The Bipartisan Moral Rot of America’s Institutions

Well, what do you know? The first I have heard the WSJ at least open to the concept that some political shenanigans may have had an influence on the 2020 Presidential election. mrossol

WSJ  11/5/2021

In politics, in business, in the cultural discourse that plays out on a never-ending doom loop on our screens and in our heads, the year has been marked by the triumph of cynical expediency, the relentless pursuit of self-interest dressed up as public-spirited principle.

Political leaders, business chiefs and the media and entertainment figures they ventriloquize have grasped their opportunities in this tempestuous year to advance their own causes. A pandemic, urban violence, the machinery of electoral democracy—all carefully repurposed and packaged in a gauzy wrapping of useful lies to ensure above all else their gain.


Some of the nation’s biggest and most powerful companies exploited an unprecedented human crisis to grow bigger and more powerful, making sure to shed crocodile tears for the losers. Progressive politicians at the local and national levels cynically seized on repeated crises to promote their ideological objectives. Most of the nation’s celebrated newsrooms abandoned the last pretense of objectivity and revealed their selective use and manipulation of facts as little more than propaganda.

There are exceptions, but depressingly few to celebrate. The most notable last holdouts to this encroaching empire of dishonesty are the millions of decent and honorable Americans who have suffered unprecedented human and economic damage this year, even as their comfortably distanced, self-aggrandizing superiors lecture them on their ignorance and inadequacy. Lions led by donkeys.

Two episodes last week stand as fitting codas to this spectacle, timely examples of the moral corruption eating away at American institutions.

The first was the sudden discovery by the media, a month after the votes were safely cast, of the news that Hunter Biden has a serious problem stemming from his penchant to sell himself to foreigners with potential business before his father.

The New York Post broke the most explosive element of this story before the election. But back then it was deemed a “distraction” by one of our leading news organizations and a menace to democratic health by the technology companies that control the flow of much of our information. And it was more or less completely ignored or rubbished by most of the U.S. and world media.

We’ll never know what effect the story might have had on the election if it had been given the airing it deserved. The electoral margin in three states—Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona—that combined to give Joe Biden 37 electoral votes, and the presidency, was a little under 43,000 votes, a vanishingly small sliver of the two men’s 155.5 million total nationwide votes.

But it’s less its potential electoral impact that stinks and more the cynical way in which the Biden-supporting press shouldered the story aside, in the process defaming fellow journalists as traitors peddling Kremlin propaganda. Who would have thought that 2020 would be the year Joe McCarthy and John Birch finally got the recognition from the American media they deserved?

The other episode was the spectacle of a large part of the Republican party selling its soul for the tainted penny of an embittered president’s approval in a political stunt that was irresponsible, futile and deeply undermining of the principles for which the party is supposed to stand.

There’s a case to be made that the presidential election was conducted in a way that casts doubt on the official outcome. The changing of the electoral rules in midcampaign in many states, enabling an avalanche of postal voting—with its notably greater susceptibility to fraud and manipulation—had political consequences that may well have influenced the result.

But there’s a difference between challenging those results and completely abandoning constitutional propriety and political principle to do so.

That’s what the state of Texas, joined by more than a dozen other Republican-controlled states and more than half the House Republican caucus, did in signing on to a Supreme Court case that took the justices—three of them appointed by President Trump—about four minutes to dismiss.

Again, the object of our scorn should be not the argument itself, but the chosen means for pursuing it: the idea that conservatives should embrace a political mechanism to produce a remedy that explicitly demands the subjugation of states’ constitutionally protected rights.

What are they going to argue the next time some activist federal judge seeks to impose California-style environmental regulations on Texas?

At a stroke, these conservatives were ready to jettison two of the foundational principles of conservative jurisprudence, federalism and judicial restraint, for a short-term political advantage in furtherance of a highly controversial objective of overturning an election.

The truly depressing aspect to these cynical assaults on the nation’s honor is that they act like a ratchet. With every new breach in the political or cultural proprieties that hold a nation together, a new norm is established. The already low dishonesty of our institutions becomes a ceiling, not a floor.


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