Election Reflection VI: Daniel von Wachter

Today’s post by Daniel von Wachter (International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein) is the sixth and final post in a series featuring invited reflections on the recent election from right-of-center philosophers. These philosophers are otherwise not associated with Rightly Considered and should not be assumed to hold views expressed by anyone else on this blog.

van Wachter is Professor and Director of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. He earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Hamburg and a DPhil in theology from the University of Oxford. He is the author of two books and dozens of articles in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and other subjects.


Daniel von Wachter, www.von-wachter.de

26 November 2016

The psychology of Trump’s voters and of Clinton’s voters

Instead of declaring what I think is good and what is bad about Donald Trump‘s plans, I want to try to give an account of some aspects of the psychology of Trump‘s voters and of Clinton’s voters. Many lament that in this election we have seen such a decay of mores. We cannot even allow our children to watch the presidential debates! For conservatives, that is what you would expect them to say. For them Trump‘s occasional (or, if you prefer, frequent) rudeness counted against him, and they weighed this against other aspects, which they found good. The result then was compared to the pros and cons of the other candidate. They decided to vote for the “lesser evil”. But how come that the Clinton voters join their moral choir? How come that when presented with Trump’s “locker room talk” they turn out to have so tender sentiments that you would expect them to have a heart attack when they see a picture of a woman in a bikini? They are usually not the ones who call for sexual morality. Are they not the proponents of the sexual revolution, of moral relativism, and of rebellion against traditional morality?

To be fair, they are not the only ones who are hypocritical. Some of their opponents on the one hand present themselves as conservatives, promoting morals and values, campaigning against abortion, but on the other hand do not seem to be touched very much by the horrendous evils that occur in wars, and the regime changes, prisons like Guantánamo, and the government’s supporting rebells who are then called “freedom fighters” also do not quite seem to fit well with conservative values. They were rebuked in this election by the people nominating Donald Trump instead of one of the more traditional Republican candidates.

What did Trump’s voters think?

Now consider what many of the Trump voters, also called “white angry men”, thought about the “liberals”, whom we in Europe call “socialists”. My hypothesis about the effect of Trump’s occasional rudeness is that, strategically speaking, it was not a disadvantage of Trump, but it played an essential strategic role. With it he achieved something that many conservatives always wanted to achieve but never managed to achieve. The “liberals” say, and perhaps even believe, that people were attracted to Trump because they are racists, bigots, etc. This error is a part of the reason why Clinton lost. As one eminent philosopher observed: “Middle America is sick to death of being told how stupid and backward they are, sick to death of being looked down upon and spoken down to. They are sick to death of being lectured at by Hollywood types, pointy headed intellectuals, and New York this and that. They’re sick of being called racists and bigots.” They resent the many “You must not say this”, “You must not say that”. If you say ‘p’ and somebody responds ‘Not p!’, then you can respect that and defend yourself. But if somebody responds ‘That is outrageous, you are such a hateful person, many are hurt by what you said!’, that is, if instead of giving a factual response he moralizes and emotionalizes against you, then, if you are weak, this might make you backtrack, but it might also produce a desire in you to stop this moralizing and to hate the moralizers. People hate being moralized especially by those who undermine morality and who rebelled against their parents, accusing them of being narrow and moralizing.

The conservatives

Some of the conservatives are naive losers: They try to point out that there is an inconsistency between the “liberal’s” cry for tolerance (which was used already in the 18th century) and their anti-discrimination and hate-speech laws, and they are surprised that they do not convince their opponents with this insight. They have always been the losers when attacked by the “liberating tolerance” that Herbert Marcuse had recommended as a weapon against “the Right”. (“Liberating tolerance would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”) Conservatives assume that they are in a rational discussion when they are in fact in a battle. They assume that offering some compromises, such as being a little feminist, using “she” instead of “he”, and following as many “One must not say this” rules as possible would pacify their opponents. They apologize and backtrack when attacked. They apologize when somebody tells them that they are “offended” or “hurt” by what they said. Instead of attacking their opponents, they attack those whom their opponents tell them to attack (“Distance yourself from x!”). Because they have been taught that things are never “black or white” (at least in Germany people are taught this), they do not say that things are as they seem but that they are as their opponents say they are.

Trump’s victory

But Trump won. Although or because he is perhaps not very conservative, he is the first ever to win a battle against liberating tolerance, against political correctness and against the moralizing of the “liberals”. His strategy was again and again to make statements unapologetically which by his opponents are considered to be immoral. It seems as though his sometimes making statements which really are a bit immoral made him yet more victorious. The label “populist”, which is another attempt to attack someone through moralizing and feelings instead of factual claims and arguments, did not work anymore against Trump. If a politician says that illegal immigrants should be prevented from entering the country, then he is called pejoratively “populist”, although he is just defending the law. And why do we think that democracy is good if even on such an issue the will of the people should not be done? If, on the other hand, a politician says that “the rich” should pay more taxes and it should be given to “the poor”, then he is not called “populist”, although this is a clear case of appealing to people’s deep-seated, reprehensible envy and of something that is wrong even if the majority wants it. Trump’s victory is two-fold: On the one hand he demoralized his opponents and dulled their weapon of liberating tolerance and political correctness. On the other hand he motivated enough people to vote for him.

