very well thought out paradigms with generations of Ph.D. work in them, but they lead to absurdities no less than a purely emotional, sensationalist process would.

Statist views, on the other hand, eschew all that deconstruction nonsense, but go to the opposite extreme of taking a purely materialist, amoral point of view that promotes elite government power over individual liberty and the rule of law. The frequent arguments that the economy is good so everything is A-OK often come out of this view. For example, they will quite rationally, with supporting numbers and charts, claim that since illegal immigration is a net gain for the economy, we shouldn't worry about it. Immaterial ideas like the rule of law are nowhere to be found in their carefully constructed graphs.

So, in addition to popular sensationalism, I also think we're beset by the problem that our intellectuals are in large part either fundamentally ridiculous or wearing blinders that won't allow them to see beyond the narrow field of things that they can quantify. Even when we as a society think carefully, we're doing it wrong.

RonF said...

The posting and various commentators on these events have a common thread that troubles me quite a bit - they support (from various directions) that this is an issue of men or masculinity. But do not the feminists tell us time and time again that rape is a crime of power, not sex? Then is not sexual harassment so as well? Do a search on female teachers committing statutory rape and you will be quite surprised at the large number of examples - but why, then, if rape and sexual harassment is an issue of masculinity? The answer is that it is not masculinity that is the problem. It is one of power, and the nature of fallen humans to misuse it regardless of their sex.

Tom said...

To continue:

Cass:Are we in a crisis? Or are we living through the normal back-and-forth of human events, in which things swing back and forth like a pendulum?

That's the question of the day. I don't know. I think we are, though, and I think it's been building since the 1930s. FDR and the New Deal generation fundamentally transformed the US, and WWII and the Cold War shaped generations of Americans into statists. Radical leftists today are trying to accomplish another major transformation that, in my opinion, would effectively kill individual rights as Americans have traditionally understood them and turn the US into another social democracy. Obama was pushing hard for that, with assists from the IRS, DOJ, DOEdu, and maybe even the FBI. Luckily, he did a lot of it with a pen and a phone and never got legislation to back it up. Had Clinton won, she would no doubt pursue that agenda.

At some point, you reach a place where there is no return. Instead of a major war, it could just be that last straw on the camel's back. That's the kind of crisis I think we're in. The left is piling on the straw and we're trying to take it off. Each individual straw is a small thing, but the whole mass can be pretty serious, and at some point you don't recover.

Me: On the other hand, if they do not think the US is in a crisis, then virtue becomes more important. That's my main point.

Call: Not sure I understand what you're trying to say here - can you elaborate?

Sure. I think there's a split between people who think we're in a crisis and those who don't.

For the people who think we're in a crisis, they are most concerned with effectiveness and whether or not a politician is personally virtuous is not as important. Every vote is important.

On the other hand, those who do not think we're in a crisis treat personal virtue much more seriously. It's OK to lose an election if the candidate is a villain because it's not that big a deal if the other side makes some gains. Every vote is not important; if we lose a few, that's just how the game is played. We'll win a few the next time around.

In short, when the perceived stakes of winning and losing are high, virtue takes a backseat to achieving one's political goals. When the perceived stakes are low, achieving one's political goals take a backseat to virtue. Not for everyone, but for many, it seems.

Tom said...

douglas says it well.

As for candidates, I was a big fan of Ben Carson just because I believe he is a truly good person, the best of them in my opinion. He obviously wasn't very well qualified or experienced for the job, but if virtue is paramount, you couldn't have done better.

More realistically, I track with Tex: Walker, then Cruz.

Qualifications are less important to me (not unimportant, mind you) than aspirations. Webb was the most qualified, but his voting record and goals were worse than just about any of the Republican candidates.

Cass said...

Tom -

Thanks so much for the thoughtful responses - I felt like I was misconscrewing your comments and heading in the wrong direction in my own responses, and your subsequent comments confirmed that for me.

Will come back and respond - am in the middle of making curry for dinner after a too-long day at work and the brain is pretty much fried.

From what I've read so far though, I think we're mostly in agreement.

Tom said...

Another part of deciding whether or not the US is in crisis is the definition of the US itself.

If people define it as a powerful, democratic nation state, and they generally accept the New Deal changes, then it doesn't look like much of a crisis at all. We're still a major world player, we're still a representative democracy, we still have a great deal of individual freedom, our standard of living is still among the best in the world, we're nowhere close to serious civil unrest, etc. What crisis?

