On Revenge, Tit-For-Tat And The Biden Presidency

tit for tat

I would really like to accept the Biden Presidency as I have accepted every Presidency in my life so far, and without giving away secrets, there have been a lot of them. You see, I really believe what Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton lectured Donald Trump about when they were certain Hillary would win the 2016 election. I believe that the American public, no matter who each individual voter may have favored, ought to welcome the newly elected President with hope and good will, pronounce the past irrelevant, and pledge to do whatever is necessary to make the incoming administration successful. In other words, every American should behave exactly as Democrats (including Hillary and Nancy), progressives, the resistance, numerous professional groups and the vast majority of the news media did not behave when President Trump was elected.

Why do I believe this? As I have said so many times I am sick of me, I believe this because that response is the only way republics can survive, and because that is how this republic has survived and thrived since the Civil War. If you would peruse the Ethics Alarms posts on the topic and related ones since November 2016, as I viewed the impending Presidency of Donald Trump with the approximate enthusiasm of one diagnosed with genital warts, one message was consistent: we break this tradition at great risk. If the Axis of Unethical Conduct (I didn’t call them that for a while, but that’s the alliance that was responsible–-the resistance, Democrats, and the news media) devotes itself to savaging and undermining the nation’s duly elected President by any means necessary, it-they will guarantee a cycle in which political warfare, which once was de-escalated every four years, will be a constant, making cooperation, unity, and competent government impossible.

Is Joe Biden “my” President? Sure he is. I’m an American, and our system made him President. Do I want him to succeed? Sure I do. Failed Presidencies are bad for all Americans, the nation and the world. If Joe Biden asked me to take on a project, a job or an assignment, would I say yes? Unless I found the substance of what I was asked to do objectively unconscionable, yes I would.

However, it is clear as day now that there is no way Democrats and progressives can avoid the consequences of their shattering the norm that once gave Presidents a “honeymoon” and that guaranteed every President-Elect overwhelming public support simply by his stepping into the metaphorical shoes of Washington and Lincoln. Could there have been a way? The manner in which Biden and his supporters have handled the transition so far would have killed any wisp of a chance if there were one, and I doubt there ever was. The “now that we’ve regained power by breaking the rules, we hope everyone will go back to following them again for the good of the country” routine is too insulting and cynical to generate anything but resentment.

Still, what f Joe had come out in November and said,

“Look, I know Republicans and President Trump’s supporters are angry, and, frankly, they have a right to be. My party behaved atrociously his entire term; they were disrespectful, dishonest and irresponsible, and, in behaving like that, deeply divided the nation and wounded our democracy. I know no Democrat has a right to ask for better treatment from Republicans and conservatives that we were willing to extend to them, but I’m asking anyway. It is essential to America’s survival that we admit our mistakes, and try to move past them. Please. Let’s start the next four years the way all Presidencies should begin: with hope, forgiveness, and unity. I promise I’ll do my part. But I don’t do it alone.”

Nah, it wouldn’t have worked, though it would still be better than what we have gotten instead. Imagine: when Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked him yesterday if he still thinks the allegations against his son are Russian disinformation, Biden replied, “Yes, yes, yes. God love you, man. You’re a one horse pony.”

So that’s the way it’s going to be, is it? Even after revelations that the DOJ has had a long and ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes, even after not one shred of evidence has been found to suggest “Russian disinformation,” Biden is still going to use the Vladimir Putin excuse to impugn Trump and shift focus from his family scandals. Good to know.

There has been a consistent theme here on Ethics Alarms about ethical choices holding that futile and impossible option that seem attractive in the abstract but that are impossible in the real world cannot be truly ethical. That describes the “let bygones be bygones” following the 2020 election fiasco scenario to a T.

I have accumulated links to more than 50 essays and articles calling on conservatives to take revenge on Democrats by doing everything possible to sabotage the Biden Presidency just as Democrats sabotaged Donald Trump. (President Trump, it must be said, did extremely well considering what he had to deal with.) Many, indeed most of those articles, some by distinguished analysts who I respect, term their recommendations in terms of revenge.

That is unethical. Assuming the most ethical choice—that is, going back to the traditions that served us so well—is no longer viable, then the second most ethical course is to teach the wrongdoers that a political culture in which every Presidential election is followed by resistance, uncontrolled anger, hate and sabotage is doomed, and will result in every Presidency being unable to serve the needs of the people and the nation.

The second most ethical course is now the only ethical course available, and that means that Republicans should give no quarter to Joe Biden, his agenda, and his allies. Not as revenge, mind you, but as the kind of tit-for-tat response that game theory teaches is sometimes the only way to enforce ethical norms.

