On Thursday, Ace of Spades ran a piece titled, “How Losing My Political Values Helped Me Gain My Freedom.” The central contention was similar to one made by The Daily Wire’s John Nolte: the time for morality in politics has come and gone. Why? Because the right will no longer play by the rules by which the left refuses to abide. Here’s the bottom line:
I literally don’t care what Donald Trump does because nothing he can do is worse than what they’ve already done….There aren’t any rules anymore because the left only applies them one way. And in doing so, they’ve left what once was a civil compact between the two parties in smoldering ruins. I have no personal investment in Donald Trump. He is a tool to punish the left and roll back their ill-gotten gains, no more and no less. If he succeeds even partially in those two things, then I’ll consider his election a win…. Further, I no longer have any investment in any particular political values, save one: The rules created by the left will be applied to the left as equally and punitively as they have applied them to the right….I don’t care if Trump is lying.
My friend Steve Deace puts forward a similar thought when he tweets thusly today:
I think Jones is a kook, but if Trump wants to help us save the babies I don’t care if he makes Jones first chair of the WH press corps.
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) January 26, 2017
In other words, if we get what we want, screw “the rules.”
There are a few problems with this.
1. The Left Did Not Set Up “The Rules.” Just to be clear, the rules we’re talking about are not rules like “be civil to your opposition” and “never attack harshly.” Those were stupid rules. We’re now talking about basic moral rules like “don’t lie.” Those rules were not set up by the left. They were rules set up by the Bible, or by basic Kantian imperatives, or by simple decency. Other people have value. You demean their value as human beings when you lie to them.
2. The Left’s Lies Don’t Make Your Lies Better. Just because the left refuses to abide by the “don’t lie” rule doesn’t make your lying morally decent. I’m old enough to remember when we thought Barack Obama was a bad president not merely because he passed Obamacare, but because he lied to do it. I remember when we fumed because Obama and Hillary Clinton lied openly about what drove the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. One of the reasons people on the right dislike the left is because the left lies, not just because they’re of the left. The right hates the mainstream media because they lie, not just because they sympathize with the Democratic Party. Lying makes you a member of the contingent you hate.
3. If Lies In Politics Are Fine, Why Bother Having A Republic? The whole point of republican government is the notion that politicians are answerable to the people – and more importantly, that citizens are capable of holding politicians accountable, of judging right and wrong. If they aren’t – if it’s now morally justifiable to lie to the public in order to get the things you want – then why bother with the charade of republicanism? Why not just have a coup, install the person who will do the stuff you want, and govern that way?
4. Lies Are Only Justified When You Have No Other Choice. Those who promulgate the “lies are okay because we have to win!” position do so out of the belief that the political battle is, as Andrew Breitbart put it, a #War. But Andrew never meant that we are in a literal war. If we were, we wouldn’t stop at lying – we’d be out in the streets shooting at each other. Andrew was always of the belief that lies were not justified in politics – that we could win with the truth. He was angry at the left not just because of their policy preferences, but because they would lie to the American people. I remember when the right hated the left’s lies not because those lies were effective, but because they were morally wrong.
5. Lies Are Unnecessary For Victory. This is perhaps the most contentious point, but it’s the basis of sharing a common politics. Thanks to Democratic presidential victories in the past, many Republicans have become convinced that lying and cheating and fibbing and indulging in conspiracism are necessary tools for victory that we can’t just leave lying around. But you don’t have to lie to Americans to win. Donald Trump won not because he lied about Ted Cruz’s father or George W. Bush’s Iraq policy, but because he told the truth about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and the racialism of the Democrats.
Lies do not become decent because you like the liar. That is particularly true in politics. The essence of fascist thinking is that all becomes decent if the dictator does it. Just because the left has engaged in such fascistic thinking for years does not mean the right should do so in response.