On the other hand, if they define it as a set of essentially Lockean, republican ideals, and the system of government those ideals created, then we are way, way off course. FDR's Supreme Court quite illegitimately shifted the balance of power heavily in favor of the federal government over the states, every generation of justices seems to shift that balance even further, the federal bureaucracy is almost untouchable even when they pretty clearly commit crimes to influence elections, state and individual rights are slowly but inexorably being eliminated in favor of a central technocratic bureaucracy, the federal debt is unmanageable, and it sure looks like the good old US of A is on her deathbed. (Not, mind you, that the nation state that calls itself the USA will disappear, but the ideals and form of government that are the heart and soul of the nation, the "real" America, are about to be extinguished with no clear path to resuscitation.)

Tom said...

Also, Cass, thanks for challenging me and making me think through things and articulate them. That's good for me!

Cass said...

To Ron's comments (I wanted to respond last night, but didn't have time):

FWIW, I don't accept that rape/sexual harassment are *solely* issues of men/masculinity, but I also - despite my belief that men and women aren't as radically different in our natures as some conservatives believe we are - don't happen to believe that mens' and womens' sexuality are exactly the same, either.

And I've never accepted that rape is more about power than sex. I think it's about both power and sex.

The problem I often have about liberal dogma is the formulaic, one-size-fits -all frame they use to describe social problems.

Example: "Rape is something entitled men do to intimidate/hurt women and - in the process - feel more powerful/dominant themselves. If we "fix" toxic masculinity, rape will magically go away."

That's just silly. At the same time, I do think there's a larger minority of men who rape women (actually, statistically it's more often young girls who can't fight back) than the other way 'round. Flogging every example of women abusing young boys does challenge the notion that only men commit rape/sexual abuse, but it also has the effect of distorting people's perceptions of the relative frequency with which men and women commit these offenses.

It is hard for me to tell whether more women are offending these days (given their newfound license and the decline in public morals, that might well be true) or whether we're just hearing about it more. Or, both could be true!

IMO, the proportion of women who have what I'd call "issues around sex" is growing, and that's not a good thing. My perception is that men in general have throttled back on aggressive sexual behavior and women in general are - for the first time in my life - acting out sexually, largely (IMO) because society encourages/rewards/declines to punish these behaviors.

Changing incentives elicit different responses in both sexes. The one thing that seems clear to me is that neither men nor women handle sex terribly well (in general). It's a powerful set of drivers that confuses even mature adults.

Which is why we used to have so many rules around sexual behavior :p

Cass said...

Tom - in no particular order, a few responses:

I like your New Deal example as a tipping point. This is something my Dem friend and I debate a lot - how do we as a society handle people who can't/won't take care of themselves... or their children? Or their parents?

Our grandsons go to school in rural Georgia. The school really acts 'in loco parentis' to a degree that makes me and the Spousal Personage uncomfortable. Case in point: serving breakfast at school. It's hard to get the grandpunks to eat breakfast at home. If they wait, they can eat at school. I don't understand why school is serving breakfast or kids are going early. I get that their parents both work in many cases, but the abdication of parental influence bothers me. There are tons of after school 'clubs' (really, state sponsored day care for working parents). Is this better than having latchkey kids?

Maybe. Probably yes, in many cases. But in my day (shaking cane feebly) kids came home, did some chores, maybe started dinner when they were older. I don't know many/any kids who do chores.

The overall shifting of what used to be private/personal responsibilities to government, whether state, local, or federal, disturbs me. I see the changes this crowding out encourages in individual behavior, and those changes concern me: passivity, not planning ahead/planning for the worst, looking to government to solve problems, etc.

Saw another article the other day about how a majority of families have NO savings! This is nuts! We were literally poor when we got married and we could easily, at any time, have put our hands on 1-2 thousand bucks for an emergency. And that money was worth more then (shaking cane again, for good measure). Now, they can't come up with $400.

But if you believe someone will always step in and help you, you don't save for emergencies. I can't see that this is a good thing.

Cass said...

Our buddy Jon Haidt addresses your point about Lockean ideals in a way I find particularly compelling (probably b/c it echoes thoughts I've had for years).

He talks about how our system of government REQUIRES the careful cultivation/preparation of citizens, who must actively be trained to act in ways that aren't instinctive for the whole scheme to work. Tribalism must be suppressed. Self control must be strengthened. Trust/reciprocity are vital.

And yet.... some progressive institutions are not only NOT preparing the citizens of tomorrow to act in ways that promote civilization/republican governance -- they are actively *undermining* the behaviors required for our current system to work. Y'all probably saw this link the other day, but if not it's truly wonderful:

The spouse and I listened to most of it on the ride back home from Georgia this weekend until we hit West Virginia and our connection grew too weak. Lots of food for thought there.