The “liberals”

Now it is the “liberals” who are hopelessly naive. They do not understand that their political correctness and liberating tolerance under certain circumstances, which have now come to be the case, cause a reaction. They continue to moralize and to emotionalize. In addition they now psychologize Trump voters, calling them “white angry men” who are driven by Angst and frustration because of impoverishment – instead of addressing them with factual claims and perhaps even arguments. Or they even start to believe in their own propaganda, believing that Trump is a clown and a misogynist, that a large segment of the population are racists and bigots, and that political correctness, antidiscrimination laws and hate-speech laws are really moral, rather than just a clever strategy modelled after Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance”. Some “liberals” have understood these things and understood them already before the election, for example Bill Maher and Michael Moore, but most are still clueless. Socialist ideas will stay, but the kind of political correctness and journalism promoted by the “liberals” today is waning. They will not be able to close Pandora’s box again. Once the naked emperor has been called naked, the admirers of his cloths stand no chance. Neither the “white angry men” nor the Alt-Right, today’s anti-socialist iconoclasts, will disappear very soon, and with their help also the conservatives might be able to overcome their inhibitions. And the libertarians will support this development too.

The history of socialism

In order to understand the “liberal” mind better, we need to consider the development of socialism. The spectacularly wrong predictions that Clinton would win remind one of the Marxist idea, inspired by some Hegelian ideas, that the revolution will necessarily come because history is deterministic. “Progress” cannot be stopped. The majority of the journalists see themselves as the progressive class that lead the masses to the revolution. Other Republican victories were set-backs that they can live with because the other republican presidents did not change the direction of the general development. But Trump‘s victory cannot be because he destroys political correctness and the whole idea of what progress is. He might not be as conservative as some other candidates would be and he might disappoint his voters in several areas, but he attacked the “liberal” or socialist movement like nobody else. Trump‘s victory cannot be because the revolution is necessary and because “progress” is progress. It is a violation of the laws of nature. Therefore they were sure that he would not win, and therefore their defeat is so devastating.

Between 1910 and 1930 the socialists realized that their plan to overthrow Western culture and order through the proletariat (the workers), based on Marx’s view that industrialization would lead to intolerable conditions for the working class, was doomed to fail. Considering Marx’s general strategy of “ruthless criticism of all that exists”, they therefore developed different strategies, using on the one hand other groups which they could present as being suppressed by the bourgeoisie, by capitalism, or by Christianity and in need of liberation, and on the other hand intellectuals. Ironically, or perhaps naturally, it is again the workers who do not behave in the way the socialists expect. Again the socialists are angry at them, calling them “angry white men”.

I actually agree with some socialists that there is some danger of national socialism, though perhaps more in Europe than in the USA. In Germany after the First World War the National Socialists used people’s anger and their fear of Bolshevist revolution. Having enough money for propaganda, the National Socialists could use this sentiment to gain votes. Today, fortunately, Trump as well as thus far the rising anti-establishment parties and politicians in Europe are neither really nationalist (by that I mean a people like the government of Ukraine after the Maidan coup d’état) nor radically socialist, even though some of these parties have socialist inclinations or fractions. The way to be on guard is certainly not to keep going around calling ordinary people racists, homophobic, fascists, or bigots. That could pave the way for national socialists. However, to end on a positive note, we should be happy that Trump won a victory against political correctness and might actually do some good things, e.g. lower the probability of a war against Russia, which Clinton’s no-fly zones in Syria would have raised significantly.

Natural Lawyer

Natural Lawyer is the lead editor of Rightly Considered. He teaches philosophy somewhere in the southwestern United States.

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15 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I have a brief objection:

    But how come that the Clinton voters join their moral choir? You say: How come that when presented with Trump’s “locker room talk” they turn out to have so tender sentiments that you would expect them to have a heart attack when they see a picture of a woman in a bikini? They are usually not the ones who call for sexual morality. Are they not the proponents of the sexual revolution, of moral relativism, and of rebellion against traditional morality?

    To be fair, they are not the only ones who are hypocritical.

    I disagree with your assessment of hypocrisy.
    While specific Clinton supporters have specific beliefs on the matter, generally, what they often reject about “traditional morality” (though that depends on the tradition, of course), are things like the belief that same-sex relations are always or generally immoral, that masturbation is always or generally immoral, that sex between unmarried people is always or generally immoral, that divorcing and then marrying another person is always or generally immoral (and/or also null), and so on.
    But they almost never reject the view that touching people in a sexual manner without their consent is immoral: quite the opposite, they usually consider this to be morally abhorrent. Their reaction to the so-called “locker room talk” combined with their usual views on sexual ethics do not show any signs of hypocrisy.

    Given their beliefs, you wouldn’t – or, at any rate, you shouldn’t – expect them to have a heart attack when they see a picture of a woman in a bikini. A woman in a bikini has nothing to do with that. On the contrary, many would morally condemn the promotion of the belief that wearing a bikini is immoral (and I agree with them on that, and with many other matters of sexual morality, though not with all).

    If anything, if you’re looking for hypocrisy on the part of some of them, you should perhaps look at Bill Clinton and the accusations against him. But then again, many have no problem condemning Bill Clinton as well. They vote for Hillary Clinton as what they see as the lesser of two evils, by far, given Trump’s expected sort of appointments and policies (well, what he promised anyway), and Clinton’s expected sort of appointments and policies.

    As for the charge of moral relativism, I don’t have any good grounds to think that most of them are moral relativists in any metaethically relevant manner.

    • Clarification in re: Bill Clinton, Hillary is not Bill, but a problem might be the way she defended him, hence the “lesser of two evils” point; also, many left-wingers oppose Clinton’s views on a number of other issues, such as (some or all) wars, some trade agreements, etc.

    • “But they almost never reject the view that touching people in a sexual manner without their consent is immoral: quite the opposite, they usually consider this to be morally abhorrent. Their reaction to the so-called ‘locker room talk’ combined with their usual views on sexual ethics do not show any signs of hypocrisy.”

      But in his locker-room talk Trump wasn’t “touching people in a sexual manner without their consent”. He was just talking. He also wasn’t talking _about_ “touching people in a sexual manner without their consent” or any other kind of non-consensual sex. He was talking about how, if you’re a star or a billionaire or whatever, women (or women of a certain kind) will let you do anything you want with them. That’s what he said: “They let you do whatever you want”. In other words, they’ll consent to it.

