Change v Status Quo
The Political Debate
There is an old French saying that goes; plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. In English that says, "The more things change, the more things stay the same", which is a kind of resignation that the thirst for dynamic movement and progress can be eerily similar to the effect of simply imagining the potentials embedded in things that do not appear to be changing at all. Change and constant are two sides of the same coin, one we rarely ever see as whole. One without the other should feel like the sound of one hand clapping.
In America, an election is coming up that once again involves one group; those out of power, invoking "change", as pitted against the other group; those in power, representing the "status quo". The idea of "change" for its own sake may sound exciting but just exactly what kind of change are we talking about? Is this some kind of radical change that fundamentally challenges the very principles that are bedrock to the character of the nation?
The election of Barack Obama represented a major change within America. There is no glossing over the fact of the first African/American being elected President of the United States in a nation that had codified the institution of slavery of Africans into its very constitution in Article 1 section 2, Article 1 section 9, and article IV sec 2, a nation that fought a civil war over the institution of slavery, a nation that adopted a system of apartheid under the guise of Jim Crow laws for the next 100 years after that war; that his election, and reelection has made it possible for all minorities to let their imaginations soar. That's a major shift in the American Political Dynamic.Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this would not have seemed possible in the United States. It's the kind of social change that signaled a tectonic shift in how we view minorities in this country. It's now being followed by the possibility of the first woman President in US History. And that possibility becomes more real with each new poll that is being conducted that shows her leading in the race to the White House. So barrier's that once existed and seen as essential to the way business is done in this country have been breached, and kicked to the dust, and as expected there is fierce resistance among those that see their way of life being challenged. Institutions that those see as essential to their very identity, have not only been challenged, but dismantled, despite the cries of "I want my country back". The question becomes; Back to where? There are certain principles that are baked into the cake of American culture that don't change without fundamentally altering the very nature of who we are as a people. Principles that have stood for 230 years, and define the American experience. So the change that came with Obama's election actually was the fulfillment of the promise of the Declaration of Independence: that "all men are created equal". That's positive change. It brings us closer to that "more perfect union" that we hear about. It brings us closer to the truth of who we are. If anybody is offended by that kind of change, the problem is theirs and they need to come to grips with the hatred they've lived with and projected toward others, that denied that kind of change to be made real and lasting in this country.
There are three guiding principles that the Obama Administration has operated from during its tenure in the White House and those principles have guided public policy during that time. They are “reason, rationality, and empathy”.
One definition for “reason” is the power of the mind to think and understand in a logical way. Obama has always demonstrated his ability to think and understand things in a logical way. He grasps the basic law of non-contradiction which states that you cannot be A and not-A at the same time. So he fits that definition. We know that makes him a rational person because rationality is the quality or state of being agreeable to reason. Most, if not all reality based people are agreeable to reason. Obama also displays empathy to the least among us which is a Christian value to be applauded by those professing to actually be Christians as opposed to using their religion as a political weapon. Even an atheist can understand this value as an American value. Because an atheist will recognize the truth in a value even when there may be religions that share that value as a truth. Truth doesn’t care if you have a religion or don’t.