The thought that troubles me (even as I have argued that character may not trump ideology in every case) is well summed up by a line from A Man for All Seasons:

If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that abhorrence, anger, pride, and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice, and thought, perhaps we must stand fast a little - even at the risk of being heroes...

Slippery slope, expediency :p It scares me, even as I scramble to keep my own footing.

Texan99 said...

My normally fairly self-reliant county is going through a paroxysm of dealing with the issue when it's OK to accept help after a disaster. A quick look at social media shows that there is always a sizeable population out there that is always looking to be rescued, and can't get it together to prepare for anything complicated.

As for breakfast at school, I'm puzzled, too. My parents both worked. Often both of them were out of the house before I got ready to leave for school, so I can even remember being young enough that anyone made me breakfast. Breakfast is notoriously easy to fix for yourself. A kid that would go hungry rather than rustle up some breakfast at home before school has got something seriously wrong with him, and what's wrong with him is probably his bizarre parents, followed by his bizarre school system.

Texan99 said...

"Can't" even.

Cass said...

I think the argument goes something like this:

1. There are parents who "forget" to feed their kids.

2. Hungry kids can't concentrate in school.

3. Therefore, schools should feed kids so they can learn.

I don't get it, but then I'm notoriously heartless that way.

FWIW, my grandsons are perfectly capable of fetching food for their ownselves. One of them isn't interested in food right after he wakes up, which I identify with (being of a similar mind).

As a grandparent, determined to be tiresome about standards and expectations and doing-things-even-if-you-don't-feel-like-it-right-now, I see some value in habits and a sense of order and ...

OK, I'm just an old fart who needs to shut up :p

Texan99 said...

Hungry kids who can't concentrate in school might conceivably learn that it's a bad idea to show up at school hungry, and therefore that they should exert themselves for 120 seconds each morning to put some easy food into their mouths. I imagine kids who fail to put on clothing might show up at school too cold or embarrassed to concentrate on their schoolwork, too, we heartlessly assume they'll figure that out for themselves, too.

But then I grew up in the Dark Ages, when Mom and Dad weren't standing by to drive over to the school to delivery the 3-4 things I forgot to bring with me every single day. The whole time I was going to school I never heard of a single example of a parent driving to school with something a classmate had left home. No one would even have considered asking.

My parents didn't do my homework for me, either, or fill out my college applications, or . . . but then I was disgracefully neglected. And now here I am believing I don't need the government to wipe my nose for me every day.

Cassandra said...

You cheeky thing, you!

Tom said...

A common practice in the elementary school system here is for the schools to send parents a list of everything their kids need to have for the first day of class. Then, on the first day of class, the teachers tell all of the students to put all of their stuff on the list in one of the rooms and come back to their own classroom. Then, at some point that morning, the students will be told to go to back to the room and take what they need. Not, mind you, retrieve the stuff they brought, but to take what they need from whatever is there.

The responsible parents then have to go out and replace the stuff taken from their kids by other kids whose parents didn't provide them with everything on the list.

This happens every year.

Cass said...

Wow. Just wow.

douglas said...

" The one thing that seems clear to me is that neither men nor women handle sex terribly well (in general). It's a powerful set of drivers that confuses even mature adults.

Which is why we used to have so many rules around sexual behavior :p"

Nutshell explanation, right there.

This is one of those comment sections that remind me why the Hall is my internet home. Thanks, folks.

Tom, that scenario is a little more acceptable to me, because it's local and I actually know the kids in my kids classes. I've grown to think in recent years that if I'm really against centralized government, then perhaps I need to be a little more accepting of local government or institutions being involved in these sorts of ways.

I'd also add that I think what I was saying earlier about the relative virtues of our politicians, and how much that matters or not, can also be well illustrated by Clint Eastwood's character in High Plains Drifter. He's clearly not a 'good man', but has the right tools, and also appears to have some sense of propriety, however flawed he may be. As that town hired him to fight their battle, I think a large enough part of America hired Trump to fight theirs.

Tom said...

douglas, I agree with you that less central control means more local control, and I'm all for that.

I would be okay with it if the school had a fundraiser for kids from families who had financial problems or something like that, but this particular method is just theft. It is simply "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," and I think it encourages irresponsibility.

I think you're right about the High Plains Drifter analogy, too.

Texan99 said...

