Morality and Politics

The concept of morality has been observed in human nature since the earliest recorded pieces of history dating back tens of thousands of years. The definition of morality that I found on the Oxford Living Dictionaries website is, “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” Different societies and cultures have different views on morality, a fundamental bible belt Christian has vastly different moral views than the Atheist drug dealer from California while the citizens of the conservative Saudi Arabia live completely different lives than the progressive country of Switzerland. One may ask what the United States’ moral compass looks like and whether it’s a “good” moral code?

The morality of American society was initially built on Christian values and over time we as a whole have become more progressive on the moral compass. America in its beginning stages was much like any Christian society in the seventeenth century, in this society hard work was valued throughout the week and Sunday’s were a day of worship. The typical American family had many kids, divorce was almost nonexistent, adultery was a death sentence to one’s reputation, members of the LGBT communities had no place in society, and women had no true role in society. This was the case for society until the twentieth century when social progressivism took America by storm and all those Christian ideals instilled in the American life took a complete one-eighty. One can look at our society today and say things are better now and that American’s are free from these moral contracts that America used to place on its citizens hundreds of years ago. I’d like to argue that society is indeed worse now since we expect the people of the country to be more progressive than they are at the moment. The reality is that media has painted a false progressive image of America as a whole while much of the country hasn’t caught up to this image.

In James A. Morone’s The Democratic Wish, he states, “The real political danger lies not in immorality but in the crusades against the immoral.” Socially conservative Americans have learned to excuse behavior that they deem immoral but they still target the groups of people that they deem immoral as a whole. We saw in the previous presidential election with Donald Trump that conservative Americans are very willing to support an immoral politician if they are willing to protect their conservative views. Morone also stated in his book, “Immigration generally provokes this jeremiad; new Americans are accused of threatening traditional values that they do not understand.” Many conservative Americans dislike foreigners since they bring along different religions and cultures that threaten the more traditional Christian ideologies. Oftentimes those  of different races and religions face racism and scrutiny from the right since they feel they are morally superior and view all others as a threat. We can look at the conservative Americans for the cause of all the social tension in this country, however progressives and liberals need to burden their share of the blame. The liberal media has pushed a progressive narrative regarding social rights when much of the country wasn’t ready for this change. Morone has this to say regarding social changes, “Rapid social change, especially shifting gender roles, also provokes moral fears (maybe this is why pelvic sins and homosexuality loom so large along the moral fears).” I’m not saying there shouldn’t have been a change but liberals labeled America as a progressive society, love-all society way before it was ready and the conservative Americans are fighting back as a result. Overall, both the liberal and conservative morals are on different ends of a morality spectrum and strong attachment to these morals has divided social interactions within this country.

The main point is that morality and politics do not belong together. The political parties that run this country both have their own set moralities that they uphold and this complicates politics way too much. If you support small government, you also need to be against gay marriage while on the other end if you are for legalization of marijuana you need to also support universal healthcare. Politicians need to stop policing people’s morale convictions. If the parties detach themselves from their moral convictions, the people ultimately win as you are free to practice whatever moral standards (within reason of course) you wish without it being present in the national media spotlight

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11 Responses to Morality and Politics

  1. wardog88 says:

    While I do agree in the context of American history regarding morality and the colonial times, it would also be fair to say the immorality from Christianities view has always been there. From Jewish people with Caesar Augustine to the renaissances and even going to the colonial empires immorality was present it was more secretive or not allowed publicly. However, there is an argument to be made that, if there is no concept of a higher power than that high power is going to become the lower power simply put you make yourself the higher power. Going off of that, policing morality usually turns out bad for those who see themselves morally right, because nobody wants to be forced into any religious doctrine or dogma, or else its enslavement or theocracy. Christianity is the most widespread controversial and worldwide religion that has survived for 2000 years, no atheist or dictator or even king has destroyed it. To end it, this claim has validity, although its up to us to make this world a better place without forcing it.

  2. odessaclugston says:

    Hi! I think you present an interesting argument. Certainly, I agree that our normative two-party system is far too simplistic. When you write, “If you support small government, you also need to be against gay marriage while on the other end if you are for legalization of marijuana you need to also support universal healthcare” (dasboot01), I’m reminded of how citizens are forced to always take sides within a restrictive binary. Truly complex issues, like the decisions of how we run our country, have more than two answers – and by accepting this fact, we become better prepared to have conversations about complex solutions.
    Where I strongly disagree with you, however, is in your claim that Trump was elected because, “The liberal media has pushed a progressive narrative regarding social rights when much of the country wasn’t ready for this change. (dasboot01).” If you claim our country wasn’t ready for change, the only citizens you’re including in your label are white, straight, financially stable Americans. Our country comprises people of all identities – including LGBTQ people waiting for non-discrimination protects, Black communities waiting for the end of police violence, indigenous folk asking for the end of land claims, and for any American searching for the equality of opportunity promised by law. Our current political situation is not a result of a unruly liberal agenda. The social rights demanded by marginalized communities were demands made by Americans – making Americans part of this change and decision. In order for our country to move forward, we must realize that all voices of Americans were made equal.

