In case you missed it (or have a life and aren’t following the nauseating race for Governor in Virginia) five people holding tiki torches and pretending to be fans of the Charlottesville white supremacy group, Unite the Right, that sparked a riot in 2017 showed up to show their support for GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin last week. The stunt was met with furious criticism of Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who was presumed to be behind the incident, and why wouldn’t he be? As the slimy former Clinton fundraiser has slipped in the polls, his “ends justify the means” approach to politics (and life) has become especial pungent. However, the Never-Trump group The Lincoln Project came to McAuliffe’s rescue, claiming responsibility for the deception.
Yesterday one of the group’s co-founders, Stuart Stevens, refused to apologize for attempting to influence an election by deceiving voters. “Listen, every day I hear people pleading with the Lincoln Project to help show Democrats how to win, how to play hardball. You know, this is an example,” he said on CNN. “The question here is not about some guys who showed up at a rally,’ said Stevens. ‘It’s why hasn’t Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump for saying that there are good people on both sides? I mean, that is absolutely outrageous. And it’s because Glenn Youngkin wants it both ways. And I think that’s the message that needs to be driven here. You know, the Lincoln Project was the first in this race to put Charlottesville in an ad. And some people thought maybe it went too far. But we did it. And it worked. And then McAuliffe’s campaign followed us and put Charlottesville in a very good ad they did. So I think the question here is, we can’t ignore what happened in Charlottesville, the question is why hasn’t Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump?”
Meanwhile, the McAuliffe campaign pronounced the hoax “disgusting” and called on the Lincoln Project to apologize.
1. The scam was unethical. Does an ethicist really have to tell you that? Wasn’t it obvious the second you heard about it? There is no ethical system in existence that can justify such conduct; I was tempted not to even write about it, because the blog is primarily about sharpening our ethical skills. Those who can’t figure out on their own that it’s wrong to deliberately deceive voters during a political campaign don’t have any ethical skills, and don’t belong here. Applauding this is signature significance for an individual who has no ethics alarms.
2. It is amazing that the Lincoln Project is still in existence. It was thoroughly exposed as a scam itself at the beginning of this year. Glenn Greenwald provided a thorough vivisection of the corrupt group that bears review. The organization was devised as a profitable scheme by a group of principle-free political consultants. Its target audience was the suckers and hysterics Ethics Alarms refers to as the Trump Deranged; the Lincoln Project had no measurable impact on the 2020 election. It just added its insults and dishonest spin to the Left’s efforts to undermine Donald Trump’s Presidency.
3. Steven’s statement is a self-indictment for ethics rot, though it was hardly necessary for us to make that diagnosis. After endorsing scamming as legitimate political strategy, he repeats the long debunked lie that Donald Trump had implied that white supremacists might be “good people,” because this has been enshrined in the Democratic Party’s Big Lie arsenal. The march was organized to protest the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue. Some marchers were white supremacists, while some objected to the Left’s toppling statues to purge historically important figures from our nation’s memory (an objection I share). The counter-protesters who were responsible for the riot were attempting to prevent a group of citizens from legally and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. (The cunter-protesters had no permits; Unite the Right did.) I’m sure there were good (though misguided) people in that group, too.
4. Youngkin has no obligation to “denounce” Donald Trump. This transparent “gotcha!” tactic was rampant during Trump’s administration, though it is an old one: it’s a variation of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale game. Once McAuliffe realized that he might lose to Youngkin, he decided to devote his energy, fund and rhetoric to running against Trump, who isn’t a candidate, in a state where he was trounced last November. Trump endorsed Youngkin—of course he did: Youngkin is a Republican, supports many of the same policies, and, like Trump, is a businessman turned candidate. Youngkin said thanks, which is what any candidate should say when a former President endorses him or her. McAuliffe’s challenge is to explain what’s wrong with Youngkin’s policies, and he has proved too inept to do that: McAulifffe ended up making the fatal assertion that parents had no role to play in deciding what their children would be taught in public schools.
If I were advising Youngkin, I might suggest that he agree to denounce Donald Trump if McAuliffe would denounce Bill and Hillary Clinton.
5. Many have suggested that the Lincoln Project coordinated the hoax with McAuliffe’s campaign. It would certainly not be beneath the inclinations of either group. My guess is that the Lincoln Project proposed the tactic, and the Democrats said, “Go for it, but if you get caught, you’re on your own.” There is no evidence of this, but these are all people for whom “the ends justifies the means” is as close to ethics as they will ever get.
Pointer: Other Bill