32 thoughts on “On Revenge, Tit-For-Tat And The Biden Presidency

  1. I’m open for suggestions as to how that lesson is taught.

    If Democrat shenanigans take the Senate in January, there is precious little the House can do to stymie them. What are they going to do? Turn their backs on Biden at the Inauguration?

    • 1. The political right needs to dig into every word said by the new President, all of his staff, every Democrat politician, and every prominent Democrat across the United States and do exactly what they did, cherry pick statements and plaster smearing innuendo and accusatory propaganda everywhere in an endless scorched earth policy against the political left. Leave no rhetorical stone unturned, take them down.

      2. Call all democrats racists, fascists, communists, etc…

      3. Blame everything on Democrats and remember that nothing a Democrat does is acceptable, find the wrong and exploit it.

      4. The recent phone call that Biden had with Putin is clearly collusion, making Biden a traitor.

      5. Sic the FBI on members of Biden’s cabinet.

      6. Show Kathy Griffin holding a replica severed head of Joe Biden.

      etc, etc, etc…

      Get the idea?

    • The opening shot truly needs to be how the democrats treat Miller-Meeks from Iowa. (She won by 6 votes).

      If Pelosi seats Miller-Meeks, on the 3rd, it deflates the ammunition of the republicans. If she doesn’t, then it should be full court press to fight everything. That includes any potential defeats from Georgia and seating Harris. Refuse both and let the chips fall where they may.

    • “If Democrat shenanigans take the Senate in January…”

      I’m feeling a little better about that after I was reminded of something about the November Georgia election that I had forgotten. The Libertarian vote was significant in the Senate races. In the Perdue-Ossoff race, removing the Libertarian vote would have given Perdue a no-runoff victory then. It’s hard to imagine many of those voters wanting to see Ossoff (or Warnock) elected, so however many of them of them vote this time will probably go near 100% Republican. Hopefully, they’re motivated, if for no other reason than to avoid democrat control.

      Of course, minions of the real Georgia governor, and part-time Jack-O-Lantern, Stacy Abrams, will be collecting ballots from every wino, ghetto rat, and comatose nursing home patient they can “help”, so we’ll still have to deal with that.

  2. Jack wrote…

    The second most ethical course is now the only ethical course available, and that means that Republicans should give no quarter to Joe Biden, his agenda, and his allies. Not as revenge, mind you, but as the kind of tit-for-tat response that game theory teaches is sometimes the only way to enforce ethical norms.

    In my opinion it’s not tit-for-tat, it’s a new precedence.

    Back on December the 4th, I wrote…

    I think it’s really “interesting” how, after the political left didn’t get their way in the 2016 Presidential election, the political left started a new precedence on how a President of the United States and anyone that supports the President should be treated by the opposition and their lapdog media and they continued that precedence for four years straight and now the political left wants them and their President to be treated in a different way than the new precedence that they set? Transparent double standards and open hypocrisy are prominent character flaws of the political left in the 21st century.

    I’m not much for using a tit-for-tat rationalization myself; however, I’m not going to fault the political right too much for continuing the same Presidential treatment precedence that the political left started. The modern Democratic Party led by extremist progressives and the irrational and violent social justice henchmen they empowered, implemented an unending scorched earth policy against a President of the United States and his supporters for four straight years and those choices are coming back to roost on their pompous-ass heads and dig their talons straight into the foreheads of the political left; choices have consequences. As the rhetorical blood drips down the political left’s forehead they should be forced at every turn to remember that the political left made their bed and is now estoppled* from complaining about being treated badly.

    The Democrats set this new precedence and that fact needs to be driven home and put in their face at every opportunity! It’s pretty clear that the political left was using the Golden Rule for four years and treating others the way they want to be treated. So as long as the anti-Biden, anti-Democratic Party, anti-progressive resistance, etc don’t start moving towards totalitarianism and anti-Constitutional behaviors I’m resolved that continuing the same precedence set over the last four years by the political left is exactly what should be done. The Democrats need to sleep in the bed they made. The Republicans need to be very open about the fact that they are giving the political left the treatment that they want (their Golden Rule treatment); they asked for it, they’re going to get it! The entire political left needs to learn a very, very hard lesson.

    When the next presidential cycle comes around a big part of the Republican’s platform should be to cease & reverse the precedence that the Democrats started.

