As we described back in 2016 in the book Time for a Turning Point, America is divided into two political teams; Team Right and Team Left. As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris assume office, many Team Right members are still trying to come to terms with the results of the 2020 election. They feel certain that Team Left cheated in a variety of ways in order to produce enough votes to secure victory.
Setting aside the MSM’s agreed-upon talking points of “baseless accusations” of election fraud and their “despite there being no evidence to support such claims” mantra, we now know that there was significant evidence of election tampering. That is actually a “fact” about which I’ve previously written. It is also, at this point, irrelevant. Joe Biden is in office. Focusing on 2020 election cheating is fine for investigators in various states if they so choose (there will be no federal investigation), but it is not helpful for ordinary citizens who would like to reverse trends.
The more helpful issue to explore in order to make a difference going forward is in answering this question: Why do Team Left members seem to be more willing to cheat than do Team Right members?
This is a question, I believe, that we can answer without needing any sort of physical proof. We can prove it solely through the use of our reason and with a clear understanding of the ethical structure, and attendant influences on behavior, of modern-day Team Left members (many of whom were election officials and vote counters).
I’m ethical. Are you ethical?
Two terms that are tossed around quite frequently in arguments over political issues are “morals” and “ethics.” For the purpose of this piece, I am going to consider them to be interchangeable, as anyone who tries to separate ethical considerations from helping determine what is moral and immoral conduct is in for a good deal of internal strife. There is some debate on this non-distinction within academic circles, but there are enough professionals in the field who would agree with me that I am not in a space that requires defending.
I have never in my entire fifty-eight years met a single person who says, “I am an unethical person.” To the contrary, people universally assess themselves as being ethical. They also almost universally will agree that some number of “other people” are not ethical. If everyone says that they themselves are ethical, but at the same time says other people are not, then something must be wrong either with our understanding of ethics, or with our honesty about ourselves, or both.
When the typical person says they are “ethical,” they really mean that in their mind the things they do are the right things to do. This suggests a sort of self-legislating capability on the part of each person to know right from wrong. An idea like this can be found in the work of famous philosophers ranging from Immanuel Kant, to Karl Marx, to many others. They argue that each person is capable of such self-legislating and engage in the process constantly.
If this were the case, however, you would expect people to reach the same conclusions as to what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. We know empirically this is not the case. We need look no further for proof than the above referenced ethical assessment of individuals that goes: “I’m ethically okay, but they are not okay.”
If you ask a person the question “Are you ethical?” and they answer yes, then the following question ought to be asked next:
Under what ethical system or construct do you define yourself as ethical?
Chances are, if you ask someone that question, the nine-out-of-ten-times response you will receive is, “Huh? What do you mean?”
Very few people realize that there are actual ethical systems that have been “constructed” to help direct us on the path to making consistent and appropriate decisions as to how to act and behave in any given situation. We have the above-referenced Kant’s categorical imperative (if what I’m thinking of doing now were a rule that everyone had to follow, would it be workable for society?). We have Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism (pure cost-benefit analysis) or John Stuart Mill’s more refined and kinder version, which calls for for cost-benefit analysis with an allowance for the subjective nature of “higher” human values.
We have, on the one hand, Objectivist ethics as given to us by the famous atheist Ayn Rand and as discussed in her essay “The Objectivist Ethics” (also expressed in John Galt’s famous speech in the novel Atlas Shrugged). On the other hand, we have what is referred to as the Judeo-Christian ethic, although that does need some thin slicing as the teachings of Christ do materially refine the teaching of the Torah, or Old Testament. Islam and other religions also offer their own codes of ethical/moral conduct.
If none of those work for you, there is the self-sacrificing ethics of the French philosopher Auguste Comte and his coined term “altruism.”
Finally, there are the observations of ethics and morality from a more empirical approach, like that of the Scottish Enlightenment’s David Hume and Adam Smith, which in a simplified sense posit that we as humans develop ethical behaviors based upon the feedback we receive from others and their approval and disapproval.
There are a number of ways to view the development and deployment of moral and ethical behavior, but the typical person knows little, if any, of this. Yet they will tell you that they are ethical, and others are not. By what standard? How do they know? This logical dilemma, by the way, exists in people whether they were supporters of Donald Trump or Joe Biden; whether they are members of Team Right or Team Left. There is absolutely no difference in that respect. There is a difference we will get to eventually, but it does not involve ethics.
Hobbes was right!
