When should loyalty trump justice? Never? Always?
My answer: never! Unless it involves my family. Then I say: always!
Justice is supposed to be blind. The same standards apply to everyone. “All men are created equal”, at least before the law. To use more lenient rules for donors, allies, friends and cronies is the essence of injustice.
In his influential 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, argues that liberals fail to recognize the importance of loyalty as a moral value. Liberals are WEIRD—western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic—and as such, out of touch with most of the rest of humanity. Haidt proposes that there are six moral modules: fairness, care, sanctity, authority, loyalty, and liberty. Liberals focus too much on fairness and care, and so miss the full range of the human moral experience. Haidt compares liberals to people with deficient taste buds, who can’t taste the full range of flavors. Conservatives value sanctity, authority, and loyalty more than liberals, and so are more in touch with the mass of humanity. Liberty is a late arriving wildcard, valued by all. Haidt thinks that morality can be composed of many (any?) combinations among the various modules. Taste them all!
Does this mean red-staters can crank up the loyalty module as much as they please and still have a perfectly valid moral system?
During the Trump era, many conservatives seem to think loyalty is everything, much more valuable than abstract notions of justice. They have been willing to overlook transgressions by Trump, which would surely outrage them if committed by Democrats. Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker yesterday “How Donald Trump Taught Conservatives to Defend Roy Moore”:
He talked on tape about sexually assaulting women and won the general election. He fired the F.B.I. director, who was investigating him and his campaign for potentially criminal conduct, and Republicans yawned. He has used Twitter to escalate a standoff with a renegade nuclear state, and his supporters have defended it as a brilliant strategy. It has become a journalistic cliché to point out that Trump survives scandals and outrages that would sink other politicians. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-donald-trump-taught-conservatives-to-defend-roy-moore?
The conservatives who support Trump do not evaluate his conduct by the same standards they would use on, say, Hillary Clinton, just to pick a Democratic politician at random. That’s what loyalty gets you. As Lizza points out, last year Trump bragged that he could shoot someone and not lose voters.
The most severe test yet of Republican loyalty is the Roy Moore situation in Alabama, as reported by the Washington Post on Thursday. https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/woman-says-roy-moore-initiated-sexual-encounter-when-she-was-14-he-was-32/2017/11/09/1f495878-c293-11e7-afe9-4f60b5a6c4a0_story.html?utm_term=.ff9c99665018
Moore is accused of sexually molesting a 14 year old girl when he was an assistant district attorney in 1979. The evidence against Moore is detailed and corroborated. He found the victim and her mother outside a courtroom. He convinced the mother to leave him alone with the victim. He got her phone number, and…
Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. “I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
This goes beyond sexual harassment—this is criminal conduct. The type of evidence collected by the Post would support serious felony charges (at least under current California law; see Penal Code section 288(c)(1))
No Democratic candidate could survive this. (Anthony Weiner is in prison for sexting a 15 year old, which is not as serious a crime.) However, Republicans are made of sterner stuff. Moore called the allegations a “completely false and a desperate political attack.” Republicans recognize Moore is a big problem, but only few have called unequivocally for him to leave the race.
The reactions to the allegation that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney have highlighted deep divisions within the Republican Party and underscored the growing tribalism that has infected the nation’s politics… Jonathan P. Gray, a Republican consultant in Alabama who is not working with any of the Senate candidates this year: “I think it was already perfectly well stated that no one in Alabama gives a shit what Mitch McConnell or John McCain thinks we should do.”
The most remarkable pushback came from Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who dismissed the allegations by saying that there was also an age gap between the biblical Joseph and Mary. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” he told The Washington Examiner. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
The Republican National Committeeman from Alabama, Paul Reynolds, said that he trusts Vladimir Putin more than Moore’s accusers. “My gosh, it’s The Washington Post. If I’ve got a choice of putting my welfare into the hands of Putin or The Washington Post, Putin wins every time,” he told The Hill. “This is going to make Roy Moore supporters step up to the plate and give more, work more and pray more.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/11/10/daily-202-as-roy-moore-declines-to-step-aside-a-tale-of-two-republican-parties-emerges/5a04e1dd30fb045a2e002f77/?utm_term=.7a7e5fab5b88
Lizza: “These defenses are shocking, but they square with Trump’s when it comes to the extremes to which partisanship now pushes people… Americans identify with a party the way they do with a sports team or tribe. Often, one’s hatred of an opposing tribe—what political scientists call “negative partisanship”—is enough to overcome any doubts about one’s own.”
What would these Republicans be saying if these allegations had been made against Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate running against Moore in Alabama’s Dec. 12 Senate election? Would they be saying “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual”? Of course not. They would be yelling, “Lock him up!”
Where does the Moore debacle leave Haidt’s theory about morality? For his insight into red-state psychology, Haidt is thoroughly confirmed. Loyalty uber alles, they apparently believe. But this cannot be justice or fairness or morality, can it? And does that mean that the Loyalty module is not part of morality, whatever role it might play in values? Maximizing fairness as a value will not lead to injustice. So are liberals right about morality after all?
Maybe Haidt himself will publish something on Moore.