Loading...
BYH, 'the people' did not 'elect' Trump, the people elected 'not Hillary'. 'Not Hillary' is not on the ballot next time,...

Conservatives should not excuse claims of voter fraud

john hood.jpg

John Hood

Loading…

Saturday, December 22, 2018

While the term “whataboutism” may be relatively new — coined within the last few decades, and newly prominent in the age of Donald Trump — the logical fallacy it denotes is as ancient as politics itself.

The rhetorical trick goes something like this. A political leader or group is accused of doing something wrong. In response, a defender tries to change the subject. “You say President Trump lies,” for example, “but what about when President Obama said that under the Affordable Care Act, people could keep their health plans if they wanted? He wasn’t telling the truth, and you didn’t go after him!”

As it happens, Obama wasn’t telling the truth about that, as he and anyone else involved in health policy must surely have known. But that example does not establish a defense of Trump’s dishonesty. In fact, to grant that it is wrong in principle for politicians to tell falsehoods is obviously to strengthen the case against any particular politician telling falsehoods, not to weaken it.

Indeed, whataboutism is formally known as tu quoque (“you also” in Latin), the appeal to hypocrisy. Hypocrites may deserve all sorts of scorn. But their inconsistency doesn’t disprove the value of the ethical standard they are violating. It’s a separate infraction, one might say.

Consider the election-fraud allegations in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Operatives working for the campaign of Republican Mark Harris allegedly went beyond the legal distribution and collection of absentee-ballot requests and illegally “harvested” the absentee ballots themselves, opening up the possibility that the ballots were tampered with or discarded in ways that benefited Harris.

Republicans have variously responded by pointing out that there are also credible allegations of ballot harvesting and other questionable tactics by Democratic operatives in Bladen County this year; that the key Harris contractor in question, McCrae Dowless, had also done absentee-ballot work for Democrats in recent election cycles; that his 2018 tactics may have been motivated by a broad perception that previous Democratic election fraud had never been seriously investigated, much less punished; and that Democrats in states such as California have actually fought to legalize and expand the use of ballot harvesting, which they used to great effect in defeating Republicans in 2018.

These are all correct statements, as far as I can tell. If made to provide context, and to challenge the absurd overstatements and “guilt by association” claims made against all North Carolina Republicans in the aftermath of the 9th District fiasco, they are warranted. But to the extent these claims have devolved into whataboutism, they fail. If Dowless did what is alleged, and Harris exercised poor judgment at the very least in hiring and incentivizing the Dowless crew, then they deserve what may be coming to them. That others may also deserve criticism or consequences for their own choices doesn’t change that.

If it is to stand for anything at all other than short-term electoral victories or “owning the libs,” the conservative movement must stand for standards, for the rule of law as well as for rules that may be tacit and lack the force of law yet make it possible for people with differing interests, values, and political beliefs to coexist in relative peace and security.

It’s not easy to defend rules when they feel inconvenient, delay immediate gratification, or provoke hypocrisy. The Silent Sam controversy at UNC-Chapel Hill is a case in point. Wherever you think the statue should ultimately reside, do you really want to live in a society where people think they can take the law into their own hands if they conclude that following the rules will not immediately get them what they want?

If you believe that the “other side” is being unreasonable or hypocritical, by all means call them out. But don’t lapse into whataboutism. Don’t let explanations become excuses. And don’t call people chumps for following the rules — particularly if your goal is to advance conservatism.

John Hood is chairman of the John Locke Foundation and appears on NC SPIN at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday on UNC-TV and 10 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday on the North Carolina Channel.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

February 21, 2019

Several local school districts have asked the General Assembly to free them from the rigid start-date and end-date of the academic year now embedded in law. They define the issue as "calendar flexibility."

What seems a prosaic procedural matter actually poses a test of policymakers' flexibility and…

Ferrel Guillory

February 20, 2019

It's hard to be a native New Yorker and be stunned by much of anything that you see on the city's streets. But the other day I was in for quite a surprise.

As it happens, I had just mentioned a certain maternity-clothes store in Tribeca that happens to be across the street from Planned Parenthood.…

kathrynlopez

February 20, 2019

Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and member of the French National Assembly, lived from 1801 to 1850. He had great admiration for our country, except for our two faults —slavery and tariffs. He said: "Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more…

Walter Williams

February 19, 2019

El Chapo’s murderous Sinaloa drug cartel was based in Mexico, but for years its American nerve center was Chicago. His henchmen from the Little Village neighborhood, twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, turned the city into a conduit for as much as 1,500 kilos of cocaine and heroin each…

February 19, 2019

There's one in every family: The embarrassing relative who spouts off conspiracy theories or racist opinions at Thanksgiving.

If that relative was in your circle of friends, you'd make sure they didn't get invited ever again. But because they're family, you're stuck putting up with the crazy.

North…

Colin Campbell

February 18, 2019

I was born in Charlotte. But I grew up in rural Mecklenburg County. There used to be such a place — and, indeed, quite a few such places still exist in our increasingly urbanized state.

My family lived on 40 acres, mostly forest with a freight-rail track running through it. When the train…

john hood.jpg

February 18, 2019

 

It snowed on Amy Klobuchar as she announced her run for president. And while that might be a bad omen for some candidates, the icy weather accurately symbolizes her appeal.

The Minnesota Democrat, just elected to a third Senate term, portrays herself as a common-sense pragmatist from a blue-…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

February 17, 2019

If the most important factor determining the welfare of workers is the growth rate of the economy, that has policy implications that free-market conservatives, among others, will welcome.

Real, long-term economic growth is about investment, about both the amount invested and how skillfully it is…

john hood.jpg

February 17, 2019

Would you like to know why U.S. sanctions against companies owned by Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska are being lifted?

You are the reason.

Me too.

And so is everybody else who lives and votes in North Carolina.

Last April, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against…

DGMartin.jpg

February 16, 2019

With confidence in government at record lows, where have all our leaders gone? Where is the James Madison of today, or the Thomas Jefferson, or even Everett Dirksen? He was the Republican leader who partnered with President Johnson to pass civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

These people were…

eleanorclift.jpg
314 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 32
        Next Page»   Last Page»