I've been reading a fascinating book called "On Combat" by David Grossman. It's only partly about combat, but more generally about sheepdog types in general, and the pact that society makes with them. This is OT the original post, really more in response to the "High Plains Drifter" idea. The book talks a great deal about the natural aversion to violence, the way training can mute that aversion, and how dangerous it is to mute the aversion in kids without also teaching them tremendous self-discipline. So he's particularly worried about role-playing shoot-em-up games and violent movies, but firmly in favor of appropriate training for soldiers and policemen to ensure that they won't lock up in an existential or even purely physiological crisis on first being confronted with the need to shoot an enemy. He points out that school shooters almost universally love violent video games and movies, but almost never have subjected themselves to any group activity, like sports or ROTC, that required submission to discipline or any notion of service. For that matter, you have to wonder whether they've ever in their lives had to take responsibility for something basic like feeding themselves breakfast before they go to school. Neglect of primal needs combined with neglect of training in self-discipline is a toxic mix.

Tom said...

I read his book "On Killing" years ago. It dealt with some of the same themes and was quite interesting. He advanced the thesis that violent first-person-shooter games trained kids to kill and I didn't really buy it then, but it may be that it's not just the games but a combination of several factors that includes FPS games. I'd be interested in reading "On Combat."

Texan99 said...

I've always been very, very skeptical of the rap against violent games and movies, but he made the point to me for the first time in a way that seems more convincing. He claims that hyper-realistic pop-up targets are much more useful than geometrical bulls-eyes in training people to react quickly and properly to a real-life shooting emergency, and that the improved effect almost entirely relates to overcoming the natural instinct against killing. He also points out that returning servicemen are much less likely to engage in violent crime than guys of a similar age in the general population. His explanation of the contradiction is the profound training in self-discipline. On a shooting range, for instance, careless or self-indulgent behavior with a weapon leads to swift repercussions, so anyone who cares about not being kicked absorbs self-discipline and associates it strongly with guns. Military training is an order of magnitude more profound. On a deep level, a shooter takes in a code of behavior associated with his deadly weapons. Isolated, socially awkward teenagers with video games get nothing of the sort, but they do perhaps get their primitive barriers eroded on the subject of violence to human-looking targets.

Grossman claims that teenagers are remarkably prone to stop a shooting spree when a single authoritative adult confronts them and says "It's time to stop now," as if the video console were saying "Game Over." He cites the experience of some police academies with training to stop shooting periodically and police brass--some trainees found that they were doing it automatically in an emergency when they should have continued shooting instead. One guy who trained himself to grab a bad guy's pistol, then hand it back to the instructor, actually found himself handing a pistol back to a convenience-store robber after he disarmed him. These things seem crazy, but we're talking about accessing what Grossman refers to as the "puppy brain," the semi-irrational non-verbal part of the brain that can very easily take over when we're startled or terrified.

Another interesting part of the book is how much easier it is for people to engage in deadly violence in what amounts to a "crew-served weapon." He says a car full of gang-bangers is a crew-served weapon; we rarely see drive-by shootings by a single gang-banger. Apparently it's harder to say "no" to one's buddies, or to try to talk them out of shooting their own guns, than it is to go along, though it's actually fairly hard for the average Schmoe to go out alone and start shooting.

Tom said...

Hm. That instantly gave me the idea for incorporating command structures in games like Call of Duty. Why not add a sergeant or lieutenant with directions? And if players go crazy, bring them up on charges in the game. Following difficult instructions might add another dimension of challenge to the game as well.

That said, I also suspect the customers would overwhelmingly reject it, unless maybe they could be brought onboard and understand why it was useful and interesting.

Texan99 said...

I'd like to think it would appeal to some players, but I suppose most people find command structures difficult to accept unless there's a strong element of camaraderie and charisma in a leader, or unless they're pretty trapped--stuck in basic training, or unable to get access to the shooting range without satisfying the standards of an authority figure. Maybe strong parents or other role models could get kids interested in a game with discipline, appeal to their sense of honor or desire to be grown-up--but I'm thinking camaraderie and leader charisma would be awfully hard to mock up digitally.

Tom said...

Good points. Still, maybe a "discipline" score that gave them advantages in the game for following instructions and penalties for not. Also, it could be incorporated into game play in enemy reactions. Being known for treating enemy prisoners mercifully might result in more surrenders, while being known as merciless or cruel might result in a greater enemy determination to kill the player. You could even throw in the occasional bad leader who gave an illegal order and reward the players for not following it.

Of course, I still think this wouldn't be very appealing to most gamers. The ideas are interesting, though.

Texan99 said...

Funny, it's one of the few things that might drive me to try a game out. But I'm clearly not the target audience.