On Facebook the other day, a man confessed he was grappling with his conscience, unable to swallow his principles to vote for Hillary Clinton. As I have a perverse mind, a syllogism popped into my head:
Bernie Sanders is a moral man
Bernie Sanders supports Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders is either honest in his support or he is not.
If he is honest in his support, then his followers should vote for Hillary Clinton
If he is a liar, then why should people of high moral principles have followed Bernie Sanders in the first place?
Age has left me a tad bit cynical about high moral principles. I would even suggest moral principles alone provide a weak measurement in politics. A far, far better one is pragmatism: What do you want your government to achieve? After all, no person, much less a politician, imagines he or she acts on immoral principles. Hitler created a holocaust in the misguided view he could lift Germany out of its economic depression and perfect the Aryan people.
Expecting perfection in politics, or frankly, in most human endeavors, is a fool’s ambition. People can be devils or angels, depending upon the occasion. Take, for example, the man, Madison Grant. (Click) He was the pioneer conservationist who launched the campaign that saved California’s redwoods and, in this centennial year of the National Park Service, he should be honored as one of its creators. (“White Open Spaces,” by Richard Connif, Mother Jones, July/August 2016, pgs. 6768.) But we will hear little about him in the upcoming celebration because in 1916 he published a book which became Hitler’s Bible: The Passing of the Great Race. His thesis was that Aryans were superior to all others; that every means should be taken to reduce the immigration of non-Aryan populations into the United States; and that sterilization was an appropriate way to control the burgeoning of inferior inhabitants. (Ibid pg. 68.) Did Madison believe he was a moral man? Most certainly.
As to morality, itself, that’s a can of worms. In some places, burying a hungry man up to his neck in sand and stoning him to death for stealing an orange is a highly moral act. If anyone cared to take my advice, I’d say practice compassion more and worry about morality less.