  3. garrettcecich says:

    Terrific post!
    One thing Morone touches on is the average American’s tendency to think that the country is losing its morality, but that they are not at fault. Something like 95% of people surveyed said that morality was fleeting, but they were not the cause/they were teaching their kids to be virtuous. This plays in to his idea of factious politics forcing us to see the opposing side as the “bad” and our own side as the “good”. This is dangerous to our political system in a fundamental way. We, as Americans, are supposed to have a freedom of opinion, but when one side wins (i.e. the other side gets legislation supporting their cause), the other is subject to a “agree or shut up” response within most of the population. In effect, American morals are not really about what is right and what is wrong, but about what historical sentiment was agreed upon when we last left the subject.

    I realize that’s a kind of confusing way to put that, so perhaps I can clarify with a question: Are American political morals actually on the right side of ethics? Yes, and no. While we have accomplished a lot in terms of modernizing our country (think race relations now compared to race relations in the 50’s) we still have a great many issues that face the country, issues that have gone unaddressed because of a lack of public interest or impracticality of implementing systems that would fix such problems (ex: a free health care system could be seen as the “moral” thing to provide our country with, but there hasn’t been a serious attempt at establishing free health care in the country, save for some fringe movements, and of course the movement ushered in by Senator Sanders of Vermont this year).

  4. LukaKolomejac says:

    Another dimension that we can look at that relates to morality and politics is citizenship and democracy in America. By this I am referring to what is expected of the US public as being a “good” citizen and how citizens participate in civic engagement. Over the past few decades the countries concept of citizenship has shifted from the old guard “citizen duty” citizenship to the new “engaged citizenship” dimension, as described by Russell J. Dalton in his publication “Citizenship Norms and the Expansion of Political Participation” in the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) journal (2008 VOL 56, 76-98).

    The old guard primarily valued norms of social order, such as serving on a jury if called, always obeying laws and regulations, for men to serve in the military when at war, reporting a crime that has been witnessed. Additionally, they valued voting in political elections. In short, they valued allegiance to the state and voting as a right and an obligation.

    The growing engaged citizen values norms of solidarity, autonomy, and activity in politics . Examples include being active in small organizations (not large political parties), forming one’s own opinion independently of others, and supporting those who are worse off than themselves.

    In “Elusive Community: Democratic Wishes for the 21st Century” by James A. Marone it is stated that “American society has abandoned the morals that once guided it”. This is a gloomy statement and I tend to disagree with it. Rather than American morals being abandoned, they are evolving. Yes, voter turnout, union membership, church related groups/Boy Scout/Red Cross/Parent Teacher Association membership, and so on have all declined. However, citizens now engage through many forms rather than face to face conversations through the digital age, they travel around the country more than ever, new forms of participation have arisen that go around voting and formal/large organizations (political consumerism/voting with your wallet, spontaneous and irregular mobilization, horizontal/flexible organizational structures over formal and bureaucratic structures, and individualized participation). Examples include a rally/protest organized online, local and informal parent teacher associations rather than joining the national PTA, and support groups.

    The new citizen monitors from the sideline and will mobilize spontaneously if needed. United States citizenship has moved from obedience, trust of the state, group oriented objectives, and face to face participation to scrutiny of government by critical citizens, eroding respect for authority/hierarchical institutions, support for democracy and tolerance, freedom, and individual fulfillment.

    American democracy is an extension of political morality and cannot be removed from politics. American society is not abandoning its morals, rather it is transitioning from “survival values like obedience and trust in hierarchies towards more self-expressive and post-materialist values” (Stoll and Hooghe, “Review Article: Inaccurate, Exceptional, One-Sided or Irrelevant? The Debate about the Alleged Decline of Social Capital and Civic Engagement in Western Societies).

  5. Daniel Rubio says:

    I’m not sure whether it’s “morality” that complicates these things. I would say as a whole Americans agree on a lot when it comes to basic morals (not killing, stealing). It’s when you look deeper into or examine how to implement a moral society that differences come about between the left and right in this country. I would argue what threatens the country more is a warped view of what “the other” believes is moral. This is where the fear and division comes from: When one believes that someone different from them threatens their way of life (as you noted with the far right and immigrants). I think it would be a mistake to attempt to divorce morality and politics. I think however parties do pander to existing social beliefs in an attempt to win over voters, which I do think inflames our current tensions. I would say that morality in this sense comes from the bottom up rather than the top down as you present it.

