Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/3/2020: Anything Important Happening Today?

dewey headline

Today in election history, Harry Truman celebrated pulling off one of the greatest upsets in American history, defeating Republican Thomas Dewey and turning the two-time Presidential loser’s name into an eternal punchline, thanks to the Chicago Tribune’s over-eager headline based on early returns the night before. With Truman’s popularity at historic lows and all of the experts declaring the President defeated before that race began,  Dewey campaigned at a leisurely pace, though not exactly a Joe Biden pace. Truman, in contrast, campaigned furiously as the underdog.  Truman defeated Dewey by 114 electoral votes, creating the all-time template for surprise Presidential victories, and embedding the photograph above in American lore.

Even this couldn’t displace it…

Newsweek cover

1. Althouse gets defensive about “abstaining.” One of the bloggers most quoted at Ethics Alarms became triggered by a critical comment about her abstaining from voting and defended herself today, though not too well. Althouse addressed the commenter, named Slothrop, as well as the general attack on 2020 non-voters like her by Instapundit firebrand Sarah Hoyt. Ann countered in part,

[T]his method of using insults to push people to vote is ugly. Are they doing it because they think it’s effective? I don’t yield to bullies. …Slothrop appeals to my vanity as he insists that I be a good person — not cowardly and neglectful of duty. Hoyt denounces vanity and insists that I not get involved in any sense of my personal goodness… she portrays the abstainer as snooty — with her nose in the air, acting like she’s “too good for this.”

Slothrop is distinctly wrong when he says voting is a duty. No. It is not. Like speaking, like religion, like getting married, like having sexual relations, voting is a right, and a right entails the power to decline to exercise it. It is horrible to be forced to speak, forced to take on a religion, forced to get married, forced to have sex — these are loathsome impositions. 

Hoyt is wrong — in my case at least — to attribute a refusal to vote for Trump to taking offense at his personal style — his manners, his crassness. I happen to enjoy his personal style…

Trump has his style and I have mine. If it makes you want to stomp your foot, go ahead. You can keep “stomping your foot about” how cruelly neutral I am. You’re free. You’ve got your right and I’ve got mine. 

Verdict: Lame. Voting is a duty of citizenship, as long as the citizen is informed, as Althouse certainly is. Yes, there is a right not to do your duty, unless a law makes it mandatory. I’m shocked, or perhaps enlightened, that Althouse would excuse her refusal to make a tough choice to “style.” Let’s see, how many rationalizations on the list does that rattle, along with the rest of her self-defense? I’ve got at least eleven:

23 A. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”

24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)

38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”

41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am.”

46. Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t point fingers!”

48. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!

50A.  Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care”

55. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”

58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”

61.  The Paranoid’s Blindness, or “It’s not me, it’s you.”

63. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”

2. Good! The Supreme Court took a step toward weakening qualified immunity in a decision yesterday. Qualified immunity is the long-held doctrine that makes law enforcement officers and many other government officials immune from civil suits for violating constitutional and statutory rights in the course of performing their duties unless they have violated “clearly established” law, or immunity is waived. Courts have interpret “clearly established” in a manner that allows police officers to avoid punishment for terrible misconduct abuses unless a federal court has decided a case with essentially identical facts.

In Taylor v. Riojas, the Supreme Court issued a decision rejecting a law enforcement officer’s “qualified immunity” defense  a 7-1 majority ruling that the lower court had erred in granting qualified immunity to prison officials who had grossly abused a prisoner.

The Volokh Conspiracy suggests that

…the Court wanted to send a message to lower courts, that the latter should no longer grant qualified immunity in these kinds of highly egregious cases. The backlash against qualified immunity generated by the public reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police may have led the justices to conclude that a step like this was warranted.

What remains to be seen is whether the Court will follow up by considering whether qualified immunity should be abolished entirely, or at least severely pared back. The doctrine has been severely criticized by legal scholars and by Supreme Court justices as varied as Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor.

3. Ask your friends who insist that Democrats are not intending to inflict socialism on the nation to explain the campaign ad from Kamala Harris yesterday.

Several Ethics Alarms stalwarts alerted me to this—thank you all. I had already seen it, however, and was retching in my closet.

