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:

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In Search Of A Tipping Point: Trump, The Microphone, And Thomas Dewey’s Ghost

Tom Dewey

The question is what will be the tipping point with Donald Trump, the incident, large or small, that suddenly causes the scales to fall from the eyes of his so far endlessly tolerant supporters, and cause them to suddenly realize what they are doing, exclaim, “My God! This man is a jerk!” and end this sick romance. The human being behind the ugly mask is uglier still, after all. Sooner or later, a tipping point will be reached.

In 1948, Republican Tom Dewey, who already had given FDR his best battle in an election, was poised to defeat the unpopular President Harry Truman and become President of the United States. It was less than a month from election day when, in Beaucoup, Illinois,  Dewey was speaking on the rear platform of a train as a tactic to counter Truman’s 30,000-mile whistle-stop campaign. The engineer accidentally backed the train up a short distance and stopped with a jolt, frightening both the candidate and the crowd. Dewey, flustered, snapped, “This is the first lunatic I’ve had as an engineer. He probably ought to be shot at sunrise, but I guess we can let him off because nobody was hurt!”

Nobody laughed. This was a petulant, privileged, arrogant side of Dewey that the public had never seen before, and was played up by papers as emblematic of a contempt  for working Americans. It didn’t help that he wore a fussy, anachronistic  mustache mocked by Alice Roosevelt Longworth as making her visualize Dewey as “the bridegroom on the wedding cake,” but whatever his other flaws, the train incident and his unguarded moment of impatience may have cost Thomas Dewey the election.

Yesterday, during an overflowing rally in Pensacola, Florida, the Republican poll-leader for the party’s Presidential nomination became annoyed by a balky microphone and attacked an anonymous sound engineer.

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