      So yes, there is real hypocrisy here. The majority of those Hillary people have no problem with the far more obscene and menacing and morally ambiguous lyrics that Jay Z and his friends were spitting out at Hillary’s pathetic little spectacle. They’re not shocked and morally outraged by the fact that Bill has had lots of consensual extra-marital sex (and probably some non-consensual stuff too). They don’t complain about porn. They don’t complain about all of the basically pornographic stuff being broadcast everywhere by the leftist-liberal media powers–Hollywood, the ‘music’ industry, TV networks. What Trump said was at worst no different from a zillion other things that the majority of Hillary people have accepted or celebrated for many years. There’s nothing in the content of Trump’s talk that they haven’t all heard and accepted a zillion times before. At least this is true of a great many Hillary people, even if some of those who professed shock and indignation are non-hypocrites.

      Some of them claimed to be morally outraged because Trump was saying he rapes women or something along those lines. Since he just didn’t say anything of the kind, the correct charge is that they’re stupid or dishonest, even if they’re not hypocritical.

      Or maybe they were morally outraged that Trump would say such a terrible thing about (some) women? They think he was slandering women? Then, again, the correct charge is that they’re stupid. (Feminism and equalism do make you stupid.) Trump was just stating a fairly obvious fact and getting a few laughs. Yes, lots and lots of women really will let a rich and powerful man do pretty much whatever he wants to them. And they’ll be very happy to let him have his way with them. It’s been happening forever. I think most men and women are well aware of this fact.

      Or maybe they were morally outraged because he used the word “pussy” or some other colorful language? Okay, then they’re hypocrites again.

      Of course, they might be hypocritical, dishonest and stupid at the same time. But I think it’s unlikely there isn’t a fair bit of hypocrisy in there, whatever else may be going on.

      • “That’s what he said: “They let you do whatever you want”. In other words, they’ll consent to it.”

        There is a difference between letting someone do something to you and consenting to them doing it, though there is general overlap. The most obvious way to point this out is if you put a gun to someones head and then touched them sexually, and they don’t stop you or say anything, are you saying that it was all consensual?

        Here is what he said:
        “I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p****. You can do anything.”

        The way I understood what Trump said is similar to the example above. He is so powerful and so famous, this allows him to do what he wants with them, and they “let him” because they fear what may happen if they try to stop him. This is what the Left heard, me as well.

        Secondly, I think that the media made a big deal with this primarily because they are trying to get respectable conservative types, who would abhor this behaviour, to not vote for him. They weren’t just outraged for the sake of being outraged. It was strategic, they were trying to destroy his character for the right.

      • philosophyandnormality,

        While in his so-called “locker-room talk” Trump was not touching people sexually without their consent, he was bragging about instances in which he behaved in a way that, if true, would constitute instances of that. Whether he actually did it is a matter for debate. But in any event, there is no hypocrisy on the part of left-wingers for believing him and condemning him for doing that, or for disbelieving him and still condemn him (to a lesser degree) for bragging about that, implying (in context) the acceptability of such behaviors.

        By the way, the fact that Trump said “they let you do it” does not imply consent on their part, but rather, a belief on his part that there is consent, which is clearly in conflict with his own description of his behavior. I will quote him: “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

        If it’s true that he just starts kissing them, that’s sexually touching a person without their consent. Whether they later consent to the kissing is not the issue: people on the left usually believe that to “start kissing them” without first having consent is immoral behavior (and I agree, though that’s a side issue), so nothing hypocritical can be inferred from their condemnation of Trump because of the behavior he described in the so-called “locker-room talk” and/or from the bragging (which they also generally consider immoral), and their lack of condemnation of women wearing bikinis, etc.

        “So yes, there is real hypocrisy here. The majority of those Hillary people have no problem with the far more obscene and menacing and morally ambiguous lyrics that Jay Z and his friends were spitting out at Hillary’s pathetic little spectacle.”
        I don’t know what lyrics you’re talking about, but I was referring to the OP’s charge of hypocrisy, on the basis given in the OP. If you have a different argument for hypocrisy, that might or might not work – I’d need more info to tell.

        “They’re not shocked and morally outraged by the fact that Bill has had lots of consensual extra-marital sex (and probably some non-consensual stuff too). ”
        Actually, many are shocked and morally outraged by Bill Clinton’s behavior, but others don’t, and in those cases, I mentioned that as an avenue to argue for hypocrisy. But the OP did not rely on Bill Clinton’s behavior, but made a charge of hypocrisy not warranted on the basis of the reasons given.

        “They don’t complain about porn. They don’t complain about all of the basically pornographic stuff being broadcast everywhere by the leftist-liberal media powers–Hollywood, the ‘music’ industry, TV networks.”
        I disagree about the claim that the stuff in question is “basically pornographic”, but at any rate, that would not be a case of hypocrisy at all as long as the acts in question are consensual, and the stuff broadcast by the leftist media powers, Hollywood, etc., is consensual (and if it’s not, they don’t know it’s not, so that’s not hypocritical). You’re making a mistake similar to that of the OP here. That would be a case of moral disagreement, not a case of hypocrisy.

        As for actual porn, then opinions on the left are divided and there is strong disagreement; many do complain about porn, and others don’t, but that’s because they are divided about whether porn is actually consensual, and/or somehow is bad for women in certain manners, etc. Again, this is moral disagreement, not hypocrisy.

        “Or maybe they were morally outraged because he used the word “pussy” or some other colorful language? Okay, then they’re hypocrites again. ”
        No, that’s not why they were outraged.