  3. Jack said:
    The second most ethical course is now the only ethical course available, and that means that Republicans should give no quarter to Joe Biden, his agenda, and his allies. Not as revenge, mind you, but as the kind of tit-for-tat response that game theory teaches is sometimes the only way to enforce ethical norms.

    I don’t think you, nor any of us, believe that the Left can be “taught” using tit-for-tat or any other mechanism. The Democrats, who embody the modern left, would sooner collectively cut off their delicate parts with a shard of dirty glass than permit themselves to be “taught” anything by conservatives.

    After all, as they have made clear so many times, they already know everything, and are correct in every aspect without reservation or possibility of error. We know this because they have said so over and over again, and lived exactly that way to the detriment of the country.

    You cannot teach someone who already knows everything there is to know. It’s an oxymoron.

    So tit-for-tat cannot be “ethical” in that sense, since the ethical objective is frankly impossible. The only truly ethical course is to attempt to excise the malignant Left from the body politic, and that job is like the challenge of the Balrog of Morgoth to the Fellowship of the Ring — beyond any of us — and Gandalf Stormcrow is not walking through that door.

    So we’ll have to settle for revenge, I guess, ethical or not. It’s the only non-capitulation option available in my opinion.

  4. Biden, even if he were cognitively capable, would no sooner utter the words you suggested than he would make an address announcing that he had finally read the Constitution and now understands what the Bill of Rights means as the founders intended it, that after consulting with his priest has decided that abortion is wrong, and that he now believes that his cabinet members should be chosen for their qualifications rather than for the boxes they check on the diversity list.
    I expect that Joe will soon be drooling in his oatmeal in a very nice assisted living community. Kamala and the gang will begin responding to the demands of The Squad, Antifa and BLM. Harris will begin issuing executive orders to cripple the Second Amendment, squash fossil fuel industries and restrict free exercise of religion. If Dems control the Senate, all bets are off. Their antics will set the stage for an attempted Republican resurgence in 2022 but, if the needed election reforms aren’t enacted in the states by election time, the Dems will steal another round regardless of voter revolt. By 2024, there will likely be blood running in the streets of several cities. I hope I am wrong.
    This article fits the tenor of many that I have read online recently:
    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/12/16/when-deplorables-become-ungovernables/

  5. With the President vetoing a stimulus bill, muttering darkly that citizens ought to rise up, and, if sources are to be believed, floating various martial law scenarios already proposed by some of his associates, I’d say tit for tat, if not a new precedent, has been already been well established prior to the new administration even starting. What I fail to see is by what imagined narrative such actions, their ethical justifications aside, would re-establish ethical norms in government.

    (From the link you cited:
    Tit for tat posits that a person is more successful if they cooperate with another person. Implementing a tit-for-tat strategy occurs when one agent cooperates with another agent in the very first interaction and then mimics their subsequent moves.

    […]

    For example, two competing economies can use a tit-for-tat strategy so that both participants benefit. One economy starts with cooperation by not imposing import tariffs on the other economy’s goods and services to induce good behavior. The idea is that the second economy responds by also choosing not to impose import tariffs. If the second economy reacts by implementing tariffs, the first economy retaliates by implementing tariffs of its own to discourage the behavior.)

    I’m not sure what giving no quarter would hope to achieve. A retroactive clearance of Trump associates found guilty(or just the ones who weren’t)? An abject apology by representatives of more than half of American voters, to the other near-half? A commitment to work with a party that has just announced giving no quarter? As my old professor always said, the trouble with game theory is that life is not a game.

    • I think it’s fair to say, after 4 years of such manufactured hysteria, sources are not to be believed, and it really doesn’t matter what Trump says when he’s spouting off. What matters is what he does.

      • I would disagree. Trump is the President of the United States, and thus speaks for the nation, and within the nation, speaks for the Republican Party. The fact that he’s not good at it–speaking–can allow him some leeway for flubs. And while we can dispute the details of any news source, I think we all know that he is likely saying something to the effect of what people who were in the room said he said. If you think it matters what Joe Biden might say or has said, even though as President he hasn’t done anything yet, then what Trump says matters too. And what he is saying is unethical.

        • It’s objectively unethical, and if a President whose comments could be taken seriously said them, it would be especially so. But as I wrote early on, we know that he just says stuff, and for the mews media to treat his characteristic hyperbole as more than they know it is deliberate misinformation.

          • Or, it’s a game theory tactic to shame him into curbing his tongue. See how that works? Everyone waits for the other guys to behave themselves first.

            I would suggest that “he just says stuff” is what anyone says about an ill-chosen candidate who stands for one’s own political values. You see this on the Left all the time. No leftist thinks Kamala is a BLM radical, because to Democrats, her troubling statements are “just saying stuff.”

