Quote of the Week: Ethics, decency, and morality are the real soldiers. -Kiran Bedi
The first woman to join India’s Police Service (and a police advisor in the Peacekeeping Forces of the United Nations) reminds us that how we struggle is just as important as the values for which we struggle. This election year has seen an escalation in violence, and in angry and invective rhetoric, which discredits all those who use such tactics. Not just between the two parties, but even within both Democratic and Republican parties, the ugliness of attacks on candidates and their supporters by supporters of opposing candidates has muddied the moral battleground of political struggle.
The methods that political actors use in their struggle for power are not merely tools for achieving power; they are indications of what said actors would do with power if they achieve it. That Sanders supporters (and, according to one Politico report, the Senator himself) have used tired Republican attacks on Hillary Clinton (including the nonsensical nothingness of the “emails” controversy, about which even Sanders said he was “sick and tired of hearing”), shows what a Sanders “revolution” would have looked like had it gained the nomination. A Sanders campaign in the general election may well have turned from the morality of making our nation a better place into a more anger-laden, “holier than thou” crusade that would have turned our American conversation on the role of government into a scorched ruin. While Clinton usually did speak with reserve about her rival for the nomination, her supporters often attack “Sandernistas” and the values of democratic socialism. Such attacks ignore the fact that the leftist goals that have made America a better place (union-based power for the workers in their relations with their employers, controls on working conditions, minimum wages, Social Security and Medicare) all derive from socialism and are primary goals of socialism. We on the Left need to get more comfortable with citing and embracing our socialist heritage as a uniquely American heritage.
From the other side of the partisan divide, the apocalypse of scorched-earth rhetoric is still looming, as Trump supporters care nothing for courtesy or accuracy in their attacks, and openly attack (verbally and even physically) those who show up to their rallies for reasons other than supplicating the candidate with worshipful adoration. The Republicans’ flirtation with a totalitarian cult of personality is truly disturbing and threatens the final degeneration of the Republican party’s remaining moral reserve.
Now that the contest is moving past the primary phase into a general contest between the achievements, values, and vision of Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies (including, it should be hoped, Senator Sanders); and the empty rhetoric and pep-rally antics of Trump and his Republican enablers; Clinton has the chance to demonstrate her leadership superiority through a more reserved and policy-driven campaign. Such a campaign will speak nothing at all to the base of Trump’s supporters; who are not going to be moved by anything short of a racist vision of 1950’s America as their rallying point. Instead, a campaign of ceaseless supremacy over Trump’s policy immaturity can work to build an alliance with the forces of conservative moderation, who cannot see in Trump anything resembling a conservative vision of controlling taxes and government expansion, or making government an effective area for dialogue and coordination with private markets and personal initiative.
Conservatives need to be reminded (as do some of the less experienced of Sanders’s supporters) about the values of the American City on a Hill, a society respectful of its members’ values, diversity, and faith; a society striving to build the community into a greater whole and more perfect union. These values are the ultimate soldiers who will win an American political contest, if the victor is to direct the nation forward in accordance with our traditions and our historical legacy. Otherwise, a resort to spite, distrust, paranoia about government conspiracy, and a weakening of governance and infrastructure will push the nation backwards, into poverty and global impotence. If our nation is to survive and to protect both its own people and the disenfranchised of the world, we must empower the real soldiers in the fight: ethics, decency, and morality.
Headline image from womenpla.net, “Inspirational story of Kiran Bedi – India’s first IPS officer.“