My NPR Conversation About Ethical Responses To The Trump Election


Monday afternoon I was on an NPR panel for Tom Hall, of the Baltimore NRP affiliate, along with two other guests. It was an hour long show, with call-ins. You can hear it here.

Obviously the topic is germane to the John Oliver post. I have to apologize for posting that while flying around and being buffeted by speaking obligations. I never dreamed, silly me, that the simple assertion that Americans, as well as non-American comics, should follow a tradition of two century’ duration and give a new president-elect the respect due the office, and the chance to live up to the crushing responsibilities of the office before heaping abuse on him. After all, we would want the same. It is a tradition that ennobles the country and democracy, and should be regarded as an absolute ethical requirement, the least a new President deserves. It is also beneficial to all, healing the wounds of the campaign, and binding the country together. In short, every ethical system supports this basically decent conduct. I did not expect decency, fairness, respect and patriotism to be controversial. Trump shares responsibility for the reaction the post is getting, but it is still depressing.

A couple of brief notes on the session:

1. Tom Hall did an excellent job, I thought, though it was frustrating, because some more back and forth with the other two guests would have  been enlightening.

2. I didn’t know I was going to be the Designated White Anglo-Saxon Male on the panel.

3. If I had one more reply before we ran out, I was going to say that a woman dismissing an opinion as “the result of male white privilege” is a despicable and unethical tactic, appealing to bias, and assuming that I can’t be objective or perceptive because of my color and gender. It is sexist and racist tactic, and those who wield it should be called on it, hard.

4. I want to apologize to The FIRE, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which I mentioned in the discussion. Shockingly, nobody knew what it was, and I couldn’t remember what the acronym stands for. FIRE is the wonderful organization that fights college speech codes and other censorship of expression and basic rights on campus.

5. The panelist who didn’t say that I was cognitively handicapped by my race and gender did come very close to saying that freedom of speech can ethically be restricted (hate speech, you know) as long as the government doesn’t do it. Again, I didn’t have to respond. This individual heads two ethics organizations.

6. The callers were disappointing, but modeled well the prevailing anti-Trump mood. I desperately wanted to point out the fallacy of the caller who said that a Trump voter could be either ignorant or racist, but had to be one or the other. This is part of the whole “half the country just told women and minorities and immigrants that they aren’t valued narrative. After all, why else would someone not vote for Hillary Clinton? What possible reason could there be?

7. I really have to write about the “people are scared” argument.

I probably won’t have a chance to reply to comments until I get back to DC, late tonight. I’m sorry.

30 thoughts on “My NPR Conversation About Ethical Responses To The Trump Election

  1. The Times has joined in the piling on, their article claiming disarray in the Trump transition. I certainly got a chuckle over the Times’ sudden concern for Chris Christie

    • AOL is getting goofy, too…guess I should say “goofy-er”. Apparently Trump is going to have the least transparent Presidency in history. Why, you may ask? Because he took his family out for a steak dinner without telling the press.

  2. ”the caller who said that a Trump voter could be either ignorant or racist,”

    President Obama spokesweasel Josh Earnest, in a moment of rare honesty and candor:

    “There are a lot of people … who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, who voted for his re-election in 2012, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.


    How do we tell the difference?

  3. “White Anglo-Saxon Male”

    I thought you were Greek? When did Greeks become Anglo-Saxons?

    Hell , my racist grandmother would ask when did Greeks become white??

    My Moms family is Irish , Welsh and American Indian. My Dads family is off the boat from Scotland. And even I am not a Anglo-Saxon, although a local playwright did use that term towards me during an argument and I pointed out to him that I am neither and he was ignorant.

    • Good point, TB. There really are relatively few WASPs in the country. But there are still lots of people who are wannabe WASPs. Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders (half million dollar house on Lake Champlain), etc. It’s a funny phenomenon.

      • I don’t think that wanting nice things or having a nice house makes someone a wannadbe Wasp. Nor do I begrudge Sanders in buying a vacation home. He certainly hasn’t gotten rich being a Senator. If he and his wife can afford it good for them.