It is my opinion, based upon many years of studying political philosophy, working in a large corporate environment, working with and running privately owned businesses, and doing political advising and writing, that the greatest of all the political philosophers, the one who got the most important thing right, was Englishman Thomas Hobbes. Born in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, it is said that his mother went into premature labor upon seeing the ships off the English coast, thereby birthing poor Thomas out of fear.
Hobbes spent the rest of his life focusing on the fearful nature of humans, among other things.
He is the father of social contract theory, which describes man's compact to enter into civil society as a way to control his more primitive impulses. He is famous for his line about man’s life in the state of nature, before the social contract, which he describes as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hobbes suggested that, owing to their nature, men are unable to be left to govern themselves without stern direction. His diagnosis of us as people? Fearful and self-destructive. His prescription? A strong sovereign.
Hobbes is also the father of the idea of moral relativism. His contention is that, for the typical human, their calculation of whether or not something is “right or wrong” is nothing more than a reduction to looking at things that please them and things that offend them. They maximize the one and avoid the other. In that process, they create their own morality, or set of ethics, that is based solely upon their own desires and aversions.
My own fifty-eight years of study and empirical observations have led me to conclude that this theory of human behavior and ethical development most accurately describes the greatest number of people Assuming a human population existing under a bell curve, Hobbes’s ethical construct describes the greatest number of people gathered around the mean.
At this point you might think I’m suggesting that Biden supporters, Team Left members, are moral relativists and Trump supporters, Team Right members, are not. That somehow I believe we are inherently better creatures than are they. You’d be wrong. I am not. I believe that most people are moral relativists in general, and even that people who attempt to operate under a more disciplined structure of ethics, including the Christian ethic, can become moral relativists at the very moment that they find themselves placed most at risk.
Survival is in our nature. When it is in jeopardy, even the most truly righteous can attempt to hedge their ethical bets.
Since I am concluding that there is no fundamental difference in ethics between the typical Trump or the typical Biden supporter, why go through all the trouble to share this background on ethics? After all, the purpose is to demonstrate how we can prove that Team Left members are more likely to cheat. I walked through the ethical piece because people typically consider cheating to be “unethical.” Yet it happens, and it happens more by their team than by ours.
To understand why, I believe we need to look beyond ethics and consider Tom Hanks, World War II, and the ancient Stoics.
Duty as a differentiator
Love or hate his personal life and politics, Tom Hanks makes spectacular movies and is especially good in war roles. A few months back, I had a chance to watch him in the Apple Television release of Greyhound. It is a story based on the U.S. Navy convoys that brought supplies and armaments across the Atlantic during World War II. It is not a long film, but it is nonstop action packed. For ninety minutes, there is nothing but German U-boat peril. American sailors show incredible courage, some losing their lives, others saving lives, up against challenging odds.
In the end, the convoy clears danger with some loss of cargo and life but primarily intact. The gallantry and sacrifice of the men on the ships translate into a victory for the Allies in that moment.
As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think that when the War was over and those young men returned home to their lives and loved ones, some of them would go on to live lives of great honor. Others, however, would certainly go on to become compulsive gamblers, beat their wives, beat their children, steal from their business partner, rob the local gas station, etc. I recently had occasion to work with a business where one partner, an ex–U.S. Marine, stole over $500,000 from the other partner.
What happens to make men so courageous in one moment and so devoid of any kind of ethical or moral compass in the next? I think the answer lies in the notion of duty. Those men on the ship with Tom Hanks in that movie were driven in those moments by a higher calling. They had a sense of duty. Some, when they returned home, for whatever reason might have lost their way; found themselves left with no higher calling. Absent duty, they were left with only their own personal moral and ethical framework in which to operate. Given moral relativism, they became able to justify almost any behavior.
This notion of duty is a very Stoic concept. Stoicism, which dates back to Ancient Greece, emphasizes duty and the importance of virtue. There were four attributes of virtue: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. Doing one’s duty was central to the Stoics. Duty manifested itself in more than just following orders; it meant adhering to the four key elements of virtue and to keeping in sync with all of nature.
One does not have to buy into all of Stoic philosophy to grasp the importance of duty. It is with duty that we can begin to answer our question: How can we know that Team Left members will cheat?
The answer lies in the absence of a sense of duty to something outside themselves. The typical contemporary Team Left member does not have any external force that commands him or her to “behave better.”
Again, operating under the bell curve, the mainstream Trump supporter tries to follow either the voice of God, the call of patriotism, or both. Both are external to themselves. Both set standards for behavior that transcend their own personal calculations of convenience. Both provide fairly clear direction, either through Scripture or the Constitution. Both rest like weights upon their shoulders, burdening them with a non-ignorable sense of obligation.