    • “If it’s true that he just starts kissing them, that’s sexually touching a person without their consent. Whether they later consent to the kissing is not the issue: people on the left usually believe that to ‘start kissing them’ without first having consent is immoral behavior”

      What is it to first have consent? When I’m with a woman and things feel right I just kiss her. I don’t ask “Is it okay if I kiss you?” And I’m pretty sure that most times, if I did ask that, it would not be okay anymore even if it had been okay before. I’ve even grabbed pussies of left-wing women without asking them “Is it okay if I grab your pussy?” (Granted, that’s not usually the first thing I do.) Am I a rapist? This seems to be entirely normal and near universal human behavior. Guys just do sexual things without first asking whether the woman consents to them doing it. Women like that, so long as they like the guy, and generally do not like it when men ask permission. This seems to be true of left-wing men and left-wing women as much as anyone else, with the exception of a small fringe of weird ideologically deformed people–some old-fashioned anti-sex feminists, for example.

      So I really doubt that leftists think this kind of behavior is immoral.

      Is what I’m describing here “sexually touching a person without their consent?” I don’t know. I think it’s most probably not. In all cases I can remember, the woman was waiting for me to make my move. She expected me to kind of know that she was waiting without having to tell me, or encourage me, or ask me to do it–any of which behaviors on my part would naturally have made the whole thing much less fun and sexy. Being a normal woman and therefore not socially retarded, she was indicating her receptivity by her behavior and voice and facial expressions, etc. Maybe you’d say that in the cases I’m describing the man doesn’t “just start kissing her” but rather he gets “consent” in advance, in the form of the woman’s receptive behavior. Well, okay, but then why should we assume that Trump didn’t get that kind of receptive consenting behavior too in the cases that _he_ was describing? I’m pretty sure that back in the 70s Robert Plant got that kind of consent in 5 seconds when he was backstage with a bunch of groupies. I don’t know, but I can imagine that Donald Trump got that kind of consent pretty fast too, with a lot of women. Things work differently for famous, rich, super-high-status guys. I figure it’s probably true that a super-high-status man who’s not autistic can easily tell very quickly that a woman is good to go. So he might read the signs and just walk up and kiss her.

      Now I have no idea whether that’s actually been Trump’s experience. Maybe he was just bragging. Maybe he was just trying to get a few laughs, and exaggerating or making things up–which is how the tape sounds if you listen to it like a normal human being rather than a left-wing commissar out to destroy the enemy. He sounds like Chris Rock riffing. But _if_ what he said was true, the most natural and charitable interpretation would be that he’s doing what rock stars and other really high-status men do. And that kind of behavior is not non-consensual and immoral, unless almost all normal heterosexual behavior is non-consensual and immoral, since it’s just an accelerated version of the latter. It’s also not the kind of thing that an intelligent and honest leftist would regard as “immoral behavior” unless such a person also regards almost all normal heterosexual behavior as “immoral behavior”. Again, most leftists or people who voted for Hillary are not _that_ weird and autistic (or sexually inexperienced).

      It _could_ be that what Trump was describing was something different. Maybe he was saying that he just walks up to women and starts kissing and pawing at them _even though_ they aren’t indicating any interest or receptivity, even though these women aren’t acting like groupies because of his power and status. Maybe he was saying (as Billy suggests, below) that these women just “let him do it” because they’re so afraid he’s going to fire them or harm them somehow. (I don’t know whether that would count as “non-consensual” or not, but never mind.) However there’s really nothing in his remarks to suggest that he was saying _that_ rather than what I take him to be saying. The poor guy was just riffing on a fun theme with some dudes in a private conversation. Why not exercise a little charity and sanity?

      • “So he might read the signs and just walk up and kiss her.”

        Those must be some pretty obvious signs, which I find hard to believe. How would you indicate to anyone that you want to be kissed? The only action I can think of is if you were to pout your lips and point to them with your finger. I find it hard to believe that women are just all doing this to him.

      • philosophyandnormality,

        “What is it to first have consent? When I’m with a woman and things feel right I just kiss her. I don’t ask “Is it okay if I kiss you?” And I’m pretty sure that most times, if I did ask that, it would not be okay anymore even if it had been okay before. I’ve even grabbed pussies of left-wing women without asking them “Is it okay if I grab your pussy?” (Granted, that’s not usually the first thing I do.) Am I a rapist? ”
        No, that would not make you a rapist even if you didn’t have consent, because touching someone sexually without consent does not always amount to rape, and the description you’re giving of your actions would not amount to rape.
        However, also it does not follow from the description that you did not have consent. In fact, you’re saying that “things feel right”, and that presumably involved behavior on her part that makes it feel right. Now, I wasn’t there, and I have insufficient info to tell whether it was acceptable (i.e., whether you had consent), but I never said consent had to be explicitly given, in words. You said it yourself: grabbing a person’s vagina is not usually the first thing to do – though the “usually” is a rhetorical device, right?

        But Trump was not saying any of that. He was saying he just went for it, without indicated that he waited for her to give consent – verbal or otherwise.

        Is that a misunderstanding of what Trump meant?
        It seems not. Even Trump himself dismissed that as so-called “locker-room talk”, apologized, and said he had not done what he had claimed to have done in the so-called “locker-room talk”, so he realized that that would have been unacceptable behavior on his part.

        In any event, regardless of whether the interpretation of his words made by many of his accusers (from the left and from the right) was correct and/or whether he actually kissed women and grabbed women by the vagina without their consent, the fact is that the moral outrage expressed by the people the OP talks about (namely, Clinton voters who expressed outrage) was because of their beliefs (based on Trump’s own words, as they and nearly everyone interpreted them) that he had kissed and grabbed women by the vagina without their consent and/or his bragging about that.
        At most, they would be mistaken about what he meant (which, in context, seems very improbable, unless he misspoke, but that would be his fault), or about what he did, but that would not make their behavior hypocritical.