        FYI In Washington DC $575,000 wont buy much of a house and most likely only a condo.

        • I do begrudge Bernie his dacha. If he wants a workers’ paradise, why’s he living off his wife’s inheritance in such grand style? A second home in every pot? Why not donate the money to help fight income inequality?Limousine liberal. Or just a patrician Commie. It’s great to be a Commie when you’re in the party hierarchy. At least until a purge comes along.

          • Well he does have to keep two homes at least, one in his state and one in because the job demands it.

            She sold a house she inherited and bought another one, so what? For tax reasons its a smart idea.

            You need to stop believing all the things you read about him. He and his wife do not live high off the hog, have a very low net worth and are not getting rich with him being a Senator. I don’t agree with his political positions but he is anything but a limousine liberal.

            • But TB, you have to admit that if he were a Republican, he’d be ripped. At a minimum, wouldn’t a Democrat political consultant say “The optics are bad?” So he’s not “getting rich?” Is that damning with faint praise? That’s supposed to be admirable and revolutionary? What’s more bourgeois than a weekend home, on a lake? As well as his place at home in Vermont. Sure D.C. is expensive. Big deal. Don’t Senators get a per diem while Congress is in session, that they set?

              • Well since bourgeois means middle class, lots of things are.

                No they don’t receive per diem. They are paid $174,000 per year and that’s it. It may sound like a lot but in DC its nothing. A good union master plumber makes more then that.

                • Marxists don’t use “bourgeois” for “middle class.” It means everything despicable and unenlightened and, essentially, “counter-revolutionary.”

                  • I know , I just hate the way they use it , its incorrect.

                    I have a friend who says he is a Marxist, and like a lot of people who say they are I don’t think he really understand what it means, he uses the word all the time and hates it when I point out that he is the definition of b.ourgeois

                    • That’s funny. Kind of like when I told an old friend I was an atheist and he said, “No you’re not. You’re an agnostic.” I was taken aback, verging on mystified. I had to look up “agnostic” in order to find out I wasn’t.


    • They have my photo and my name is Marshall…and this was radio. They would have no reason to know I’m half Greek and that my dad was the only Anglo-Saxon involved in my upbringing. I added “Anglo-Saxon” because the other ethicist is a Hispanic American, but likely white.

  4. I’ve heard from plenty of liberals, “I don’t support Trump, but the way the democrats are behaving is despicable.” Scorched earth policy is losing for them.

  5. I listened to a good part of it and will finish listening later. I found what the lady psychologist said to be interesting: that people are feeling ‘open to attack’ as they did after 9/11. This is a very revealing metaphor. What was 9/11? Today still I think there is difficulty in defining it. What happened there really? What did it do to America? What were and what are its effects? If you take the metaphor further you can see it as an attack on a specific narrative, an idea, a construct. The fact that it took a blow indicates it is not invulnerable and, perhaps, that there is some difficulty in really understanding what *it* is. You don’t know something until it is threatened to be taken from you.

    Now, what is happening — from my perspective which is deliberately different from that of many and proclaims 100% freedom from the ideological coercions that operate in our present — is that on a political and social level an entire Edifice of idea, of self-definition, of understanding of Reality, and also of the fabrication and construction of specific identities, stories, visions and views that were cobbled together in the postwar era, have now ‘come under attack’. What that means is that people are beginning to question the constructs of race, ethnicity, the overarching presence and power of certain radical philosophies which have penetrated very deeply into the American mind (the Frankfurt School political psychology), and these people have begun to wake up out of a stupor and to look around them and ask questions. There is a new interpretive school of thought called Alt-Right and European New Right which explores new combinations of perspectives, which questions the vast power and the determining strength of certain narratives that operate in this present, and which offer alternatives.