            • Nope. I have no bias in favor of Trump, and have never excused his terrible habits. Nor do I deny them: check the record. But it is ridiculous to behave as if every example of the guy doing what he’s always done is cataclysmic, or even significant. It is, quite literally, like taking a child’s comments seriously. Kamala also “just says stuff,” by the way, and she’s not a BLM radical. She’s a soulless opportunist with no core beliefs at all. And she”ll say what she thinks she needs to.

    • I think you might need to check your sources. As of now, the president has denounced the appropriations/stimulus bill but he hasn’t vetoed it. It’s not clear whether he will actually veto it, or if he is using the bully pulpit to get some changes made. I did listen to his speech last night and, though I wasn’t hanging on every word, don’t recall any muttering about asking people to ‘rise up.’

      Speaking of sources — how about the president’s own twitter account, where he denounced the idea of martial law as ‘fake news’. From his twitter feed: “Martial law = Fake News.” Doesn’t sound like it is Trump floating the martial law scenarios (which were always pure fantasy anyway).

    • One-horse pony: an idiomatic expression implying a person beats dead horses but has gotten stuck on one for a long time. See also: one-trick town.

      Combined with the “dog-faced pony soldier” remark, these two isolated data points allow me to conclude that Biden has a fixation on ponies. Perhaps if he’s good, his faction will buy one for him.

  6. Frankly, I’m at a loss as to how anyone should proceed.
    The democrats were successful at undermining Trump, mostly because they had the mainstream media in their pocket, and thus the general populace egging them on. They still do, so the general populace will still agree that they are right and the opposition a bunch of fools and crooks. Controlling the media and primary online communications will undoubtedly cause a repeat what we’ve seen for the last four years, only this time with the “good guys” in power and able to do what they want. Likewise, it appears the FBI, DOJ, etc. will continue to support them, or at least not punish them. Revenge and tit-for-tat will hit the wall of biased reporting. With the daily capitulation by Republicans (eg McConnell wanting everyone to approve an omnibus bill they couldn’t even read ahead of the vote), forgiveness seems the direction being taken.
    I’m not even sure who the “good guys” are anymore.

  7. Jack you say : “then the second most ethical course is to teach the wrongdoers that a political culture in which every Presidential election is followed by resistance, uncontrolled anger, hate and sabotage is doomed, and will result in every Presidency being unable to serve the needs of the people and the nation.”

    And then the at some stage the “wrongdoers” whimper and concede ……:: “Thanks for the lesson” and turn from their evil ways?? What chance of that? Highly depressing that nowhere in your post is any acknowledgement or regret for any for the incivility from the ‘right’. If you seriously want a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process than that surely requires acknowledgement of errors from both sides, mutual respect and an honest commitment to try harder for compromise.

    Or are you truly resigned to “ every Presidency being unable to serve the needs of the people and the nation.”?

    • The “they asked for it” rationalization is especially lame in this case. Incivility from Trump and others neither justified the Left’s irresponsible behavior nor triggered it. Democrats encouraged the President of the United states to be referred to as a “motherfucker,” for example, or a “cockholster,” the kinds of gutter names that would have caused riots if anyone in office used them to describe, say, Barack Obama. There is no equivalency. Not even close.

  8. It should be noted that the GOP may have opened this door with Clinton, who conservatives felt was a con artist, an adulterer, a draft-dodger and a liar. They set out to “get” him via Whitewater and his various female harassment victims, ultimately stumbling on a colorable justification for impeaching him. The big difference was the rhetoric, and most of all, the fact that the news media was pro-Clinton most of the time.

    • Jack wrote, “It should be noted that the GOP may have opened this door with Clinton, who conservatives felt was a con artist, an adulterer, a draft-dodger and a liar. They set out to “get” him via Whitewater and his various female harassment victims…”

      Without deflecting and heading down the road into the details, there was actual evidence of some sort to support all of those accusations.

      Jack wrote, “…ultimately stumbling on a colorable justification for impeaching him.”

      Whether they should have or shouldn’t have impeached Clinton for lying under oath can certainly be debated, but the fact that there was actual Constitutional grounds to impeach Clinton cannot be debated, Clinton did in fact lie under oath as the President of the United States and that is in fact illegal and therefore valid justification for a Constitutional impeachment. Personally, I thought that the Senate not convicting Clinton and removing him from office was the right thing to do.

      Jack wrote, “The big difference was the rhetoric, and most of all, the fact that the news media was pro-Clinton most of the time.”