        “Is what I’m describing here “sexually touching a person without their consent?” I don’t know. I think it’s most probably not. In all cases I can remember, the woman was waiting for me to make my move. She expected me to kind of know that she was waiting without having to tell me, or encourage me, or ask me to do it–any of which behaviors on my part would naturally have made the whole thing much less fun and sexy. Being a normal woman and therefore not socially retarded, she was indicating her receptivity by her behavior and voice and facial expressions, etc.”
        You’re apparently describing touching a person who gave non-verbal consent.
        That’s not what Trump was saying, but even if it was, that is not what those Clinton supporters who were outraged by Trump’s behavior (at least, nearly all of them) thought that he was saying.

        “Maybe you’d say that in the cases I’m describing the man doesn’t “just start kissing her” but rather he gets “consent” in advance, in the form of the woman’s receptive behavior. Well, okay, but then why should we assume that Trump didn’t get that kind of receptive consenting behavior too in the cases that _he_ was describing? ”
        His words do not indicate he got that previous consent – verbal or otherwise – , and the fact that Trump later apologized and denied doing what he claimed to have done strongly supports the initial interpretation that he was talking about non-consensual touching.

        However, that’s a side issue when it comes to the claim of hypocrisy. The crucial matter when it comes to the charge of hypocrisy is not what we should believe and/or what he meant. Rather, it’s what the people who were outraged by his behavior believed, as a matter of fact – not even what they ought to have believed. You can easily find by reading their own arguments and moral assessments that they interpreted that there was no implicit consent; I think that (regardless of whether Trump actually did it), that was the correct interpretation. But even if it wasn’t, that was their interpretation, and so no charge of hypocrisy may be supported on that basis.

        ” It’s also not the kind of thing that an intelligent and honest leftist would regard as “immoral behavior” unless such a person also regards almost all normal heterosexual behavior as “immoral behavior”.”
        I’m not a leftist, but I do interpret Trump’s talk as almost certainly being about non-consensual behavior (i.e., no previous consent, even if he thought there was later consent). But regardless, that is not the matter at hand. The hypocrisy charge doesn’t hold because that’s not the behavior they were talking about when they expressed outrage.

        “However there’s really nothing in his remarks to suggest that he was saying _that_ rather than what I take him to be saying.”
        I disagree with you on that, given his own words – they seem very clear to me -, and also given his later apology (though even without it, the words seem pretty clear to me). But no matter, regardless of whose interpretation is correct, yours is not the interpretation of the Clinton voters expressing moral outrage at his behavior, at least in nearly all cases. So, at most, you could argue that they misinterpreted him and/or should have interpret his words differently. I would disagree, but even granting that for the sake of the argument, that would not support a hypocrisy charge.

    • “He was saying he just went for it, without indicated that he waited for her to give consent – verbal or otherwise.”

      I think you’re imposing a highly specific and uncharitable interpretation on some off-the-cuff private remarks (which sound like comedic riffing in any case). Even if he didn’t indicate that he “waited for her to give consent” he also didn’t indicate that he did _not_ do that. Surely in this context someone saying “I just did it” or something like that _could_ refer to a situation where he picked up on the woman’s receptivity and interest and acted–without asking permission, without going through the usual courtship routines, etc. “I just went for it” could well refer to “just” making a move given that it was clear enough she was open to it. He wasn’t giving an academic talk. He was telling some tales out of school and getting laughs. There’s just no reason to assume that someone speaking in this context would spell out all the details about non-verbal consent, even if that’s really what happened. Likewise “They let you do it” could well refer to the fact that they’re receptive and open to his advances. Since there’s no particular reason to assume that he meant anything else, why not exercise a little charity here?

      “His words do not indicate he got that previous consent – verbal or otherwise – , and the fact that Trump later apologized and denied doing what he claimed to have done strongly supports the initial interpretation that he was talking about non-consensual touching.”

      Again, his words also do not indicate that he did _not_ have consent of some kind (and anyway it’s quite unclear what exactly constitutes “consent” in this situation, or more generally, if we set aside highly idealized scenarios of explicit verbal negotiations under conditions of equal power and autonomy). The fact that he apologized certainly does not “strongly support” your interpretation. He may well have been apologizing for his bad language, for being rude and un-presidential, for offending people, etc. There is nothing in his _apology_ to suggest that he was apologizing for non-consensual sex acts. And I’m pretty sure that if you asked him, he’d deny that it was non-consensual. (Whether he’d be right is not the issue; the point is that I don’t think he took himself to be apologizing for that, and I don’t think others are required to impose that interpretation on his apology).

      You seem to be saying that Hillary people objected to his remarks because they thought that he was (clearly, obviously) bragging about non-consensual sex acts. I just deny that they really believe this. Just like I deny that most of them really believed Laura Ingraham was giving a Nazi salute at the Republican Convention. I think most of them are well aware that what Trump said could, at least, be reasonably interpreted as a description of behavior that they normally don’t mind–behavior of powerful high-status men and groupies. But if they really do think he was saying he’s a rapist, or something along those lines, I withdraw the charge of hypocrisy. The correct charge is then that they’re very stupid.

      • philosophyandnormality,

        You say: “I think you’re imposing a highly specific and uncharitable interpretation on some off-the-cuff private remarks (which sound like comedic riffing in any case). Even if he didn’t indicate that he “waited for her to give consent” he also didn’t indicate that he did _not_ do that. ”
        Actually, he seems to have done just that. It’s not that he explicitly said “I don’t wait for her to consent”, but he said: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

        He did say: “Just kiss. I don’t even wait”, etc.
        If you want more context, you can find the audio on-line (I did), but in my assessment, that is a clear description of sexual assault.

