The many outbursts of liberal anger, resentment, accusations and denial over the election have been revealing, and not in a good way. Few have been as directly and stubbornly misguided and biased, however, as the current New York Magazine article by Jonathan Chait, with the clickbait title, “The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral.”
It is, in essence, yet another example of Democrats attempting to argue away any accountability for their own misfortune, making Chait’s piece itself a denial of several moral lessons, such as “I am the architect of my own destiny,” “Take responsibility for your failures,” and “Don’t blame others for your own mistakes.” The post-election progressive freak-out, of which Chait is a part, also has a very important moral lesson in store, the one embodied in the Serenity Prayer authored by theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Clearly, this moral lesson is completely elusive, with pointless recounts underway supported by the Clinton campaign; round the clock complaining about the Electoral College, part of the 225 year-old rules of the game the Democrats accepted when they ran a candidate in the election; unethical and futile attempts intimidate electors or convince them to violate their vows; embarrassingly infantile laments and near-breakdowns of whining students on college campuses,; and “Not My President!” protests and riots.
The lessons are there to learn, Jonathan, you just don’t want to learn them. He actually writes—and if this isn’t denial, I don’t know what is, “It is hard to think of an election defeat more singularly absent of important lessons.” What??? To the contrary, it is hard to think of an election that taught more important lessons than this one.
Meanwhile, Chait desperately grabs at fictional lessons to avoid focusing on the real ones. For example, Chait writes,
“If you listened to the political scientists, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was relatively predictable — winning a third term for a party is pretty difficult. Most of us believed that dynamic wouldn’t matter in 2016 because the Republican Party nominated a singularly unfit candidate for office. But it turned out this factor was cancelled out by Hillary Clinton’s almost equal level of unpopularity.”
ARGHHH! This particular false narrative is apparently going to be repeated by Democrats forever, despite the fact—FACT! FACT!– that it is completely false, without question or disagreement. I hereby add this nonsense to several other persistent falsehoods that Ethics Alarms vows to strike down every time they raise their stupid, ignorant, manipulative fact-defying heads. (Other examples: “Women who work full-time earn 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes,” “50% of marriages end in divorce”). Pardon me if you’ve heard this before, I know this is the third time I’ve gone over it. Just skip past the quote, and blame Chait and his pals for your trouble:
As I mentioned in an earlier post about election night, esteemed Presidential historian Doug Brinkley, for reasons known only to himself, went on the air live on CNN and concocted a new alibi for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. using fake history to do it. He said that there were powerful historical patterns at work in Hillary’s defeat, and that it is always hard for any one party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms. Then, as exceptions to the rule and to show how rare the exceptions were, Brinkley cited Reagan successfully pushing George H.W. Bush on the nation as his “third term,” and then went all the way back to 1836 for his other exception, when popular Democrat President Andrew Jackson got his acolyte Martin Van Buren elected to succeed him.
For days after this, I kept hearing Brinkley’s observation cited by talking heads and my disappointed Democratic friends, yet what he had said was wildly, unforgivably untrue. On election night, I ticked off the instances where one party has held the Presidency for more than two terms on the spot, right after Brinkley’s fiction (much to the annoyance of my wife):
After Van Buren, there were a bunch of one term Whigs and Democrats, but Lincoln’s two terms (the last finished by Andrew Johnson) was followed by Grant for two more, Hayes for one, and Garfield/Arthur for four more years. That 6 straight Republican terms, Doug. Then, three terms later, McKinley was elected to two, Teddy Roosevelt for one on top of the McKinley term he finished out, and Teddy anointed Taft as his successor just as Jackson had with Van Buren. That’s four straight Republican terms, or as we call it around my house, “More than two.”
But wait! There’s more! After Wilson and Mrs, Wilson served out two Democratic terms, we got Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, another three Republicans in a row. Then the Democrats made up for those consecutive runs with five straight of their own, courtesy of FDR’s four and Truman beating Dewey. In short, Brinkley gave the nation fake history, which then became fake news.
I’ll add this: the comeback for these facts is that while three Presidential terms or more for a party may have been routine earlier in our history, it’s only happened once since 1948. But that’s the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, and a weak use of it at that. Many Democrats still claim Al Gore really won the 2000 election, just as it is now clear that they will claim that Hillary won this one. Nixon lost the popular vote in 1960 by less than Hillary has won it this time; the same is true of Humphrey in 1968. The shift of a few counties in four elections could have easily given us alternate histories where Republicans had three or four straight Presidents from 1952–1972, Democrats had three or four straight from 1960-1976, or Democrats had three of four straight from 1992 to 2008. (All three of these scenarios couldn’t have happened, but one or two of them could have.) Then the record would show that three-term strings were more likely than not. Please, PLEASE—any time one of your friends says that Hillary lost because American just don’t put the same party into the White House for three straight terms, tell them to read a Presidential history book, except one by Doug Brinkley.
But I digress.