    The System, to put it this way, reacts against this. Just as it did when the physical attack occurred. It rallies together, it circles the wagons, it asks for and possibly demands ‘ideological uniformity’ and conformity, and now, today, it is this Left and this Progressivism which hallucinates that it is the *moral force* in holding a narrative together. They are tearing out their hair and sobbing salt tears because a force has come to oppose their ascendency as arbiters of the moral order. What is coming forward now are ideas and narratives that confront their lock-step ideas about race and ethnicity, or the advantages of multiculturalism and globalization, and which have issues with a great many of the tenets of modern ‘progressivism’.

    White nationalism, which the very name seems to cause all flowers to wilt as if it is the breath of the devil, is now on the scene as a theme, an idea, which will be discussed whether you or they like it or not. And what this means is a radical reanalysis of all the tenets of the postwar assumptions and the transmitted doctrinal structures. Gender, sexuality, economics, race, ethnicity, nationalism, religion, value, metaphysics: all of this is returning for reexamination. This is heavy stuff by any measures.

    *You* should be scared. Because the substructure of a created world is shaking and, in fact, you really do not have such a solid idea of the *ground* on which you stand.

    This is my take and it is why, of course, I feel ’emboldened’ (as they say) and somewhat celebratory. It is not only here in the US it is worldwide. But much more specific to Europe and to the Europe descended. And as I say:

    Smash Cultural Marxism.

    • Nice analysis, AT. But a minor quibble. I think it’s not so much a post-War development. I think it’s more recent. Perhaps post 1960s. Perhaps the intellectual roots are post-War in the sense that the Frankfurt school began right after the War, but I think it took another twenty or so years for it to flower in the US and I think it’s only really blossomed fully in the last eight years where it’s become rampant. Maybe it’s the second or third generation that’s pushing this stuff, kids out of colleges in the last ten or so years as they’ve started up Occupy, BLM and Vox and all sorts of young adult movements.

  6. Jack,
    The program was knee-deep in rationalizations coming from the anti-Trump panelist and callers; I commend you for not allowing your head to explode and remain focused, I suspect your theatrical and ethics teaching experiences were instrumental in helping you through the program.

    After listening to the program a couple of times I agree that Tom Hall did a good job, but I’d like to say that I think there is a reasonable possibility that you were invited to the panel to be set up as an anti anti-Trump target for those on the left that are literally consumed by the ends justify the means and I think you did a good job at squashing that predetermined position.

    I agree that more back and forth with the panelists would have been preferable. The program “seemed” to have an underlying agenda to rationalize the unethical behaviors of the current anti-Trump movement and if there had been more of a debate between the panelists that agenda would have become blatantly clear. Unfortunately, limited time can dictate how things progress and how they are perceived by the listeners.

  7. Kind of painful listening to 3 and 5 happen with no response allowed.

    Overall enjoyable listen on my daily commmute, you should do more appearances on radio if the opportunities arise.

  8. On point 5, you wrote “Again, I didn’t have to respond.”

    I’m guessing you meant to put “the chance” in there? Unfortunately, we don’t live in a society where it’s evident that what he said is so silly as to not warrant a response.

  9. Anyone else notice that the GOP has control of both houses in 33 states… Despite having less votes than the Democrats in some of them? Meanwhile, the Democrats control both houses in 4 states.

    Distribution of votes matters, not just when it comes to the EC. Come 2020, with control over house, senate and SCOTUS, I expect some very creative redistricting. Like the last time, but worse as these won’t be overturned by neutral courts.

    Now onto the important stuff. Jack – take a rest. You’re making uncharacteristic trivial errors, probably due to exhaustion.

    • It’s possible that people recognized Hillary’s debts to progressives and put republicans in control of legislative bodies for the purpose of checking the weaponizing of the presidency in the hands of progressives.
      Now that Trump is the president elect of a weaponized presidency and Republican majorities in key political positions what we have is sort of a perfect storm. Trump can no more be trusted to not use that advantage than Hillary could have been.

      It’s something we should watch carefully and be prepared to challenge. Rioting in the streets, death threats, campus unrest and facilitating Electoral College members to betray their oath are more of the same tactics that caused Trump to be elected in the first place.