        ” Since there’s no particular reason to assume that he meant anything else, why not exercise a little charity here?”
        I disagree about reasons. It seems very probable to me that his description is one of a non-consensual act.
        I don’t know how you construe charitableness, but I try to figure out what the most probable interpretation is (i.e., the one that most probably matches what a person meant), not the one that makes them look the best.

        “Again, his words also do not indicate that he did _not_ have consent of some kind”
        Again, I disagree. But that’s beside the point. If you’re right, the charge of hypocrisy is not warranted on the basis of their reaction to Trump’s tape.

        “There is nothing in his _apology_ to suggest that he was apologizing for non-consensual sex acts.
        “And I’m pretty sure that if you asked him, he’d deny that it was non-consensual.”

        True, he did not apologize for non-consensual sexual acts. He denied that he engaged in the acts he described earlier in the so-called “locker room talk” in the first place. But after further digging, it seems he also denied that the description was of a non-consensual act, I will grant you that. Still, he went on to deny the acts ever happened.

        Regardless, let’s leave aside his apology, and it remains the case he clearly seems to have been describing sexual assault.
        Yes, I know, you disagree. You can keep going on about this, and I will reply as I have, but there will be no agreement. Still, the point remains that at least nearly all of the people who supported Clinton (and many who did not) and were outraged, interpreted his comments as a description of sexual assault (more on that below), due to the lack of consent.

        “You seem to be saying that Hillary people objected to his remarks because they thought that he was (clearly, obviously) bragging about non-consensual sex acts. I just deny that they really believe this. ”
        I’m saying nearly all of them reacted like that for that reason. There might be exceptions. All I can do is suggest that you read their reactions. I could try to offer links, but whenever I tried to post a link here, I got a message that my post was awaiting moderation, and it never got through. So, I don’t try to post links anymore, but if you want more direct evidence, I can suggest the following articles (freely available and easy to find).

        Time Magazine, “Donald Trump’s ‘P—y’ Comment Is the Root of Sexual Violence”

        Politico, “Giuliani: Trump is describing sexual assault on tape” (okay, Giuliani is not a Clinton supporter, but even he realized Trump was describing sexual assaults, though he also pointed out that the fact that Trump bragged about that does not provide enough reason to conclude he did it.)

        Vox: “Trump’s leaked comments aren’t just “lewd.” They describe sexual assault.”

        The Daily Beast: “Donald Trump Brags About Nonconsensually Groping Women In Newly Uncovered Recording”

        The Washington Post: “Why the most outrageous part of Donald Trump’s ‘hot mic’ comments isn’t the vulgar language”

        The Atlantic: “Trump Brags About Groping Women”

        Complex.com “In Response to Trump’s ‘Grab Her By the P****’ Comments, Author Asks Women to Tweet Their First Assault”

        RollingStone: “The Violence of Donald Trump”.

        Quartz: “Revolting. Too many women have experienced what Donald Trump bragged about”

        NyTimes and Human Rights Watch: “Yes, Senator Sessions, having your ‘pussy’ grabbed is sexual assault. I know from experience”

        NyTimes: “Spurred by Trump tape, millions of women share stories of sexual assault”.

        The Guardian, “Trump backers claim grabbing women’s genitals is not sexual assault”
        A quote from that article: “But until Sunday night, no one representing Trump’s campaign or party – including Giuliani – disputed the fact that what Trump was describing was the very definition of sexual assault.”
        The article also quotes other Republicans who (understandably, I would say) described Trump’s comments as describing sexual assaults.

        Alternatively, or additionally, you can go to left-wing blogs, forums, etc., and read the comments, “feel” the real – not feigned at all – moral outrage, etc.

        That said, if you believe that the people who claim to interpret his words as describing sexual assault are lying (well, you’re wrong; I’m not lying, and neither is at least nearly everyone else who thinks so, but leave that aside), then the charge of hypocrisy on the basis of the rationale given in the OP still would not hold. Rather, the right charge against them (and me) would be to deliberately make false accusations.

        “But if they really do think he was saying he’s a rapist, or something along those lines, I withdraw the charge of hypocrisy. The correct charge is then that they’re very stupid.”
        No, they think – as I do – that he was bragging about non-consensual sexual acts. They further think that he engaged in those acts – at least, many of them believe so -, and others think that even if he lied and didn’t do it, it’s wrong on his part to brag like that, that he’s showing contempt for women, etc.

        Now, some do think he’s a rapist, but for different reasons. I don’t think that there is enough evidence to reach that conclusion, but that wouldn’t make them very stupid, or stupid. Humans are usually tribal, and tend to make epistemically irrational assessments favoring their in-group and disfavoring the out-group (especially their adversaries), even if they are very intelligent. In my view, politics, religion/ideology, etc., are full of epistemic irrationality even on the part of very intelligent people.

    • For me charity does not mean trying to “figure out what the most probable interpretation is” but rather charity applies in cases where we’re not sure what is most probable–cases where the person’s words could be reasonably given more than one interpretation. In such cases, charity means (roughly) picking the interpretation that makes the person’s position most defensible. This is one of those cases. At least, I don’t see how you can know that the most probable interpretation is the one you favor. I just see no real evidence for that one _as opposed to_ the one that I’m proposing.

      Let me try to put this in a more general way. We know some things about people, for example:

      1. People sometimes greatly _simplify_ things in casual conversation. For example, even if in reality I kissed a girl because she was giving signs of receptivity and interest, I might tell the story in casual conversation by saying “Then I just kissed her” rather than saying “Then I noticed semi-consciously that she was indicating sexual receptivity in her body language and on that basis I judged that she was non-verbally consenting to sexual stuff… and then I kissed her”. I’d tell the story differently in a court of law where I was accused of sexual assault, of course.