It doesn’t mean they won’t fail. It doesn’t mean they will not behave badly. It simply means they have a better chance of making a better choice than does a person who is not encumbered by any sense of duty other than to themselves. Duty is typically viewed as a call to act. It can just as easily be seen as the antithesis to action, which means it can inhibit. I must because it's my duty. I must not because it betrays my duty.
Common responses I have received from Team Left members over the years when I ask them about feeling a sense of duty include:
• I have a duty to those around me.
• I have a duty to those less fortunate than myself.
• I have a duty to humanity.
The shared characteristic of each of those “duties” is that although they sound as if they reside “outside” the individual, they are wholly subjective with regard to their definition. Each individual person gets to define their “duty to others” however they see fit. There is no separate standard. For those focused on a Christian duty, there is the reasonable clarity of the Bible. For those who pledge allegiance to the United States of America, there is our Constitution bolstered by the original Declaration of Independence.
For those, however, who say that they simply have a duty to help “others,” the others can be whomever they so choose, and need whatever kind of help it is the helper decides they should provide.
Machiavelli provides the final element
To succinctly summarize my thoughts to this point, it is my personal belief that the members of Team Right are not inherently any more ethical than are their counterparts on Team Left. When it comes right down to it, individual to individual, most people are basic moral relativists as identified and defined by Hobbes, and given no other considerations, most people conduct themselves under an ethical code that is simply one of convenience.
The difference between the two is that those who answer to a calling of duty that is outside themselves and more objective than subjective in nature can have their individual passions held in check. It gives their better angels a chance to be heard and followed.
Now to directly address the statement posed in the title of this essay: Why they cheat. The answer is found in the writings of the fifteenth-century philosopher Machiavelli and his short, world-changing book entitled The Prince.
Machiavelli is the one who gave us the phrase “the ends justify the means.” The pragmatic (general use of the term), realistic, almost sociopathic philosopher set the standard for tough love that needed to be applied by a Prince. Certainly Hobbes was greatly influenced by his work.
Machiavelli’s statement about ends and means explains why the modern-day Team Left member, almost always a Democrat, is so willing to cheat. Existing as a typical moral relativist where little to nothing is malum in se, and being for the most part unconstrained by a sense of duty other than that which they conveniently self-define, any sort of activity is permissible so long as they end up getting what they want. They give cover to this behavior by saying their actions are necessary to “help others.” As has been shown, that statement can mean whatever they want it to mean.
By our nature as humans, we are flawed and sinful creatures. That goes for Trump supporters as well as those who lined up behind Joe Biden. The difference is that for those of us who truly have a good old-fashioned love for God, country, or both, we have a voice outside ourselves warning us to control our nature. It asks us to heed a higher calling. It limits us in a way that is beneficial to maintaining an ordered, predictable, and just society.
Those who operate without that sense of duty are left to do whatever their free will wishes, unbound by any real constraints. They can justify their actions through the simple pleasure they feel or the pain they avoid. Their ends always can justify their means.
That is why they cheat. That is how we can use our reason to know they cheat.
What can be done (if anything)?
Having identified the problem, this becomes nothing more than an exercise in intellectual self-pleasuring if no sort of solution or idea to improve the situation is offered. Here I will offer a somewhat admittedly feeble attempt to help correct this dilemma we face when moral relativism is combined with an absence of a sense of duty.
One possibility is to try to generate conversions, either to Scripture, the Constitution, or both. These objective standards are not understood by most people, even those who might frequently reference either. To add the presence of one or both of these sources into the consciousness of an American is to increase the likelihood that they will have their natural tendencies inhibited by duty. This can help break the connection between the want to cheat from the act of cheating.
The other possibility is to try to change their calculation. For any moral relativist, their notion of right and wrong behavior simply lies between the weight of pleasure and the weight of pain. Change those measures and you change their calculations. How you might do that is impossible to say specifically as it would relate to each person as an individual unit. It is worth a try, but you are on your own in terms of specifics relating to plan and execution.
The key to it all is to remember that we are not inherently any better than are they. We simply might behave better. Recognizing that we are more similar than we are different might help us to focus on that very small but critical difference. They say the DNA of a frog is very proximate to that of a human, and yet the frog and the human bear little resemblance to one another. In that case, just a few strands of DNA provide the difference. In our case, duty is that piece of socio-psychological DNA that is missing from the Team Left frogs, confining them to a lower, improperly behaving life-form.