Last week, The Monitor published “The Inherent Immorality of the Republican Party.” I urge my readers−Democratic, Republican, and otherwise−to look over that article, if they have not already. In it, Evan Weinstein argues that Republicans or at least conservatives “have always been morally deficient.” Unable to comprehend how Republicans can hold views that he feels are morally debased while being seemingly kind and caring, Mr. Weinstein is left puzzled.
Mr. Weinstein and I, and likely many others, agree that President Trump is amoral. The president’s infamously repugnant attitude toward women alone is enough to corrode his moral credibility. It is, however, an unsubstantiated overgeneralization to claim that “Republicans tend to be less friendly and empathetic to those with racial or economic or gender differences.” Such a logical leap seems based more on feeling than serious consideration of Republican or conservative principles.
Cherry-picking past policies to find evidence that the Republican Party is immoral presents more problems for Democrats than it solves. It is all too easy for Republicans to respond in kind with their own hand-selected examples, which Mr. Weinstein aptly recognizes. The issue, then, is how to decide which party is more moral. We could, as Mr. Weinstein does, trade blows over the particular depravities enacted by the parties over the years. Such an approach leads to little more than childish finger-pointing and avoids substantive debate.
Yes, many in the Republican Party stood on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. Does this mean that Republicans now hold views that are similarly extreme? While Mr. Weinstein cites the drone strikes President Obama ordered as one of the Democrats’ moral lows, has he forgotten which administration interned Japanese-Americans in the Second World War? (Talk about empathy for racial difference.) In evaluating parties, are we left to weigh the relative immorality of every administration and then perform some sort of moral calculus? Such an approach does little to help us understand the parties to which we currently belong.
Most troubling about the article is that its premise evidences a failure of Hamilton’s educational mission. By my understanding, institutions like Hamilton are meant to teach students different ways of knowing. Such an education should require of students a transcript that shows disciplinary diversity. History remains one such department that too many students, blessed with the open curriculum and loose advising, now avoid.
In any serious history class at Hamilton, one of the very first skills a professor teaches is the ability to exercise the historical imagination. One must put aside preconceptions and prejudices to evaluate a particular society fairly. Given that conservatives, and certainly their views, seem as foreign to Mr. Weinstein as people from the far reaches of the past, I would suggest he try to understand them from a historical perspective. Doing so does not imply tacit approval of conservative thought, only a serious attempt to understand why some of his friends and their family members are conservative. Upon such an examination, I hope he finds that conservatives are not immoral, but rather evaluate the world with a system of morals different than his own. As Mr. Weinstein remains unable to conceive of any “acceptable and consistent ideology” whose morals overlap with the conservatives’, I would suggest he read into Catholicism.
That we even have to treat the modern-day Republican Party and conservatives as a historical phenomenon indicates Hamilton’s political leanings. Considering the political demographics of our student body, conservative students should not be shocked to find that we are such an ideological minority on campus. That said, however, conservative students are no less responsible for Hamilton’s climate than are liberal students. I remain unconvinced that the Hamilton student body as a whole is so politically intolerant that it cannot weather debate between highly opposed views.
Incumbent upon us all is the responsibility to passionately express and logically defend our ideas. We should not fault others for misunderstanding conservatism if they have little exposure to its tenets. However, we should fault anyone who promotes hatred and praises malicious arguments. I will not allow myself to be ostracized from any community of which I am a part.