“I don’t need your authority / Down with the moral majority.” Remember that line? It was from a Green Day song, protesting George W. Bush. Back then, Republicans claimed that they were the silent moral majority.
I saw a tweet from a Republican the other day claiming that Republicans were still the “silent majority.” That claim is no doubt based on the notion that Trump won the popular vote if you delete the three million illegal immigrants who supposedly voted for Clinton in the last election, which is itself based on an article that not even Trump is willing to cite (see last week’s article by me on this subject).
What’s noticeably missing from rhetoric these days is the idea that Republicans represent morals. They can no longer claim to be the moral majority.
After all, Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannon, admires Satan. And you can’t exactly claim to be the family values party when your president-elect mocks the disabled, especially when pictures are circulating on the Internet of his naked wife posing with other naked women.
But liberals don’t have the corner marketed on morality either. When they mock those pictures of Melania Trump, they’re rightly accused of slut-shaming. They’re accused of trying to make women feel bad about their own bodies, which is something that liberals claim that they don’t do.
Liberals reply that it’s the hypocrisy that they’re upset about. They don’t care if Melania or anyone else poses naked. What they don’t like is how Michelle Obama was held up to a higher standard, being criticized just for wearing sleeveless dresses. They don’t like that Pence has legislated against LGBTQ rights on so-called moral grounds when the FLOTUS-to-be has posed with other naked women, in pictures clearly meant to illicit interest by transgressing Pence’s so-called morality.
The liberals are making a complicated argument here. Too complicated to be reduced to the kind of snappy slogans that win hearts and minds.
The other part of the problem is a disagreement on just what passes for morality. Are we talking about:
- Morality as sexual propriety – Reference the whole Melania discussion above, which is based on real debates I’ve witnessed.
- Morality as identity politics – This is morality based on trying to avoid racism and sexism and discrimination in general against any particular group (for instance, the disabled).
- There’s a huge argument in liberal circles right now about whether or not they should back off of identity politics. Some people are saying that it cost them the election, because when you try to please everyone, someone inevitably feels left out, and this time, it was supposedly the poor white worker.
- But identity politics worked for Republicans, because it was by singling out the poor white worker that Republicans supposedly won.
- Morality as adherence to religious precepts – I don’t think that I need to explain this one, with Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, for instance, promising to put God back into schools http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/betsy-devos-education-trump-religion-232150 . (I guess Christians are out of luck if she doesn’t happen to pick their particular denomination.)
- Morality as the Golden Rule – The whole “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” rule seems completely broken, or rather, it’s being ignored.
- Republicans cannot deny that they spent the last 8 years being a resistance party. Trump’s efforts to unify the nation following the election have failed to do the job. His supporters are calling for Hillary Clinton’s prosecution and are viciously attacking both minorities and Clinton supporters (see my article on this subject).
- In return, liberals are doing every single thing that they can think of to oppose a Trump presidency. They’re comparing him to Hitler, and more importantly, they mean it. They mean it when they say that he’s colluding with Putin, that he’s going to drive the USA into a depression, and that he may very well start a nuclear war. Some of them are even comparing him to the Anti-Christ.
- Instead of doing unto each other as we would have others do unto us, both sides are reacting to what’s already been done or what they think is coming down the pipe.
- Morality as the avoidance of corruption –
- Let’s ignore, for the moment, the potential problem of Trump having his kids on all of those government (so-called business) calls. With McConnell refusing to remove himself from the confirmation hearings for his wife (Trump’s Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao), the Republicans have forfeited any right to claim that they avoid nepotism.
- Trump is having a press conference in a few weeks to announce how he’s going to avoid all of the financial conflicts of interest that liberals say that he’s already been taking advantage of.
- Most of his supporters don’t seem to be worried about this. After all, how’s a new hotel in Taiwan going to affect them?
- According to liberals, that hotel will affect us when, for instance, China destroys our economy because we’ve started dealing with Taiwan. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The way liberals see it, Trump’s already endangering American security in exchange for a good deal. They argue that a blind trust isn’t good enough, because Trump can’t un-know the fact that he owes so much money to China, for instance.
- But liberals are also convinced that a Republican-controlled Congress will be so highly immoral that it will never step in and stop Trump’s conflicts of interest from endangering our welfare. In part, that’s because (according to liberals) Republicans have ceded their faith in:
- Morality as adherence to the truth – ‘Thou shall not lie’ is actually one of the 10 Commandments. Alas,
- One of Trump’s supporters recently said “Who cares?” when asked if Trump would keep his promise by turning over his taxes.
- Sen. Ryan said “Who cares?” when asked if Trump was lying about the 3 million illegal immigrants voting.
- A Trump spokesman has been saying that “there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”
- Yet some Trump supporters clearly still expect him to keep his promises. Ann Coulter, for one, is already lamenting that it doesn’t look like he’ll be following through on his vows.
- And just this past Sunday, a Trump supporter’s search for truth led him to turn a gun on employees of a pizza place in Washington, DC, believing (thanks to fake news) that it was the center of a Clinton-run pedophile sex ring. Despite the fact that he found no evidence for this ring, Trump supporters are still passing around photos that supposedly prove that it exists.
- With liberals and Republicans still trading “proof” of this sort, it’s clear that followers in both camps continue to believe in truth. But they disagree on the rules of evidence (Clinton-ites being accused of “elitism” for relying on “experts” while Trump-ites favor home-grown brands of “common sense”).
All of this being said, morality’s not dead—otherwise, the accusations against Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have attracted any interest.
We’re still a moral people. We just don’t hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold our enemies to. It’s do as I say, not as I do.
If the Republicans want to reclaim our moral authority, that has to change. We have to treat people the way we expect to be treated. We either take the moral high road, or completely cede the right to claim that we’re acting on our principles.