      2. People sometimes _exaggerate_ things in casual conversation. They exaggerate for comic effect, or because they’re bragging, or because… So I might say “They let you do anything–grab their pussies, whatever” even if I don’t really believe that and I never really grabbed anyone’s pussy.

      3. People sometimes say things that are a bit _imprecise_ or _inaccurate_ or _ambiguous_ in casual conversation. For example, I might say “They let you do it” without specifying whether I’m referring to cases where women (a) allow something to be done to them out of fear and without consenting, or (b) freely consent to it being done to them in advance or (c) don’t freely consent to it being done to them in advance but would have consented freely if they had had the chance to consider the options, or (d) consent in some sense after the fact, or … whatever.

      4. People sometimes just make things up in casual conversation. To get a few laughs, to intimidate people, to brag, to make themselves feel important … or whatever.

      I could go on. In light of this common knowledge about people and conversation, it seems to me flatly absurd to say that Trump’s little speech “is a clear description of sexual assault”. There’s nothing very “clear” about these brief, off-the-cuff comments in that context with that audience. It’s not “clear” (for example) that his saying “I just do it” means something like “I just go up and kiss and grab women even when I know that they haven’t consented in any way”. I mean, come on. You have no idea what exactly he meant by that, and neither does anyone else. “I just do it” simply does _not_ mean anything so precise, and given the context and a bit of common sense there’s no reason to infer that it could _only_ have meant that he sexually assaults women.

      You say I can find lots of real outrage on left-wing blogs and media. Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve also seen lots of equally “real” outrage over Laura Ingraham’s Nazi salute and other plainly absurd BS that leftists and media people have spouted over the last year. Did they _really_ believe that Laura was doing a seig heil? I guess the situation is complicated. I assume that many of them half-believe it. They’re so filled with hate for conservatives and normal white people that they can convince themselves up to a point. But I also think that deep down most of them _know_ that this is absurd BS. Laura Ingraham is obviously not a Nazi. No one is going to do a Nazi salute at the Republican convention. Republicans are overwhelmingly not Nazis and not Nazi sympathizers. I think we all know this. Do you think the people saying Trump is “literally Hitler” really believe deep down that he is a Nazi or a fascist or whatever? No doubt some of them may believe that but I’m pretty sure most are not so stupid. They’re not fleeing to New Zealand for instance, though many said they’d do that if he were elected. They’re not scrubbing their Facebook accounts in fear that the new Trumpen Gestapo is going to arrest them and torture them for saying rude things about Trump and Trump supporters.

      And similar things can be said about other objects of their moral outrage–e.g., poor little innocent defenseless Michael Brown murdered in cold blood by the white supremacist cop, or those many ludicrous stories about the ‘epidemic’ of campus rape and hate crimes which almost always turn out to be hoaxes, on and on. I think most leftists nowadays are both extremely dishonest and hypocritical. Admittedly it takes a strange and complex psychology to be both of those things but it is possible. The dishonesty is partly self-deception, but the self-deception is (probably) not fully successful. So to the extent that they’re aware of how their own narrative is absurd BS, they are hypocrites: to that extent they’re moralizing over stuff that they themselves know to be insignificant, and which they would never get worked about except for the fact that the putative perpetrator is Trump or a cop of some arbitrary white guy or Republicans, etc.

      • philosophyandnormality,

        “For me charity does not mean trying to “figure out what the most probable interpretation is” but rather charity applies in cases where we’re not sure what is most probable–cases where the person’s words could be reasonably given more than one interpretation. In such cases, charity means (roughly) picking the interpretation that makes the person’s position most defensible. This is one of those cases. At least, I don’t see how you can know that the most probable interpretation is the one you favor. I just see no real evidence for that one _as opposed to_ the one that I’m proposing.”
        I think that’s a wrong way to interpret a text. If it’s proper to assign, say, roughly 1/2 to one interpretation and 1/3 to another, then one should not believe either. One should remain undecided.
        As for the interpretation of Trump’s words, I make the assessment on the basis of the text, and my own epistemic intuition, as it’s always the case. Our theories about the concrete world are always underdetermined by observations, and for any hypothesis about anything, there are alternative hypothesis that also match the observations. But that does not entail we’re not able to make assessments properly. In this particular case, his words seem pretty clear to me, and to many others – including many conservatives. He was talking about kissing and touching a woman without waiting for anything.

        “1. People sometimes greatly _simplify_ things in casual conversation. For example, even if in reality I kissed a girl because she was giving signs of receptivity and interest, I might tell the story in casual conversation by saying “Then I just kissed her” rather than saying “Then I noticed semi-consciously that she was indicating sexual receptivity in her body language and on that basis I judged that she was non-verbally consenting to sexual stuff… and then I kissed her”. I’d tell the story differently in a court of law where I was accused of sexual assault, of course.”

        But that is not similar to what he said, in the relevant manner. He said “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

        That is pretty clear to me. He was using the Tic Tacs in case he just started kissing her; he doesn’t even wait in some cases like that. That is what he said. I do not believe this provide good evidence of sexual assault, because he may very well have been lying. But he’s describing the matter very clearly. The probability that he had something else in mind appears very, very low.

        “2. People sometimes _exaggerate_ things in casual conversation. They exaggerate for comic effect, or because they’re bragging, or because… So I might say “They let you do anything–grab their pussies, whatever” even if I don’t really believe that and I never really grabbed anyone’s pussy.”
        Yes, but I already said that that is my view as well. I’m not saying that on the basis of his statements, one is warranted to conclude he actually did what he described. Some people reach that conclusion on the basis of both the description and accusations against him by several women. Clearly, the accusations make it more likely that he behaved in the way he said. The cases I read aren’t enough to reach a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt, but then, I haven’t been searching for all available info.