  6. Ronald Amann says:

    Thank you for your post. You make some interesting arguments and claims.  There are a handful of concepts that you have mentioned that I would like to “add my two cents too”,  however,  for the sake of time,  I will stick to just a couple of them.  In the first paragraph you write about morality and you contrast the moral views  that a fundamental Christian possesses being vastly different from that of the Atheist drug dealer.   I agree you whole-heartedly,  and would also add to your point that the more that Americans disengage from Christianity and other religion based institutions,  the further morally corrupt we have become as a country. I know that I am not alone when I question the ability of any person to make decisions requiring moral judgment without the belief in a power higher than that of one’s own self. The reason for this is due to the inherently self-motived behavior that human beings generally exhibit. The atheist’s behavior is not modeled after any code of moral conduct other than his or her own,  while the Christian in this situation has the Bible to look to as the provider of moral compass.  That is not to say however that Christians or other religious people with a book or text do not always make the most moral correct of decisions. At one time in America,  there was mass genocide of the American Indian and right  up until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s there was the systematic despicable treatment of blacks using the laws of Jim Crow. I have not read anywhere in the Bible where it condones this type of human behavior,  yet people, some undoubtedly Christians engaged in both.
    I also agree with you though that the media paints a false image of progressivism in America than what is actually the case.  They have done it by posing as a supreme judge of morality themselves,  subtly doing their best to drive the behavior of the public.  Whether it be climate change or refugees, the progressive agenda leaves no room for debate. To say it is frustrating is an understatement to the many good people who are increasingly seeing themselves bullied, taunted and slandered by the media and average Americans for disagreeing with the message put forth by the mainstream media. Anyone who does not conform to the idealogical positions of political progressives are degraded, humiliated and silenced. Networks such as CNN, ABC, NBC, and CNN no longer care about facts or honest reporting and have instead become havens for slander. Printed news is sadly no different in the modern age where outright lies, deception, ad hominem attacks have become common practice for the perpetrators as long as for them, the end justifies the means. Political dissent with the progressive left is something that average Americans are more and more becoming afraid of for fear that their lives and careers will be ruined if the go against the tide. Even universities are not exempt from the oppressive way that the political left in America operates. Driven by special interest groups and a desire to be politically correct, universities and colleges, once driven by the desire to not only protect speech but to give students an education that encouraged free thinking have caved to the demands of political progressivism. When is the last time that you can remember any teacher speak well of a conservative politician? My guess is probably never.

  7. Ronald Amann says:

    “Networks such as CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN”….

  8. bohumilak says:

    You state that the main point is that morality and politics do not belong together. I am not sure I can agree with that position. I take your point that “political parties running this country have their own set moralities that they uphold” putting together things that you should despite their disparities support, pinpointing great example of connecting small government with gay marriage stance. On the other hand we are, as it seems, facing drop in moral standards inevitably reflected in governmental representation. That can definitely cause certain harm. Do we, however, really want to forget about any moral standards when doing politics? Thinking just about that, I would say we should be grateful for the persisting pieces of morality coming into politics, rather than lament that what is remaining have not left the politics, yet. It touches the argument of garrettcecich about spreading immorality, because when we eliminate morality and moral thinking from politics, immoral acts are what would replace it. Other possibility is that in attempt to stop or balance the progressiveness some representatives or factions dourly advocate extremely outdated norms and postures just to create fake notion of apparently missing morality. Such approach can only harm American society preventing it from desirable changes and allowing those for which it may not be prepared.

  9. samiomais says:

    A thought provoking post. While I share your critical analysis of the implementation of “progressive” social policies, I come to a very different conclusion. While you propose a divorce of morality from politics, I argue that only the reintroduction of ethics can remedy this crisis that has plagued the two-party system, wherein because of the absence of a real ethical tradition, everyone is forced to decide right and wrong based on whims and caprices. Such a system is bound to produce the intense “culture wars” this country has witnessed for the past 3+ decades. We need a shared ethical basis if we are going to mitigate partisanship and political polarity.

  10. manuelgama21 says:

    Hi! I am a little bit unsure about some of your ideas. While I understand that you are making a point of criticizing the polarization of American politics and how morals play into it, you seem to suggest that the separation from religious principles has make people lives worse, I would have to disagree about this. Horrific events happened during this time, things like slavery or the Trail of Tears happened during that time and it was done by Christians. I think that morality is something that should be part of politics, but it should be free of religious context. There are ways of making moral and ethical arguments in politics without going into religion and I think this is how it should be.
    I think you make a good point about the conflict between progressive movements and the state of society in general. One might argue that sometimes movements with good intentions ask for things that are too hard to digest for a large portion of the American society. However, I would also like to say that social movements would always face resistance and the idea of a perfect social movement that would generate no controversy and no tension is an unrealistic prerequisite for any social movement.

  11. ghostcole says:

    I also agree that this society was built on christian values. I also highly agree that morality and politics do not go hand in hand. In my opinion I feel like the christian values that some hold are preventing society from progressing further on in certain issues. I also believe it should never influence politics. If equality wants to be met at a higher level religion needs to be excluded from decisions made within the government. This is a great post its very interesting to read.

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