On a talk show I recently saw former Rep Chris Shays talk about Donald Trump, and other leading Republicans who continue to endorse him and what kind of impression that leaves in the minds of large segments of the population. When asked if Shays thought that Ryan or McCain and others actually thought in private that Trump would make a good president, he said no. Shays was pressed on this being asked; when does it become glaringly, undeniably obvious that they are putting party ideology over the very foundations of this country? They are willing to put the United States and the fate of the free world and the world itself into the hands of somebody they know would be bad for the country. When pressed about the obvious cynicism that is on full display by Republicans to the voters, Shays attempted to dismiss it as part of doing business in politics. Senator Marco Rubio has called Donald Trump a Con-Artist on a number of occasions and he stands by that remark, yet he endorses this Con-Artist because as he puts it, the situation has changed and there is now a "binary choice" of Trump or Clinton and in his view, a Con-Artist is a better choice than Hillary Clinton. Likewise Speaker Paul Ryan has called out his party's nominee for his racist language regarding a Federal judge presiding over a law suit that Trump is involved in. Ryan declared Trumps language the definition of Racism, but of course he's still endorsing him because, it's better to have a racist as president than Hillary Clinton. Clearly this is placing ideology over country. He tries to create a distinction between endorsing somebody and voting for that person as somehow being different. But of course that’s a distinction without a difference. Ask Kelly Ayotte how that’s working out for her in New Hampshire. She’s supporting Trump. Just…not endorsing him. Right. The center of that argument won't hold. You can't disparage a man for his views and language which are in complete opposition to your core beliefs, and then endorse him at the same time without compromising the very beliefs that you claim are binding and non-negotiable. Doing so, defines you as a hypocrite. It also places you in the position of trying to be A, and Not A at the same time. You demonstrate your own irrationality by ignoring the principle of non-contradiction that goes back to Aristotle. Why would anybody vote for a demonstrably irrational person to run our government? Senator Lyndsey Graham said it best when he said, "At some point you have to decide that your love of country trumps your hatred for Hillary Clinton". Your love of country is more important than loyalty to your party.
A distinction without a difference is a type of logical fallacy where an author or speaker attempts to describe a distinction between two things although no difference exists. It is particularly used when a word or phrase has connotations associated with it that one party to an argument prefers to avoid. In this case, the fitness of Donald Trump to be the man with his hands on the nuclear codes. It’s the assertion that a position is different from another position based on the language when, in fact, both positions are exactly the same -- at least in practice or practical terms. It’s like saying, A is not the same as the first letter in the alphabet.
Why Shays feels a need to try to justify the party over country views of Paul Ryan and other Republicans isn’t clear. When presented with this very stark choice of Party or country first, Shays says that for some people change; apparently any kind of change, is preferable to the “status quo”.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this. It appears that the status quo that the Trumpers want to abandon is one of reason, rationality and empathy. That’s the stark contrast that Trumps candidacy demonstrates. None of those qualities can be found in Donald Trump. Trump relies on boastful exaggerations, outright lies, religious bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating. He’s like a 9 year old in a grown-man’s body. He reacts to every perceived slight or criticism with the mentality of a “Valley Girl” with a Twitter Account. Like a 5th grade bully, he goes after Governors, Senators, Federal Judges. Even Gold Star Mothers. He can’t stop himself from punching back. One has to ask how he might respond to criticism from foreign leaders? Why would anybody expect him to act any other way than the way he has already shown us?
What we see in Trump, is Anti-reason, Anti-rationality and Hate as the alternative to the “status quo”.
I doubt that the vast majority of voters in the United States want the kind of change that Trump represents. At least I would hope not. It represents a total break with what we know as the United States. If Hillary Clinton represents the status quo, and that is defined as using reason and rationality tempered with empathy, then I suspect that we’ll see her working with Republicans as much as they’ll allow themselves to work with her in doing the people’s business.
What she won’t do is invoke racism, or bigotry into our policy making and she won’t abandon our allies.
The choice becomes one of voting for reason/rationality/empathy v ideology/authoritarianism/ hate
There is a major flaw in Trumps thinking that seems to have found support in a certain segment of the population. Trump has stated that we need to “go after the families of terrorists”.
“Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that in the battle against the Islamic State, the families of terrorists should be targets, saying they were using their relatives “as shields.”
“We’re fighting a very politically correct war,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “The other thing with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.”
“They say they don’t care about their lives,” he added. “You have to take out their families.”
This presents an interesting hypothetical scenario that puts that kind of logic and reasoning to a test. Because Trump has also said this; Trump, Feb. 17: Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.
Ok, so we know Trumps position on going after the family members and we know his position on Torture.( OK folks? Am I right? believe me.)