        In any event, I make no claim that he did it.

        “3. People sometimes say things that are a bit _imprecise_ or _inaccurate_ or _ambiguous_ in casual conversation. ”
        Yes, but in this case, the expression seems pretty clear to me.

        “4. People sometimes just make things up in casual conversation. To get a few laughs, to intimidate people, to brag, to make themselves feel important … or whatever.”
        Sure, but as I already pointed out, that is my view, and you don’t have to convince me of it.

        “I could go on. In light of this common knowledge about people and conversation, it seems to me flatly absurd to say that Trump’s little speech “is a clear description of sexual assault”.”
        Actually, your points 2. and 4. have nothing to do with it. And in light of what he said, it seems to me flatly absurd to say that it’s flatly absurd to reckon that Trump’s speech is a clear description of sexual assault.
        It’s obvious that what’s absurd to me is very different from what’s absurd to you, and we’re not going to make any progress towards any kind of understanding on the matter. But that does not affect the facts about Clinton supporters.

        “You say I can find lots of real outrage on left-wing blogs and media. Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve also seen lots of equally “real” outrage over Laura Ingraham’s Nazi salute and other plainly absurd BS that leftists and media people have spouted over the last year. Did they _really_ believe that Laura was doing a seig heil? ”
        I’m not familiar with the case, but again, in my experience, people committed to an ideology/religion (be it progressivism, Marxism, Christianity, Islam, conservatism in different forms, leftism in different forms, etc.) tend to very often attribute beliefs, intentions, etc., in an epistemically irrational manner, favoring their in-group and demonizing the out-group. And they actually do believe it, in the vast majority of cases.

        Now, let’s look at the Ingraham case (I’m just searching for info).
        The reply from leftist media is overall vastly different from that to Trump’s words. So, I think a few people probably believe it was a Nazi salute, but that’s a minuscule group, and it’s very different from the Trump case.
        Most mainstream left-wing media don’t even mention it, and none say it was a Nazi salute. Even more fringe outlets are not inclined to outright say it was a Nazi salute.

        An analysis: “Did Laura Ingraham Intentionally Give a Nazi Salute Last Night? An Investigation.”

        Also, after reading on the matter, I reckon it was not a Nazi salute. But I reckon Trump was describing sexual assault. These is apples and oranges (and of course, given your assessment of Trump’s speech, we can go on and on forever).

        “They’re so filled with hate for conservatives and normal white people that they can convince themselves up to a point.”
        But I’m not filled with hate for conservatives, even though I’m not a conservative (or a progressivist, or a Marxist, etc.), and I’m certainly not against normal White people. But even I find it clear that he was describing sexual assault.

        “Do you think the people saying Trump is “literally Hitler” really believe deep down that he is a Nazi or a fascist or whatever?”
        Yes. I can’t post links, but I suggest you go to talkfreethought.org and take a look (purely for example) at the way most leftists reply to me in the thread “Steve Bannon – Seriously?”, how they treat me, etc. – and it’s just one of many examples of how leftists or rightists (depending on the case) react to my points, expressing their sincere (though irrational) outrage. Such is life.

        All of that is unsurprising to me. After all, it seems clear to me that many people sincerely believe things that are even more improbable (even given their info) that the hypothesis that he’s a Nazi, like the beliefs that the Moon Landing was a hoax, that Jesus walked on water and/or resurrected, etc., that a morally perfect creator sent an angel to dictate the Quran to Muhammad, that the Earth is less than 15000 years old, that the Holocaust never happened, that gray aliens go around abducting humans and carrying out experiments on them, and a long list.
        Different people of course greatly disagree with me about the probabilities of those things, including also very intelligent people. It’s how humans very often behave. We are a weird species.

        “They’re not fleeing to New Zealand for instance, though many said they’d do that if he were elected. They’re not scrubbing their Facebook accounts in fear that the new Trumpen Gestapo is going to arrest them and torture them for saying rude things about Trump and Trump supporters.”
        Most Christians usually don’t dedicate more than (at best) a couple of hours a day to religion, despite their belief that the Bible is actually the word of an omnimax agent and the key to eternal happiness or damnation. Nearly all people who say abortion is murder (and morally akin to murdering an adult, or a 12-years old) are not remotely behaving like they would if people were actually taking their 12-years old to extermination facilities to be executed, and so on.

        People can have contradictory beliefs, and act sometimes on some of them, sometimes on others.

        “I think most leftists nowadays are both extremely dishonest and hypocritical. Admittedly it takes a strange and complex psychology to be both of those things but it is possible. ”
        If I went with your psychological analysis, I would say that of most leftists, most rightists, most Christians, and so on. But I don’t think that is so.

    • We just disagree about too much for any fruitful discussion, I think. For example, that many people apparently consider it a real possibilty that Ingraham threw up a sieg heil (rather than having been photographed waving at the precise millisecond when a wave and a sieg heil look similar) seems to me _clear _ evidence that such people are deeply dishonest and hypocritical. (As if there are no similar pics of Hillary.) The very idea is utterly absurd. I understand what you’re saying, I think, but there’s little point in continuing the discussion.

  2. There is something about the Liberal moral vision that has always nettled my brain. Is the liberal position of being intolerant of intolerance an inconsistent or contradictory stance? That is, if the liberal were to achieve a perfectly inclusive society, wouldn’t that result in that society becoming absolutely exclusive?

  3. Very insightful for a non-American observer, I think. Europeans have seen (more than) their fair share of socialists and nationalists, and that sad history probably focuses one’s worldview “lenses” in a very clarifying manner.

    Well-written, and probably the best in this series in my estimation, just barely outpacing Vallicella’s fine offering.

    Thanks for sharing this here. Yet another reason why Rightly Considered is a daily “must read” blog for me. Cheers!

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