      Back in February I did a little comparison of the rhetoric between the Clinton and Trump impeachments in my blog post What Have We Become?. The differences between the rhetorical conduct of politicians, the media and the public during the Clinton years and the Trump years is stark to say the least. The opening of the door by the GOP during the Clinton years was more like a drippy faucet in comparison to the tidal wave during the Trump years.

  9. Let us not forget the whole “Russia hacked the election” propaganda campaign.

    http://mtracey.medium.com/the-most-predictable-election-fraud-backlash-ever-4187ba31d430

    Of course what happened subsequently was that even years after Trump had safely taken power, the corporate media’s top luminaries continuously used the phrase “hacked the election” to describe the purported actions of Russia on behalf of Trump in 2016. Supermajorities of Democratic voters came to believe not just that Russia “interfered” in the election, but directly installed Trump into power by tampering with voting machines. Now, though, journalists who fostered these blinkered beliefs will feign incredulity that their conduct could have contributed to widespread “doubt” as to the “legitimacy” of that election. And they’ll be aghast at any suggestion that this was inevitably going to generate yet another crazed anti-legitimization initiative in 2020.

    Emphasis added

    • Wait just a minute; things that the political left says has consequences beyond that moment in time?

      Who knew?!

      Words said cannot be unsaid.

      P.S. The political left will deny all unintended consequences of their words and actions.

  10. Jack wrote:
    “Look, I know Republicans and President Trump’s supporters are angry, and, frankly, they have a right to be. My party behaved atrociously his entire term; they were disrespectful, dishonest and irresponsible, and, in behaving like that, deeply divided the nation and wounded our democracy. I know no Democrat has a right to ask for better treatment from Republicans and conservatives that we were willing to extend to them, but I’m asking anyway.

    Had it included in the second sentence a statement regarding his own involvement or lack of action calling out the atrocious behavior I might be willing to accept that and move on. Reasonable people will do that. Unfortunately, it was a pipe dream to expect such an utterance to come from someone preoccupied with relating people to horses.

    I don’t think tit for tat is a variant of the Golden Rule; it is the antithesis of the Golden Rule. We cannot assume because they treated us this way that is the way they want to be treated. I also do not think it is related to game theory. As I understand game theory one’s acts are determined by the expected reaction by another in the game. I can see how some might see some comparisons but the goal in Game Theory is to maximize the expected value accruing to you. I often used the prisoner’s dilemma to teach fundamental concepts of Game Theory in Econ classes. The choices you made had nothing to do with prior acts by your accomplice but the expected future acts assuming both are given the same options. Game Theory might be being played in the halls of Congress as each politician seeks to maximize his or her status and power but it is only to the detriment of the American people.

    I strongly suggest we instead demand that our representatives tell us why we need to send billions to other governments. When increases in spending to offset poverty or homelessness are proposed we should demand to see how in fact such short-term increases will lower the overall tax burden because of those problems in the long run. We should stop with the socialism talk and force decisions to be made on the same basis as all real investment decisions; the expected return on investment (in the form of reduced expenditures) exceeds the cost of capital (in which the cost of capital equals the private prime rate – not some artificially lowered rate by the FED)

    In short, start acting as statesman instead of snake oil salesmen, grifters, and charlatans. Establish a principle and stick to it and fight for what you think is right. In other words put you career on the line for those that elected you to the position you hold now. Don’t throw your constituents under the bus to ingratiate yourself politicly to others simply to promote your future political endeavors.

  11. Failed Presidencies are bad for all Americans, the nation and the world.

    I submit that they often are good for the wider world, and very possibly for those others too, at least if they simply fail rather than actively attain the wrong. It’s a President Log/President Stork thing. Certainly the wider world suffered less under handicapped presidents like Carter and Bush I than under others who achieved their aims more successfully – wrong or right (for the U.S.A.) though those aims may have been. Consider: wouldn’t a Harris presidency succeed more than a Biden one, in its own terms, and would you prefer that? If so, it’s the same thinking that St. Christopher is shown as having in his first two phases. (I discount attributing a Harris rise to a Biden failure and accounting for it as a Biden failure; that would be double counting.)

    (Yes, I know that I will be accused of reflexive anti-Americanism in all this, but please consider that this is an informed view based on experience rather than prejudice, and that it should be assessed on its merits regardless, no matter what you suspect me of. And even a presidency like Reagan’s that is superficially good for the wider world is still bad for it in a deeper way, by making unhappy lands that have a need for heroes from outside.)

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