Understanding Both Sides

When I started college my English 101 professor taught us about using a formal writing voice in our writing.  She explained that a good writer never uses phrases like “I think “or “I believe”  because these create doubt with the reader. Our goal was to convey authority or more precisely, academic authority as an expert voice on a given subject. I wrote in this style throughout my undergrad years and still use this approach in my professional life. Years later I discovered chatboards and then blogging. If I was discussing a topic I felt certain about, perhaps in a history forum, I would use the authoritative voice. When debating policy matters, where I was far from an expert, I learned the internet encouraged the informal voice.  Acronyms like IMO (in my opinion) were okay. You could say “I think…” and no one would fault you for it. To the contrary, in many ways this was the fastest way to make friends because you became approachable. You were saying, ‘I don’t have it all figured out, but this is what I believe today.” It became liberating in a way because I had permission to admit my own uncertainty.

Far from giving someone permission to be uncertain, political litmus tests are designed to force our leaders to take positions on policy. Astute voters understand that our entire election process is designed to get politicians on the record. We want to know what they believe so we can decide if they will have our support.  Beyond these basic platform questions, litmus tests also take the form of political traps. The sexual assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh fall under this category. It seems clear that this isn’t actually about justice for his alleged victims or a litmus test for Kavanaugh. To the contrary, this is a test for the party that nominated him. We all know Professor Ford’s testimony later this week is unlikely to actually derail a confirmation vote, but it does set up a litmus test for Republicans. Frankly, I am too cynical to believe that the same Democratic senators who would have happily welcomed the Clintons back to the White House actually care about what may have happened to Ford, but if she gives a compelling testimony and Kavanaugh is still confirmed, then Republicans have failed the test and Democrats can beat that drum this November.

I have no doubt that some readers will interpret my take on the Democrats’ strategy as a type of victim shaming or siding with Republicans. As a moderate that prefers a swing vote on the court, that would be a poor interpretation of my intentions, but it’s also important to note that before Ford has actually said a word in public, support for Kavanaugh is already falling. In the battle of proxies, Republicans are losing.  What this has really led me to is a consideration of how we interact with each other in places like this. From the National Review:

Most Americans hold either liberal or conservative positions on most matters. In many instances, however, they would be hard pressed to explain their position or the position they oppose.

But if you can’t explain both sides, how do you know you’re right?

At the very least, you need to understand both the liberal and conservative positions in order to effectively understand your own.

I won’t pretend to always understand both sides of an issue, but I see value in the effort,. Lately, the best opportunity I have to practice this is when discussing my daughter’s veganism. She is the child of a lifelong hunter who is also an unapologetic meat eater but in the last couple of years she has taken a different path. I have learned that making an effort to understand her position to the point where I can explain it to someone else creates a lot of empathy on my end. While I don’t see myself giving up meat anytime soon, being open-minded about her opinions also means I get to talk to my daughter about food (one of my favorite subjects) instead of us arguing or worse, avoiding the topic altogether.

These days, my least favorite word to hear in online discussions is ‘trolling’. Too often, when someone claims one side is trying to derail a conversation, what they actually mean is that they can’t comprehend how someone could arrive at that opinion from a honest place, so they must be trying to provoke (and I continue to be amazed at just how many intelligent people are so easily provoked). In the opening paragraph I talked about how I was taught to use a formal tone to invoke academic authority in my professional writing. Academic authority has sparked thousands of debates among scholars over the years, some incredibly vicious. Taken a step farther, what I see much of today is far too many people claiming moral authority. On this site we talk a lot about ‘assuming good faith’ on the part of your opponents but it’s hard to allow that grace when you have already claimed the moral high ground.

It’s easy to feel like there can be no other side to a debate. We believe the facts demonstrate Right and we feel compelled to stake out that position. Writing an essay or leaving a comment which stacks a large deck of facts in favor of one opinion and then daring others to contradict, accomplishes only one thing: It tells us who we can group into the categories of Right or Wrong. Those carefully-crafted traps may make us feel very clever for exposing the moral decay of the other side, but not are very interesting if we still believe that democracy is founded on vigorous debate.