There are too many moral lessons in Clinton’s defeat to list, but here are some of the more obvious ones: submissions encouraged. Such as:
1. The Ancient Greeks’ favorite (and having just celebrated an advanced birthday, I qualify as an ancient Greek), hubris, or as the Bible has it in Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
The Democrats and their media minions were certain that Hillary would win, probably in a landslide…this, despite the throbbing reality that the current Democratic administration has been an embarrassment and a failure. Trump was a joke, Democrats believed; the Midwest was a lock. Why Hillary was the most qualified candidate ever! (Not even close—read those history books!— but that was the narrative.)
Clinton was handed the nomination, despite being unpopular and habitually dishonest. Democrats assumed that the left-biased mainstream media would paper over any gaffes, and block for her run to the election goal line. Clinton campaigned as if nobody cared what she said, making self-indicting statements about how all alleged victims of sexual assault had a right to be believed (Bill? Bill who?), and denying that she had ever lied, while she was lying about her e-mails. She denied that she had accepted large sums to suck up to Wall Street, but refused to release her speeches because, obviously, she had.
When the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee was exposed as a blatant Clinton partisan and forced to resign, Clinton hired her within 48 hours, showing that she believed that she was immune from having to worry about the “appearance of impropriety.” The decision was made that she should campaign to run up the popular vote majority in states like California and New York, instead of showing up in Wisconsin, which was regarded as in the bag. Democrats, pundits, Bill Clinton and Hillary argued that she deserved the Presidency, that it was an insult, unfair, and sexist to deny her. It should be a coronation, really. The election was almost an insult.
Greeks regarded this kind of behavior as spitting in the eyes of the gods. The gods don’t like getting spit in their eyes. Don’t they teach Greek tragedy at Wellesley?
2. Luke 6:37
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
As I explain in the Rationalizations list, this should not be taken to mean that it is wrong to judge the conduct of others, but rather that when one does make such judgments (as those in an ethical society are obligated to do), one must understand that one’s own conduct will be judged by the same standards, and perhaps even harsher ones. Hillary allowed surrogates to judge women who opposed her as traitors to their gender, as when Madeline Allbright consigned them to “a special place in Hell.” She judgedTrump supporters a “basket of deplorables,” and though she correctly assigned him the title of being untrustworthy, irresponsible and unqualified, her own conduct in the State Department e-mail scandal and the pay-to-pay operations of the Clinton Foundation showed that she was not a shining light in these categories either.
3. “Cheaters never prosper.”
This comes from Elizabethan courtier John Harington’s “Epigrams”, and means that dishonest efforts never bring true success. Americans widely felt that the nomination process was rigged for Hillary (it was), that the news media had largely abandoned any objectivity or fairness (which it had), and that the Obama administration, especially the State Department, the Justice Department and the FBI, were covering up for Clinton (as they were, in many respects). When Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch just as the resolution of the FBI investigation of Hillary’s e-mail mess was nearing, suspicions were justifiably inflamed; when James Comey carefully walked a nearly invisible rhetorical tightrope to avoid finding Clinton “grossly negligent” (illegal), instead opting for “extremely careless” (stupid, but legal), the suspicions ignited. Then Wikileaks and newly found e-mails showed how Hillary violated her pledge regarding her foundation’s fundraising, and how the new head of the DNC secretly gave her illicit advance knowledge of debate questions…and refused to express any regrets for it when she was busted.
Americans know that cheaters sometimes win, but ethical citizens don’t like to see cheaters win, even when they would have won without cheating. That was one of the lessons of Watergate. And Barry Bonds’ career. Now, Hillary Clinton.
Fun Fact: John Harington also invented the first flush toilet
4. All human beings are equal, and should be treated and respected as such.
This is a lesson in the Bible’s Book of Ruth, as well as the central moral statement in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The persistent and divisive message of the eight-year Obama administration was that men were villains, at war with women, that whites were deliberately oppressing blacks (as well as obstructing a black President because of his race), that to require illegal immigrants to be subject to our laws was xenophobic and racist, and that sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage and gender were proof of malign intent and evil character. Open criticism, satire or mockery of the Muslim faith was taboo (after all, they might kill you!), but denigration of Christianity was accepted, if not encouraged. Clinton persisted in these messages, or did nothing to suggest she rejected them. Citizens who felt that they and their opinions were not regarded as worthy of attention and respect voted accordingly.
5. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
“but test them all; hold on to what is good”
This one is perhaps the most important lesson of all, and the one that incensed Trump-haters just can’t grasp. (See: The Julie Principle) Those who rejected Clinton and voted for Trump decided that what they felt was good about Trump and what he represented to them was more important than what was good about Hillary, and what was bad about Trump. They felt it was good that he, like them, opposed the policies of the Obama administration. He, unlike the Democrats, felt that Black Lives Matter was a negative influence on society. He believed that the immigration laws should be enforced, and wanting them to be enforced didn’t make them, or him, a bigot. He, like them, objected to speech and opinions being subjected to oppressive standards of political correctness. Most of all, Trump voters felt that it was good, indeed essential, to shake up the status quo, defy the elites, and stick a thump in the eye of a system that they no longer trusted.
There are many more lessons to be gleaned from the 2016 election, moral, ethical and otherwise. Chait’s attitude of denial seems to be the predominant one among Democratic and progressive ranks right now. If that doesn’t change, and soon, there is another nasty lesson that they will get, and hard. All together now!