Each of these would sustain a separate post, but there are a lot of issues looming, and I promised myself not let the 2016 Ethics Alarms Awards get swamped by events, like what happened last year. (Oh–if you have nominations for the Best and Worst of the year’s ethics, send them in: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
1. The New Republic published a transcript of what it calls a discussion among “five leading historians and political observers” regarding President Obama’s legacy. The group was really made up of two hard left journalists, two hard left historians, and Andrew Sullivan. No, balance was not a concern. Dropped in among the transcript were various other historian’s opinions, based on what appears to have been a questionnaire. I read it to learn: surely these devoted Obama supporters would be able to explain why Barack Obama should be regarded as a great President, a conclusion I find complete unsupportable. What I encountered was something very different: five partisans desperately spinning and distorting reality to try to manufacture what all of them appeared to know didn’t exist. In this respect, it’s a case study of how bias eats integrity. That none of these purportedly rigorous thinkers had the integrity to correct their colleagues when the self-contradictions and rationalizations reached toxic levels was shocking.
The big revelation for me was that when you come right down to it, the only major accomplishment the group agreed on was that being the first black President was his legacy. Stumped for substantive accomplishments, the discussion kept defaulting to Obama’s style. Infuriating but familiar for his failures were repeated ( Explaining the Trump election: “I don’t think it has anything to do with him personally, except that he’s a black man. The election of Trump was a gut-level response to what many Americans interpreted as an insult eight years ago, and have been seething against ever since.” Explaining Hillary’s loss: “I don’t think she was a lousy candidate. But for a candidate to lose to someone who’s never been in the military, who’s never held public office—he’s not like any candidate who’s ever run before. So there were other forces at play here, most notably her gender.” This is a petri dish to observe the mechanics of progressive self-deception.
Notably, nobody corrected certified myths, lies and howlers, like claims the Republicans vowed to make Obama a “one-term President” from “day one,” that its difficult for any party to win three straight terms (ARRGH!, and here’s the debunking of that convenient fiction), and the utter fake news that the Obama Administration was virtually scandal free, which is another way of saying that if the news media refuses to report your scandals or call them scandals, it’s amazing how easy it is to be “scandal free.”
There was also no serious mention of what I would finger as the single most destructive legacy of Obama’s years, the complete collapse of racial trust. Instead, we get this kind of self-parodying hagiography, and I’m not making it up, it’s really there:
ANDREW SULLIVAN: At some point in the future, with the possible bloodshed and civil unrest in this country that we’re about to engage in, he may be a key person as a post-president—a bit like a monarch who might be able to hold us all together.
NELL IRVIN PAINTER: [Applauding] Well said, Andrew, well said!
ANNETTE GORDON-REED: That’s exactly right.
2. Blogger Eric Raymond has stern words for Democrats, excoriating them for the refusal to accept accountability for Clinton’ defeat, and recommending a sharp change of course to avoid “the possibility that the U.S. might become a one-party democracy.” He begins his open letter with tough love, writing,
If I were Donald Trump I would be cackling with glee at your post-election behavior, which seems ideally calculated to lock Trump in for a second term before he has been sworn in for the first.
Stop this. Your country needs you. I’m not joking and I’m not concern-trolling. The wailing and the gnashing of teeth and the denial of reality have to end. In the rest of this essay I’m not going to talk about right and wrong and ideology, I’m going to talk about the brutal practical politics of what you have to do to climb out of the hole you are in.
It may not exactly be about right and wrong, but Raymond certainly makes an excellent case that a lot of arrogant, negligent and wrongful conduct by Democrats caused everything to break right for Trump. Here he is, for example, on guns…
Today voter support for personal firearms rights is at an unprecedented high. This is revealed both in polls and in the wave of state-level liberalizations of concealed-carry laws.,,And yet, the Democratic Party line is still hostile to gun rights, and less than six months ago its leaders and captive pundits were talking up Australian style gun confiscation.
If you continue to do this, you will lose.
The Democratic line on gun policy is a perfect symbol of everything that has become disconnected about the party. It reads as corrosive disrespect for middle-Americans who like their firearms, think of themselves as a nation of armed citizens rather than cowering subjects, and use their guns responsibly. It reeks of class warfare, urban elites against flyover-country proles. It’s disempowering, not empowering. It is, in short, a perfect focus for anti-Democratic populist anger.
Read the whole letter.
But the real question is whether the leaders of the Democratic Party will read it.
3. Leaving the best for last, we have what will be awarded, in the upcoming awards, the title of 2016 ‘s “Best Ethics Essay Not Appearing On Ethics Alarms.” this superb post by Popehat’s Ken White. It is called “Deserving Trust,” and I wish I had written it. What matters, though, is that someone did.
Bravo, Ken, and not for the first time.