There is nothing new under the sun for the essayist. Plenty of ink has been spilled on any given issue long before we write our next post, so the only variable is us. The way we interact with each other, the way we bring our own unique perspective to the conversation, the interplay of ideas…that is interesting. When we create traps for one another, we stifle debate and worse, we feel justified in telling ourselves that we are not just Right, but that we are the better person. I’m sure some enjoy the victory in those moments, but the community is not any better for it. It would be far more interesting if rather than test each other, we spent more time exploring issues where we admit we are uncertain ourselves. What a risk it would be to actually admit that we don’t know the right answer, and how satisfying might it be to arrive at a conclusion together. All it takes is making an honest effort to understand the other side.

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249 thoughts on “Understanding Both Sides

  1. On this site we talk a lot about ‘assuming good faith’ on the part of your opponents but it’s hard to allow that grace when you have already claimed the moral high ground.

    That’s an awful lot of words just to say that the Bertrand Russell quote* applies to morality as well as facts and reason.

    Good post, BTW.

    *The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.

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  2. This is definitely an issue where I’m seeing both sides. I can see the Democrat side that the Republicans are indifferent to a serious accusation. I can see the Republican side that the Democrats are playing a political game over a very uncertain claim (and it’s only gotten worse with the weakly-sourced Farrow piece and Avennati’s claims).

    It’s a distillation of our politics. I don’t think anyone in power actually cares about what happened or the issues involved. What they care about is winning and not backing down.

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    • In some sense, I think Mike is right – this is more of a trap.

      I have had someone who claims to do this for a living state that the best course of action for Kavanaugh would have been to say, “I don’t remember anything like that happening, but it sounds like something terrible happened to Ms. Ford, and she has my sympathies.”

      That he didn’t say that, that nobody defending him is saying that, speaks volumes. I’m quite convinced that the incident happened. I’m less convinced that it was Kavanaugh. However, he’s daily convincing me that he doesn’t have the temperament we would expect of a Supreme Court Justice.

      Is he even capable of holding the idea that other people suffer in his head?

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      • One weird thing I noticed is that the incredibly fatuous “evil twin” story that Ed Whelan blew up his career with was is actually a pretty reasonable defense against the allegations from the Farrow/Mayer article.

        There, the identification really is shaky!

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        • A mistaken identification is possible, I think. That she’s making the whole thing up doesn’t really seem likely at all.

          The Whelan thing lands on me like “trying too hard”. Libel with floor plans? Really?

          So the whole thing is a good illustration of why I think Kavanaugh would make a poor Justice – he’s a partisan warrior from the word go. Sometimes you need warriors, but they don’t really make good judges.

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  3. There’s a 4th allegation, https://mont.thesentinel.com/2018/09/24/supreme-court-nominee-kavanaugh-faces-more-allegations/

    Republicans knew of the New Yorker piece last week, as they rushed to push a vote and avoid any real investigation.

    And as I warned the other day, this isn’t just about sexual assault, but about potential gang rape and intent to rape a woman by multiple men. It’s no wonder the other men Ford recalls being present ‘don’t remember.’

    At what point do we get to stop saying this all about politics and the other side and start saying it’s about the human dignity of actual people who were violated and the fitness of a supreme court justice?

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  4. Graham, Nosek, and Haidt (2012) found that conservatives and moderates are far more able to articulate others’ political beliefs than liberals are. Interestingly, liberals are also the least accurate in describing liberal positions – they tend to exaggerate political differences more than the others.

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    • “Graham, Nosek, and Haidt (2012) found that conservatives and moderates are far more able to articulate others’ political beliefs than liberals are.”

      I originally included some language in the OP about this point, and I tend to agree with it. In my experience liberals have much more trouble understanding the opposition.

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    • I think they are correct, in a current sense. I would bet my hat that if you went back 40-50 years you would see a reversal of this dynamic. Further, I feel that knowing that would help the understanding of the generation interplay of political parties and the cause of much misunderstanding in political science.

      Alas, I don’t think the US is in a place, academically, where this research would be accepted.

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  5. How does opening your essay with an assumption of bad faith based on the belief that Democrats are cynically exploiting a woman’s attempted rape based on the assumption that (assumed) support for Hillary Clinton equals support for Bill Clinton any way to begin a conversation on “good faith” understanding?

