It’s unseemly of me to promote my writing from other venues, but my column at THE WEEK this week gets at some of the themes we deal with here: Conscience, compromise, and politics.
I have a lot of friends who dismiss the idea of, well, standards when it comes to politics. The other side is so nasty, they tell me, that to refuse to get down in the mid is tantamount to disarmament. I’ve disagreed with that, but particularly in the Trump Era, I find I don’t get many takers for my views.
The recent spate of sexual harassment stories has offered us a chance to see this dynamic in action. Unsurprisingly, in politics, there are folks who are ready to give guys on “their” side a pass.
The problem, as I see it, is we’re so used to seeing the other side as the Ultimate Representation of Evil — sometimes with reason, sometimes because we don’t do the hard work of trying to see how the world looks to them — that we can justify anything.
The problem is that there are never any end of reasons to defer principles for the sake of power. When that happens, the end result is precisely the same as if we had no principles at all — we fill Congress with lecherous old men whose values and actions we despise, and then we convince ourselves we did it for reasons both realistic and noble.
Which means, ultimately, that “The Flight 93 Election” logic is self-fulfilling. Treat every election, every political decision, as if civilization-ending disaster is imminent, and you can justify all kinds of bad actions. That confirms to the other side that we really are as bad as they think we are. And that, in turn, lets them justify actions that we despise. Round and round we go in a never-ending spiral, until pluralism dies and the disaster we were trying to avoid finally arrives
I’m reading Stephen Carter’s 1998 book “Civility” right now. Which has related themes. I’ll be writing more about that soon.