I have written here repeatedly that the 2020 election would be about whether Lincoln was wrong, and you can fool all of the people all of the time. I think the late release of this essentially Marxist video is one of the following a) an attempt to have the agenda on the record, so Democrats can say, “Hey, we were transparent about our intentions, and we won!” b) a late and panicky effort to energize the far left base, which polls suggest aren’t all that excited about Joe Biden, or c) stupid.

Andrew Sullivan tweeted, “Why would a vice presidential candidate seemingly endorse full-on Marxism days before a general election? Does she believe government should enforce equality of outcome for everyone? Seriously?”

Yes, seriously, Andrew. Have you not been paying attention? And are you really going to vote for a ticket that endorses that?

41 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/3/2020: Anything Important Happening Today?

  1. I’m sorry, these “I can’t vote for a President who…” followed by some description of the way he talks or where he eats has always struck me as elitist. “I feel socially superior to Trump, so I don’t want someone like him as President” is how that sounds to me. Of course, I grew up being overlooked or rejected for programs and opportunities because I didn’t wear nice enough clothes or drive a nice enough car, so maybe I am a little more sensitive to things like that. To my middle-America eyes and ears, Trump just seems to be a stereotypical New Yorker. He is tough, rough around the edges, and boastful. New York. I hear echoes of “Yes, he has the highest scores, but we can’t send someone who dresses like that to represent the school at the competition” when I hear that line of reasoning against Trump.

    I also hear the “You shouldn’t vote for someone with the morals of Trump for President”. Well, he IS a New Yorker. The combined forces of the Democratic Party and the media haven’t been able to find anything of substance on Trump that they want to reveal. This means that either they are completely incompetent, or Trump is a lot cleaner than the image he cultivates. Yes, he personally is a womanizer and a braggart, and he will gladly tell you all about it. The suggestion, however, is that we should vote for someone who is at least 100x as racist as Trump, who almost certainly sold out this country’s businesses to the Chinese during negotiations, who seems to have helped broker the deal to transfer sensitive US technology about the F-35 to China (compromising our security), and who took money from Russia, Ukraine, and many other foreign countries. Biden took part in spying on a rival party’s campaign using the FBI and other intelligence agencies. He took part in thwarting the transfer of power to the new president for perhaps the first time ever. Don’t even get me started on the pedophile thing.

    Trump is not the most moral person in this country. However, how many recent Presidents meet his standard of morality? Out of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, how many could have withstood the scrutiny of 4-years of investigation like Trump did? How many could have come through that without some major issue being discovered that could be used to remove them from office? Maybe Ford could? So, compared to his peers, Trump actually looks pretty good. Squeaky clean comparatively. So, why is this morality argument only used against Trump? Is it elitism again? Trump’s sins are more common and petty. He doesn’t sell out the whole country for industries that support his campaign, massively rig elections, receive vast amounts of bribes from foreign governments, or take part in financial fraud on a massive scale while appearing…well…elite. He just appears…well…vulgar and common. Maybe that also is what endears him to so many Americans who don’t feel they need to have a ruling class and be told how to live by their ‘betters’. Trump is the latest expression of the American Experiment.

    • I agree. A lot of the complaints about Trump sound very classist. Republicans, and anyone not living on either coast ie., in ‘flyover country’ (how snotty is that?) are likely tired of being told they are not good enough, are backwards, uneducated blots on the nation.

  2. I finally realized, we elected Archie Bunker to the White House in 2016…..a man who loves America and says what he feels. He also tried his damnedest(sp?) to take care of his family and even allow both his children to go there own way, whether thought it was a good idea or not. How he treated his wife, not so much, but who is perfect….

    • No, Archie Bunker was a segregationist bigot who hated but only tolerated Jews, Blacks, Wops, Pollocks, and others unlike him.

      I do agree he loves America and his children. Keep in mind that Trump is a product of the culture of the 70’s when celebrity marriages, divorces and daliances kept these people on the covers of tabloids and relevant in the eyes of the public. Elizabeth Taylor dumped as many husbands as Trump has dumped wives. No one has anything but kind words for her.