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    • Point taken. What I will say is that it is one thing to assume bad faith on the part of multi-term senators at the highest level of government, with a long history of behaving poorly and it’s quite another to assume bad faith on the part of someone we know through a chatboard. I give much more grace to the latter.

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      • I’m certain Senators are more cynical than the people who have been tweeting, writing and protesting around the developments but even if that’s the case they have to respond to genuine outrage and concern from the folks they represent. We saw this clearly with Franken which didn’t benefit the Democrats politically.

        More generally, we can’t dismiss moral arguments on the basis of motivation because we can never know anyone’s most inner thoughts. To argue that “virtue signaling” nullifies any underlying virtue is to argue for a world where virtue means nothing.

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        • Virtue Signaling is one of those buzzwords/phrases that takes over political discourse and becomes easily weaponsized as a bad faith argument. You don’t really care about X, all you are doing is preening and showing how virtuous you are.

          Of course one wonders what the alternative would be. As far as I can tell, the subtext of the accusation is always “sit down and shutup.” In the Kavanaugh situation, Democrats are supposed to show they treat sexual assault seriously by letting Kavanaugh take his seat. The world is a wonder, isn’t it?

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    • It is very easy in politics (and probably everything else) to accuse the opposition or the side you don’t like of being in bad faith and/or being disingenuous.

      The fact that people are trying to compare this to Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton speaks volumes. Lewinsky and Clinton were having a consensual affair. Lewinsky always maintained that she was the instigator and that Clinton tried to break it off numerous times before succeeding. Now it isn’t great that he did have this affair but it is far from sexual assault.

      I think that Trump is rather confusing for a lot of guys. By natural inclination, their politics pushes them to the GOP and conservatism but they really hate Trump. But admitting that the Democrats/the Left/Liberals might be right is just too hard and just too much for them psychologically speaking. Hence a lot of distortions and contortions are needed.

      Political identity is seemingly very connected to familiar identity and it can be very hard to switch. A professor of mine in college came from a rock-ribbed Republican family from Kansas. He said his dad danced on the table when FDR died. His first Presidential Election was Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. He said ground disillusioned with the GOP then but said he just couldn’t bring himself to pull the level for a Democrat quite yet in 1960. He got over this by Goldwater and Johnson in 1964.

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      • The fact that people are trying to compare this to Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton speaks volumes.

        They are not.

        They are comparing it to Juanita Broadderick and Bill Clinton, who did not have a consensual affair. He raped her.

        They are comparing it to Kathleen Willey and Bill Clinton, who did not have a consensual affair. He assaulted her.

        They are comparing it to Paula Jones and Bill Clinton, who did not have a consensual affair. He assaulted her.

        And on each one of these, Hillary either directly or through her subordinates employed a “nuts and sluts” defense. These didn’t happen when Bill was 17. They happened when he was in power.

        It is in no way “whataboutism” to point out that croccodile tears do not need to be taken seriously and that hollow outrage is hollow. Unclean hands applies.

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        • If someone ever wrote a People’s History of the Democratic Party as a counterpoint to the conventional Party narrative (along the lines of Zinn’s book, obvs) Bill Clinton’s presidency would be mercilessly ripped as the disaster for the party which it was.

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        • Let’s take, for the purposes of argument, some givens from this:

          1. Bill Clinton is a horrible human being.
          2. Hillary Clinton is a horrible human being.
          3. Democrats in the 90s who trashed Clinton’s accusers were irredeemably sullied by doing so, and should not have.

          Doesn’t that lead to the GOP, you know, NOT doing the same thing now?

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  6. ” It would be far more interesting if rather than test each other, we spent more time exploring issues where we admit we are uncertain ourselves. What a risk it would be to actually admit that we don’t know the right answer, and how satisfying might it be to arrive at a conclusion together.”

    I look forward to the essays you write that are driven by this aspiration (as I have deeply enjoyed most of the essays you’ve written that achieve this in the past). And there’s a lot in this essay that I agree with, or find interesting to disagree with.

    At the same time, I don’t think that the approach you describe is the only interesting, or the only useful, way to discuss things – for one thing it tends to silence (self-silence) the people whose experience has led them to clear-cut conclusions on certain topics that are of great interest to less decided folks, even if those more experienced people are already *at* the correct conclusion the group might eventually come to. And it bears an implicit danger of becoming its own moral litmus test – where people being certain becomes more important a flaw than any other moral failing they (we) might have.

