Saturday, November 07, 2020

The Voters Have Repudiated Trump's Immoral Character But Not the Republican Party

Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump was not a big landslide, but it was still big.  Biden got the largest popular vote for the presidency in American history, and it was over 4 million votes more than Trump.  Biden flipped some of the states that went to Trump in 2016, while Trump did not flip any of the states that went to Hillary Clinton.

But still, looking at the voting patterns that led to Biden's defeat of Trump, it is clear that I was wrong to suggest that Trump's defeat could be a general defeat for the Republican Party.

The Democrats have lost some seats in the House of Representatives, and they have only a slim chance of taking control of the Senate.  Moreover, the Democrats have not won big in the races for state offices.

Many voters who punished Trump by voting for Biden voted for other Republican candidates down the ballot.  So with many voters, their vote against Trump was not a vote against the Republican Party.  On the contrary, they were careful to vote for other Republican candidates, to create a divided government,  so that the power of the Republicans could check the power of the Democrats, and thus prevent the Democrats from enacting extreme left-wing policies.

What was it that made Trump so uniquely unpopular?  One possibility is that it's Trump's immoral character--that he's a grandiose narcissist who does not show any of the traditional cardinal virtues of character: prudence, justice, temperance, and courage.  

In fact, Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, has argued that Trump lacks these four virtues as defined by Cicero in his De Officiis, which is one of the classic philosophic statements of the virtuous character that distinguishes a good man and a good statesman.  Taylor was the anonymous author of the famous article in the New York Times in 2018 that claimed there was a resistance movement against Trump in the Trump administration--people who wanted many of Trump's policies to be successful, but who saw Trump's immoral temperament as a threat to the country.  (I wrote about this in a previous post.)  He later wrote a book--A Warning--in which he applied Cicero's account of the moral and intellectual virtues to Trump and argued that Trump failed to manifest any of those virtues.  Trump is an evil man.

If I am right, Trump's failure to win reelection shows that many voters--including Republican voters--agree with this assessment: the character of a President matters, and a president who has an immoral character must be rejected, regardless of what one thinks about his policies.

Biden recognized this by turning much of his campaign into a moral criticism of Trump's character and by arguing that the campaign was a "battle for the soul of the country."

I am old enough to remember the 1960 presidential election, and I cannot remember any other election that has moved me so emotionally as this one.  Apparently, many other Americans have had the same experience, as indicated by the many people across the country who have gone out to the streets this afternoon to cheer, shout, and dance to express their joy that Trump has been thrown out.  Unfortunately, many families and friendships have been disrupted by this election.  This evening, I had a big family dinner at my home, and we could not talk about the election outcome at the dinner table, because we knew that we were split between Trump supporters (Calvinists who believe that Trump is God's Chosen One) and Trump opponents (who believe Trump is evil).  I have heard about many Americans who have had the same experience, which testifies to the strong moral symbolism of presidential elections for Americans.  This may not be healthy.  But it is a fact.

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