The Double Standard Files

double-standardsA misguided commenter (or perhaps he was just trying to annoy me) challenged my assertions regarding Michael Sam by claiming that I was advocating a double standard in his case, while I have condemned the prevalence of double standards elsewhere on Ethics Alarms (like here.)  I pointed out, none too gently, I must admit, that this was an unjust complaint. The requirement that trailblazers in sports, politics or any other field have to either establish high levels of performance, character and trustworthiness or fail—and not only fail, but set their causes back significantly—is not a double standard, but a separate one that applies in unique circumstances. I find it difficult to believe that most people fail to understand this.

Just to be clear, however, I began this morning searching the news for true double standards, for which the accompanying word should always be “hypocrisy.” I did not have to look very far:

 Double Standard #1 

“Take back America”: Racist for Republicans, Fine for Democrats

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Detroit on Labor Day, proclaimed that “it’s time to take back America.”  “If we don’t, America’s in trouble,” said Joe.

Last month, however, the Attorney General in Biden’s administration labelled the phrase a racist code. “There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder said in an ABC interview.“You know, people talking about taking their country back. . . . There’s a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”

President Obama has made the same claim.

Thus Democrats are presumed to be making the traditional campaign exhortation to “take back” the nation, the White House, or the values of the country without exhibiting racial animus,  but Republicans saying exactly the same thing are exposing racist intent. One side muzzled and handicapped by the application of a double standard: we can say it, but you can’t.

 Double Standard #2

The First Lady’s staff: Gender bias is benign as long as it’s directed against men

There are ten members of Michelle Obama’s staff—which is ridiculous in itself—and every one of them is female.

Go ahead; rationalize that. Let’s see…

  • It’s just a coincidence!
  • We hired women because we could pay them le..never mind.
  • Michelle is just more comfortable with women.
  • We never said there was anything wrong with a war on men.
  • She just picked the best qualified candidates!
  • It’s not discrimination when the First Lady does it!
  • It’s good to be Queen!
  • Women are just better at this kind of girly stuff.
  • The important thing is, they aren’t all white women.
  • Shut up!

Are we all clear on double standards now?


Sources: AEI, New Republic

Graphic:  La Salle Non profit Center

17 thoughts on “The Double Standard Files

  1. These are, of course, excellent and apt examples and explain the phrase well. But are there no good examples of double standard that emanate from the conservative side? One of your commenters recently accused you of being biased against the liberal side. As a liberal myself, I will accept accusations that are warranted against the liberal side, but I do it grudgingly when there are no counter-balancing examples from the conservative side. I refuse to believe that it is only us horrible liberals who perpetrate such breaches of ethical conduct. Since you do sometimes post about such things done by conservatives, I am assuming that you didn’t include any today as a result of haste to get out this explanatory post.

    • As I said, these were from today’s news, and are pretty clear, indeed, I would say, pretty flagrant and outrageous, and at a high level to boot. Agree

      Send me a conservative double standard on the same scale, and I’ll post it immediately. There are plenty of them, and I’ve flagged them in the past. However, on race, gender and political correctness, the Left has lapped the field recently. I’ll defend that statement, because its easy, and it’s true. When , for example, the Republicans do somethin as cynical as have a convention declaiming a “war on women” and have someone like BILL CLINTON!!!!!!!!!! as the star speaker, let me know. I guess the equivalent would be the GOP having a convention condemning the Obama drone policy with Dick Cheney keynoting. To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet. When it does, you will hear from me–count on it.

      • I did agree that they were excellent examples and that you HAVE commented on conservative double standards in the past. So, I guess I should just be satisfied that there were no conservative double standards in TODAY’S news.

    • Liberals are not the only ones capable of deceit, treachery, disloyalty and political criminality in general, Patrice. The difference is that rank and file conservatives won’t go to all lengths to defend it in an official and tolerate other officials who excuse it.

  2. Patrice:
    As a conservative I will state that both sides practice double standards.

    Double standard #1
    Many conservatives want government out of their lives but have no difficulty wanting to reverse court opinions that prevent laws from being enacted to bar or extensively regulate certain medical procedures. You know the one I mean. There is a middle ground. As a conservative, I don’t care what procedures a women wants as long as I don’t have to subsidize it with tax dollars. Choice means absorption of all costs.

