December 9, 2019

Setting a Higher Standard in the Era of Hypocrisy

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

–Mahatma Ghandi

If there are two words I hear way too often in politics today, they are “hypocrite” and “divided”.  I’ll leave “divided” for another post.  Let’s talk about hypocrisy.

As we navigate another impeachment process, the second in my life, I repeatedly hear people throwing “hypocrite” across the aisle.  The democrats say that the republicans are hypocrites because they impeached Bill Clinton for lying under oath, but are willing to let Trump run away with a long list of offenses, including obstruction of Congress.  Then, the republicans accuse the democrats of hypocrisy because so many of the democrats have done similar things to what they are complaining Trump is doing.  Look no further than Biden’s and Bloomberg’s records of treatment of women to see why this accusation sticks.

So, the question now, where do we go from here?  How do we pave a path forward?  Throughout my life, I’ve watched as behavior considered radically unacceptable gradually becomes tolerable and then becomes normal.  As each group of politicians comes and goes, the standard gets lower and lower for what is normal and acceptable.  This shouldn’t be surprising though, it’s sin nature and entropy.  Look no further than your workplace or your children to see that people will constantly test the limits and if there are no consequences, they will push a little further.  When you add the changing of parties in power, and the “eye for an eye mentality”, you get rapid descent into atrocious behavior by both parties.  As Ghandi said in my opening quote, “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind!”  If each party justifies their actions by saying that the last president was just as bad, almost as bad, or slightly worse, we’ll only continue to get worse.

So, how do we get out of this vicious cycle?  I see two options:

  1. Blow it all up and start over.  We have an actual revolution, lots of people die, we write a new Constitution, and the cycle of entropy starts over at the beginning again with wonderful guard rails in place to guard against what we have now.  These will likely be somewhat reminiscent of what’s in the current Constitution.  Hopefully we get another 250 years out of round two.  The biggest downsides: chaos and death while we transition.
  2. Someone sets a higher standard and we reverse our slide into the abyss.  This has the potential to fix the standard without bloodshed.  However, one party has to be willing to call out the other and the party being called out needs to take the hit.  One president will be the fall man who will loose his political future for doing something “just a little worse” than the last guy.  However, in exchange, we save our country and the Constitutional standard for presidential behavior and practice.

I’d like to propose that while option 2 may cause an “unjust” demise of someone’s political future and may require one party exemplifying humility in being willing to acknowledge their own wrong doing, this is better than option 1.

So, to our current situation…yes, the democrats behavior towards Trump is hypocritical.  There may be things Obama, Hillary, etc. did that were evil, abuse of power, etc.  Maybe Obama should have been impeached, I don’t know.  The point is, it doesn’t matter anymore; we CAN’T go back and impeach Obama. However, we are now at a watershed moment.  Polls show that as high as 70% of people agree that Trump’s Ukraine actions were “wrong” (http://bit.ly/3449z5W).  Even many GOP congresspeople agree that it was wrong.  The issue is just whether what he did was both wrong AND impeachable.  It seems though that republicans can’t stomach the idea of actually aligning with the democrats to impeach the GOP president.  It’s time for a dose of humility and cooperation.

What Trump is doing NOW is an abuse of power and he’s obstructing Congress.  However, impeachment doesn’t have to be a win for the democrats, it can be a win for America! This is a chance, while we have agreement around appropriate behavior, for democrats and republicans to iron out what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate for a president and set some more specific standards.  Then, let’s apply them to this president, and presidents going forward.  This is the golden opportunity for a reset of the standard for presidential behavior.

We can’t change the past.  All the finger pointing about what people should or shouldn’t have done in previous times won’t change anything.  However, we can change our present and our future.  It’s time to set a new standard and move forward, otherwise Civil War 2 will quickly become the only viable option.

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