The Collision of Morality and Politics


I think it is helpful and necessary to distinguish between the realms or morality and politics.

Not that these two can never be intertwined. Immigration and refugee policy can blur the distinction between the two. Splitting up families is a moral issue. Whether to have border security is a political issue. How many refugees to accept is a political question that feels like a moral question.

Using fear to scapegoat immigrants and refugees is an immoral means to a political end.

Abortion also blurs the distinction. When life begins is a theological question. Where to draw the line between the right to life and the right to choice is a political question. Why and how people get into the circumstance where they choose abortion is a social science question.

Sexual assault is a moral and legal question. For Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the statute of limitations is up. He cannot be legally tried for preying on teenage girls when he was in his 30’s, as he is alleged to have done. He cannot be held legally accountable for child molestation.

This a clear cut case of morality. This person should not be a senator. The Republican Party should not be funding this person’s campaign. The President of the United States should not be endorsing his candidacy. Republican leaders should not be neutral on this.

Jeff Flake has said as much. The outgoing Republican senator from Arizona said that, if he were in Alabama, he would run to the polls to vote for a Democrat. He even wrote a check to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones.

Republican senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse disagreed, beefing with Flake on Twitter, saying, “It’s possible to be against BOTH partial birth abortion AND child molestation. Happily, most Americans are.”

True, Doug Jones is staunchly pro-choice and supports late term abortions in the case of “medical necessity.”

Also true: Reasonable, moral people can come to different conclusions on reproductive issues.

The only reasonable, moral conclusion on Roy Moore is that he should never be a public representative.

Democrats often try to push the moral question onto economic policy, and that’s where they lose me. Questions of tax rates and social welfare are not purely moral questions.

Everyone wishes poverty would just go away and people could live fat and happy.

But I think everyone understands that it would be problematic to, say, print out a million dollars cash to give to every poor person.

Good intentions often backfire. These issues are complicated. We need to objectively analyze what the effects of economic policy will be, in terms of incentives and long-term sustainability.

Sure, maybe some Republicans are beholden to rich donors and just want to cut corporate taxes to stay in power and make their friends more powerful at the expense of the public good.

There may be others who have reached the conclusion that lower tax rates and fewer regulations will spur innovation and growth, benefitting the public good.

Reasonable, moral people can disagree on economic policy.

By all means, let’s fight tooth and nail over whether the tax bill is good policy. Let’s question people’s motivations for voting on the bill. Let’s criticize the methods of getting this bill through, and critically evaluate the claims made about any policy.

But let’s save our moral energy right now for rejecting bigots and sexual predators.


Author: Billy

High school teacher and blogger.

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