    Double standard #2
    Many conservatives want religious freedom as long as it comports with the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic. Can’t have devil worshippers, witchcraft or animists. This one actually kills me in its hypocrisy.

    Does that help?

    • Many conservatives want government out of their lives but have no difficulty wanting to reverse court opinions that prevent laws from being enacted to bar or extensively regulate certain medical procedures.

      That would not be hypocrisy because a court is not supposed to rule based upon the public policy merits, but due to a faithful interpretation of the law.

  3. “One of your commenters recently accused you of being biased against the liberal side.”

    Yes, and Jack addressed that accusation very well. Do we really have to go there again?

    • Sorry. Haven’t had time to read all previous comments (and replies) and/or all previous posts. Just commenting on what I read today.

  4. Isn’t #1 more of a hypothetical? I mean, the accusation of racism stems from believing a Big Lie, and/or from believing that it’s easy to foster belief in a Big Lie, ergo play the race card. (The Big Lie is that partisans opposed to the incumbents are all racists, and those alleged racists expose their racism by their rhetoric about “taking this country back.”) I do understand your point (I think!) about the double standard, wherein uttering “let’s take this country back” by a group of partisans who oppose you can be racist ONLY if it is simultaneously (in fact) racist if “your side” utters the same thing.

  5. I don’t necessarily think that trailblazers have to out perform everyone in the field like Jackie Robinson did, they may not even need to be top 10, they must be generally better than average. But they must not, must not fail, not in the slightest, otherwise all the misconceived notions about the group they seek to vindicate may as well be true.

  6. I think you raise a legitimate point that a lack of diversity in staff hired by a woman is just as deserving of criticism as a lack of diversity in staff hired by a man. And, according to published sources, the First Lady’s staff is not particularly diverse.

    However, with regard to that specific example, a few points are relevant. The source you link to is the “public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute,” and while it is certainly _possible_ that such a source could present accurate information, it’s probably not the most credible source when it comes to factual information that also amounts to partisan criticism.

    The First Lady’s staff actually consists of _more_ than 10 people, and some of the people not listed by AEI are male. According to the Weekly Standard (hardly a liberal mouthpiece), July 7 2014, the first lady employs 2 men.

    According to columns debunked in 2009 by Snopes, Michelle Obama had staffers named Alan O. Fitz, Tyler Lechtenberg, and Joseph J. Boswell–among other male names and gender-ambiguous names. It is unlikely that those individuals were all female.

    If Michelle Obama’s hiring policies are sexist, it is no defense to use “tradition” as an argument. But it is still worth noting that her predecessor, Laura Bush, had 16 staffers with the words “First Lady” in their job titles, and every single one of them has a female name. (I googled “Kasdin,” just to be sure.) My source for this is the “2008 White House Office Staff List” published on the Washington Post’s web site.

    tl:dr– Yes, you are correct that it is wrong to apply a different standard to women than to men when it comes to sexism in hiring. But your source about the gender breakdown of Michelle Obama’s staff was wrong; most of her staff are female, and a few are (and always have been) male.

    • I tire of your attempted gotcha’s Phil, and as before, this one is lame.

      Both the Weekly Standard and AEI got their data from a non-partisan WH report to Congress listing White House personnel. AEA defined the First Lady’s staff as her personal staff, and it is 10, and the 10 were all female. The Weekly Standard used a broader definition, including her initiatives, Let’s Move and Joining Forces, as her “staff.” The two men are are the directors of Let’s Move and Joining Forces, and the Standard was including them to bolster stats showing that the men make more than women at the White House—a distinct double standard point from the one I was discussing. So the two groups are meausuring apples and oranges, and bias has nothing to do with it. To say AEI’s statement of FACT is biased is ridiculous—it is simply taken directly out of the White House report. There is no analysis to bias. A fact is a fact…check it yourself; I did.

      And what Laura Bush did with her staff is 100% of topic. Republicans were not making the argument that Democrats were gender biased while using gender biased hiring practices themselves. This is naked excuse-making and rationalizing.

      Cut it out.

      • I almost replied to him with “And as always, the Bush’s did it first, and were worse”, but I’m glad I didn’t. You did it so much better and with more facts.

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