      We’re in no more danger now than we were when Obama and his party were in a similar position except the advantage now goes the other way. Extreme positions and policies taken by former administrations will be under attack. Maybe, Republicans can resist the urge to go overboard in the opposite direction, but Trump has no more history of being able to resist scorched earth than progressives have. It all bodes badly for people who simply want to live in a country with high employment, low taxes and decent foreign policy with the safety of the United States and its citizens as its primary concern.

      No one is likely to get normalization. And that would be true if Hillary had been elected as well.

      • Great comment as always, wg. Wouldn’t it be nice if Trump and the Republicans exercised some restraint. I’m a little hopeful. I doubt he’s an Evangelical.

  10. Yes, the protesters and rioters main rationalization seem to be “These are not ordinary times” so that makes it ok to beat up anybody wearing a red hat or steal a cop’s gun. So ignore the time honored tradition of giving the president elect some time to prove himself. I think frequently that the lefties function solely on emotion and rational thought does not enter the picture.

    • Incredible. The idea is that Hillary was supposed to have a clear path to a coronation. I’m surprised they don’t also blame the Republicans too, for running anyone at all. Heck, they did what they could: they ran someone everyone thought was a joke and a punt.

      • She was suppose to have been coronated Jack. Didn’t you get the memo?

        The night before the election a lot of people I know who supported her thought she had it in the bag and there was no way she would lose. They got pissed when I pointed out that a 4% lead in the polls was mothing and that with the margin for error it was basically a dead heat.

        • I’ve been reflecting back on this election season.

          Before the campaign season began, I said that this election was primed for a really big Republican win, it was theirs to loose.

          After seeing what was happening during the early stages of the campaign, I was saying that this was going to be a Clinton coronation for the Democrats and a great big cluster fucked race for the Republicans.

          After the conventions were over, Clinton and Trump were the chosen candidates, I said that this election was in the bag for Clinton and she should win in the biggest landslide the country has ever seen, this was Clinton’s election to loose.

          Then as I watched the reactions to how the media and the left was handling the campaign, handling of the issues, handling of the corruption, handling unethical behaviors I saw something interesting happen; I saw resentment building from both sides as to how the media was handling the candidates and I saw very sharp resentment from both sides to the inflammatory rhetoric predominantly from the left intentionally trying to gin up hate and I do mean hate, of not just the opposing candidate, but hate anyone that supported the opposing candidate.

          Going into the election I was still pretty darn sure that the Clinton political machine had this one in the bag, however there was this nagging doubt due to the growing resentment. Why did I have a nagging doubt; it was because when you back a dog into a corner that dog will lash out at whatever is cornering them; when it came time for voting, I believe the “dogs” that chose to vote lashed out against the political left and the disgusted “dogs” that usually vote for the political left that couldn’t force themselves to do it this time just figuratively laid down to die even thought they didn’t want Trump they couldn’t force themselves to vote for Hillary either and the assumption was that Hillary was going to win anyway – now many of those non-voters are having voters remorse.

          I think the political left performed a time honored arrogant (but extremely ignorant) self-flagellation in this election. Sanders was certainly a strand of that self-flagellation whip but the DNC, the Clinton political machine, Hillary herself, the predominantly left media, and the vast majority of the morally bankrupt political hacks (the lock-step core of the Democratic Party) was wielding the self-flagellation whip in shear ignorance of how their actions were inflaming massive resentment against them.

          Trump didn’t “win” the election, Clinton was beat down by resentment of everything the left chose to stand for in this election.

          • ”I said that this election was in the bag for Clinton and she should win in the biggest landslide the country has ever seen, this was Clinton’s election to lose.”

            Sheesh! That’s almost, and it pains me to say this, as bad as someone thinking Reagan wouldn’t even get nominated, much less elected to two terms…

  11. why else would someone not vote for Hillary Clinton? What possible reason could there be?

    Judging from some of my peers, “spite” seems to be a popular reason…

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