        • I have to say in his defense that at least Trump divorces (and seems to provide pretty well for) his former wives. I respect him for that. I think that’s better behavior than that of Bill Clinton or JFK who simply maintained show wives and fucked everything that wasn’t bolted down. And the Bidens, father and son, seem to be cut from the same JFK and Ted Kennedy cloth. And there are always the John Kerrys and John McCains of the world who marry heiresses. I find that really suspect behavior.

        • Actually, after Edith’s death and Archie’s ill-considered bar and grille enterprise, he married again. That wife was the one who discovered upon his demise that old Arch was serial bigamist, and, as with Charles (“On the Road”) Kuralt, Frankie “Why do foosl fall ins Love?” Lymon, and my father’s best friend,the secret wives met each other at his funeral.

          It was a hilarious episode!

          Sammy Davis Jr. gave the eulogy…

  3. Very astute commentary Michael R.

    I think Rush Limbaugh made a similar assessment of the never Trumper’s who have been made largely irrelevant in the conservative arena. Bill Kristol and others who fancied themselves as the successors to Wm. F. Buckley and whose fortunes are now at risk are jealous that a nobody like Trump accomplished many of the goals they just talked about

  4. 3. Hey, great idea, Kamala. So this means I get to grow up to be a managing director at Goldman Sachs or CEO of a Fortune 500 Company or a fabulously wealthy real estate developer who also owns one or two professional sports franchises? Sign me up! Do I have to sleep with Willie Brown?

  5. 2. Good decision! Qualified immunity was never intended to shield officers engaged in illegal acts, gross misconduct or intentionally egregious malfeasance. It was intended to protect officers who, while following the law and the policies of their agency, in the exercise of their duties and within their established authority, make a good-faith mistake that turns out badly. Note that qualified immunity does not absolve the agency of liability for the actions of its officers, it merely protects the officer as an individual employee. Officers are human beings and subject to make human errors; if we insist on perfect police officers the ranks will be very thin.

      • Not since 1973 in my state. The two Sheriff’s office where I worked from 1977 to 2014 were sued with regularity (mostly inmate nuisance lawsuits), and once in a great while held liable. Your mileage may vary.

  6. Voting is a duty of citizenship. Voting for a candidate from one of the two major parties is not. Voting for a third party candidate, writing in a candidate, or turning in an empty ballot that essentially says “None of the above” fulfills the duty.

  7. Well, let’s look at the bright side.
    In 2016 she voted for Clinton – so this is one less vote for Biden.
    Maybe by 2024 she’ll come around to Trump. 😂😂😲

      • Trump is not going to have an EC landslide unless MOST of the polls are wrong. Even Trafalgar says it will be in the 270s if he wins, and they think he will. Ben Shapiro said that if most of the polls are in fact right, there are 3 scenarios: Trump narrow victory, Biden narrow victory, and Biden blowout.

        • If Trump wins, most of the polls are wrong, just like 98% of my Facebook friends will be wrong. Smart, educated people warped by confirmation bias. Also like the pollsters.

          Fla. has been called for Trump, and Georgia looks good. Biden has reason to worry.

          • So the door won’t slam on the president early, which is what would have happened if FL went Biden’s way. He’s still got a long night ahead.

              • Nope, Biden got clobbered in FL and TX. AZ called too early and taken off the board. Now suddenly everything is stopping and the president is saying we have to take this to court. Ugh, 2000 all over again. Looks like the Senate really has not changed much. Many of the GOP senators that they said were in danger, like Lindsey Graham and Joni Ernst, have sent their opponents packing.

                • I don’t know what “nope” means. Biden has to depend on late and dubious counting of mail-in ballots while others are “found” to overcome being behind in enough states to give Trump the election. Of course it’s going to be taken to court; that’s what the Democrats were counting on as their back-up, a last ditch option if the phony polls were wrong—which they were. As I said.

                  As should have been obvious.

        • General trend in all these contested states — Biden up big early and Trump steadily gains. He started out way behind in Texas (!) and is now half a million votes ahead (although it’s not yet called by Fox). Trump has forged ahead here in NC and it looks like the Republicans will maintain or increase their hold on the general assembly. The Democrats had really thought they were going to win that this year, at least one house.

          Arizona a surprise, and so is Minnesota so far. None of the ‘Blue Wall’ states called tonight –but Trump has significant leads in all the others.

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