Whose Morality Counts

Author: Gary Hart

It is rare, but not unheard of, for the United States or most other truly democratic nations to have an amoral leader.  Despite evidence to the contrary, it is also rare for a political party to loose its moorings from fundamental moral standards.

Yet, given the relatively unmoored period in which we are now living, some in the commentariat praise Ms. Marianne Williamson, for example, for calling political aspirants back to a moral base for their policies and programs.

Little harm and possibly some good in that.

Partisan theoreticians, however, argue that their respective parties have something like a moral base.  Conservatives find their morality, and the policies it produces, founded in family, community, religion, self-reliance, freedom from oppressive regulation, and cultural tradition.  Liberals, now self-described as progressives, seldom quarrel with these qualities but instead add to them concern for those left out, the homeless, unemployed, marginalized, dependent, and for protection and conservation of the environment, and, in the main, those elements of society unserved and unprotected by markets.

Conservatives see their government as a continuing threat of repression.  Progressives see the same government as a force for social good.

It has been suggested that the most straightforward way for Democrats to defeat the incumbent president is to focus attention on his seeming lack of moral and ethical standards.  It is an interesting and possibly successful strategy.

It might have the added advantage of forcing many so-called leaders in his party to finally separate themselves from his erratic and unprincipled behavior and to identify themselves with their proclaimed traditional values over his rogue, unhinged governing by tweet.

A book I wrote some years ago advocated for a Democratic manifesto that restated the fundamental, and therefore unchanging, principles of the party and linked the party’s policies and programs that flowed from those principles.  Basic principles for a party or a person are basic, unchanging beliefs.  Policies and programs based on those principles adapt and adjust to the constant changes in history and human life.

If a party goes too long without restating its principles it risks losing its identity.  Both American parties are guilty of assuming each new generation knows what they believe.  Basic truths, ideals, and principles require restatement.

To the degree political parties can be said to have a moral foundation that must rest in the periodic restatement of its principles and ideals.

Ms. Williamson and those who applaud her may be right.  It is dangerous to criticize or judge another person’s morality.  But Mr. Trump has made himself different.  It little profits us to rehearse yet again his undenied personal conduct, his repeated resort to race, his peculiar attraction to dictators, his resistance to alliances, his virtually universal failure in appointing senior executive officers and staff, and his demented delight in dividing society.

But, perhaps uniquely in American history, his “base” forgives him everything and seems to delight in his childish tantrums.  To launch a campaign centered on his lack of a moral compass is to hold all those who persist in supporting him accountable to the same judgment.

It is one thing to hold an individual to account using traditional moral standards and quite another to produce a judgment holding all those who insist on supporting him to the same account.

There is theatrical evidence that Americans delight in a scallywag.  Consider Professor Harold Hill, P. T. Barnum, Elmer Gantry, and a host of others.

Needless to say, it is one thing to promise seventy-six trombones and quite another to promise to make America great again, when it was doing pretty well until the incumbent showman came down the escalator.

Perhaps what is now at stake is not so much Donald Trump’s morality, or that of his party, but rather the moral foundation of our nation.

We will find out, hopefully sooner rather than later.


6 Responses to “Whose Morality Counts”


    If not mention of one of my favourite actors, Gary Cooper, only days ago, days later, three favourite stories, and larger than life characters, Harold Hill, Barnum, Elmer Gantry. Would that Trump were like Robert Preston, Jim Dale or Burt Lancaster! The effect these brilliant , only partially charlatan personalities had, was far ,ore understandable. Great artists convey great scripts, equals, great art, great entertainment. I see more of what I reckon the effect of Hey Long, Fr. Coughlin and Senator Mcarthy in Trump, too, as well as the showman, charlatan, the demagogue who is dangerous.

    The race to replace, is broad. My worry is that a terrific man with in my view no drawback other than age, Vice President Biden,might not do it, or Tulsi Gabbard , or Michael Bennet….

    Modern understanding of morality is moral fibre indeed based on integrity true to more than sexuality and a good thing that.

    Moral compass is not that which leads to bedroom or boardroom, but is about leading in ways that are good for the lives of people and increasingly our planet.Trump, oddly fails on all four!

    Come back and lead is the call to our host, Senator, beyond this much loved forum, we need your voice and commentary in the political culture, on the political stage!


    Typo, Huey Long!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Michael Says:

    Party manifestos and platforms are good and necessary. The country should know what they are voting for when they vote one way or another. But these are far from normal times. The nation is in very real danger. It doesn’t come just from the moral degeneracy, or the mental instability, of the man squatting in the oval office; it comes from his willingness to sell out the interests of the United States to hostile foreign powers for what is most probably the personal enrichment of himself and his family. And the entire Republican Party are his collaborators. We’ve just had a thorough, two-year special counsel investigation which, in great detail, showed not only how the 2016 election was attacked by the Russians to help install Trump, but how the Trump campaign colluded with them. Republicans in the House are shamelessly trying to indoctrinate the public with false narratives about the “deep state” trying to bring down Trump while viscously maligning the patriots who work at the FBI, the intelligence services, and even FISA court judges. The Republican majority leader in the Senate has killed legislation passed in the House to help prevent another election attack, because he and Trump think it will help them hold onto power, and oh, by the way, McConnell lobbied to have sanctions eased on a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin so he can build an aluminum plant in Kentucky. And where are the Democrats? Where the hell is Schumer? He, Pelosi, and every other Democrat should be sounding the alarm about all this every single day. Instead they are making small political calculations designed not to offend certain voters in marginal districts. Where is Mark Warner who has seen evidence most of us have not? Or Richard Burr who the media praises as a rare Republican straight shooter? Imagine how the Republicans would be acting if the situation were reversed. Trump has installed a lackey as AG who uses the DoJ as a tool to protect the president. He is about to do the same at the Directorate of National Intelligence. We are in a grave national emergency. The enemy isn’t at the gates; it is operating openly inside our government. We are one tainted election away from a rapid descent into authoritarianism. And the Democrats are worried about alienating people who will never vote for them, no matter what their political manifesto says.

  4. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    WOW Michael! Would that Senator Hart espouse these sentiments in as provocative a manner. I agree with all that you have said far better than I.

  5. Michael Says:

    Stephen D. Pillow, I had no intention of being provocative; merely to state the facts. If it sounds provocative it’s because the situation is so alarming.

  6. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Michael, you are correct about it being “because the situation is so alarming.” However, I am sure that others would consider it “being provocative” and something that they do not want to hear even though they are only “the facts.”

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