If we put this logic and reasoning process to a hypothetical test we can force ourselves into having to make a crucial choice, and that’s where our own moral compass reveals itself. Let’s look at the ticking time bomb scenario:
Our intelligence people have uncovered a plot involving a time bomb that will explode in Times Square killing hundreds if not thousands of people. They have found a suspected terrorist and taken him to a secure location for interrogation Trump style. But they also bring along his 7 year old daughter from his home. They are both tied to a chair face to face. One man stands over the daughter with a garden clipper and spreads her fingers prepared to lop off one finger at a time in front of the girls father. But first they're going to water-board her. Remember that this is a “suspected” terrorist. The question now is whether we condone the torture of a child to get our information? Logically there should be no objection to torturing the child since we have already accepted the doctrine of going after the families of terrorist as legitimate and the age or sex of the family member is irrelevent, and also the doctrine of torture is now acceptable. Neither of those policies are conditional in any way. The age or the sex of the person being tortured is irrelevant to the logic being used. If we are going to go after the family members and we agreed that we need to go beyond water boarding then the age and sex of the victim doesn’t matter. We don’t even know if the suspect is a terrorist but what matters is stopping the bomb from going off, and if torturing a 7 year old girl accomplishes that task then it’s morally acceptable.
So…there’s your choice? Do we subscribe to a utilitarian view of consequentialist morality? (The moral thing to do is to act in the best interests which serves the happiness of the greatest number. Doing the greatest good for the greatest number) Or do we hold to a Catogorical Imperative. The categorical imperative was contrasted with the hypothetical imperative of Utilitarianism. And the idea of a hypothetical imperative was if/then. So if you want your society to be safe, then you must torture the child. That's a hypothetical imperative. The logical form is of this is called Modus Ponens.
P->Q ( If P then Q )
(P) If you want your society to be safe, (Q) then you must torture a child
(P) You want your society to be safe
Therefore: (Q) You must torture the child
This is a valid argument in logic. If we accept the two premises, then the conclusion follows.One of the premises is "If you want your society to be safe, then you must torture a child".
So, this illustrates an important point: when working with logic problems it is important to take the statements literally and at face value. Don't read things into the problems that aren't there.
Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens are forms of valid inferences. By Modus Ponens, from a conditional statement and its antecedent, the consequent of the conditional statement is inferred: e.g. from “If John loves Mary, Mary is happy” and “John loves Mary,” “Mary is happy” is inferred. By Modus Tollens, from a conditional statement and the negation of its consequent, the negation of the antecedent of the conditional statement is inferred: e.g. from “If today is Monday, then tomorrow is Tuesday” and “Tomorrow is not Tuesday,” “Today is not Monday” is inferred. The validity of these inferences is widely recognized and they are incorporated into many logical systems.
A categorical imperative is, don't torture a child ever under any circumstance. So the idea of a categorical imperative is that it's not dependent on an if/then statement. So that's the notion behind Kant's ethics; that we should look for propositions that we would affirm regardless of the consequences. We universalize the maxim. Don't torture a child ever under any circumstance. That's the notion of a categorical imperative.
The answer for the person that subscribes to the Kantian view of the Catagorical Imerative is that it’s wrong to torture a child under any circumstances and we don’t do that. Those are not American Values. The Utilitarian view is that we torture the child if it means we save some lives. In this case we sacrifice values for a perceived greater good. So if there are always exceptions to our values which are often sacrificed to the greater good, then why do we hold them knowing that they can and will be compromised? Why bother pretending that our principles are never compromised when we see it every day and an entire political party embraces contradiction as normal part of the political process. When they tell us by showing us; “Of course we’re hypocrites. But we’re professional’s". We bring it to another level. And if we accept that, we're all diminished in the process. Truth ceases to be our highest value. It falls under the jackboots of the Identity Philosopher that will tell us that Truth is a value that matters, it's just not the most important value. Solidarity with the Group is the most important value, and if the Truth has to suffer to maintain that solidarity, then so be it.