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    • “…for one thing it tends to silence (self-silence) the people whose experience has led them to clear-cut conclusions on certain topics that are of great interest to less decided folks…”

      If someone’s experiences led them to believe 2+2 = 4 I would agree with this. The problem is that often those experiences, and the conclusions they lead to, are ultimately subjective. And I think that’s the real problem I have with moral authority. So often it is based on a subjective reading of Right and Wrong but the person claiming the authority believes their conclusions are based in Reason or Universal rights and therefore indisputable.

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      • How is this post itself not also a claiming of moral authority though? you’re claiming the objectivity (here, but more so elsewhere of late) to know which things are subjective and which objective, just for starters. I mean, not that you shouldn’t, but what differentiates doing so from other kinds of morally-superior stances?

        (not asking as a trap – this is an issue I struggle with myself, and which ultimately led me away from moral relativism pretty early in my twenties – the realization that there are things that I know are morally clear, and am not willing to budge on, even if there aren’t all that many of them.)

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        • How is this post itself not also a claiming of moral authority though? you’re claiming the objectivity (here, but more so elsewhere of late) to know which things are subjective and which objective, just for starters.

          I certainly don’t believe I am morally right by writing this post. I tend to group most things in the subjective category out of caution more than anything because I don’t feel very comfortable making pronouncements about other people. Again, 2+2=4. Trying to read someone’s thoughts based on their policy preferences is subjective.

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          • What does it mean, then, to advocate strongly for something without believing you are morally right about it in an objective sense, but also without exploring the other side, the possible pitfalls, your own errors of belief, around what you are advocating for, as you appear to have chosen not to do in this post?

            Does it mean someone is arrogating moral authority, the unshakeable kind, to everything they’ve said – that they are without self-doubt or willingness to learn and change – or merely that they believe very strongly in the need for people to hear what they have to say, and don’t want the clarity of their message to get lost in disclaimers and self-questioning?

            These are the kinds of questions I mull over a lot….

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            • (To be clear, I realize it’s obvious from my framing that I tend to fall on the side of the latter example answer, but there is value in the first interpretation as well… and I can think of a good 30 other answers, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’m sure yours is not necessarily one of those 30…)

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            • “What does it mean, then, to advocate strongly for something without believing you are morally right about it in an objective sense, but also without exploring the other side, the possible pitfalls, your own errors of belief, around what you are advocating for, as you appear to have chosen not to do in this post?”

              I would point to the scientific method. Believing in gravity is not a moral certitude. It’s a scientific conclusion, based in facts and subject to challenge if someone discovers facts to the contrary. Belief in God is a moral certitude based in faith. While someone can strongly feel that God exists, it can’t be proven or disproved.

              What I would prefer to see more of is drawing a bright line between scientific conclusions and subjective ones. I’ll give you a common example on this site: 1) “There are an alarming number of police shootings that involve unarmed black males.” That is a scientific conclusion that can be defended with some degree of certainty. 2) “Police departments are staffed by an alarming number of racists who want to murder black people.” That is a subjective conclusion that is impossible to prove. Now some people might say A means B and B means C and therefore there can be no other conclusion. I say, that’s a moral claim and the exact problem we are having. Too many people feel comfortable reaching those conclusions and speaking with an authoritative voice.

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              • Why did you take it out of the realm of the abstract and into the realm of the practical here?

                I would say that the people who are advocating C are not resting it merely on A and B, but also on A1 through A40, which to them are so obvious and such old news that they don’t feel the need to keep rehashing them every time someone doesn’t believe in C, particularly if A1-A40, and B, have been previously established.

                There is a point at which ignoring the apparent truth of C, when A1-A40 consist of hundreds or thousands of experiences of C existing as directly as it is ever possible to verify it exists, constitutes positivism (which despite its aims is completely unscientific), or an extreme moral skepticism, rather than an appreciation of the scientific method.

                Now, I draw a line at saying that ignoring the apparent truth of C is itself (in this example) racist in any given individual… but I can appreciate and even to some degree agree with the view that when sizable amounts of people live in ignorance of C, despite the utter obviousness of C to most people who have ears to hear, there’s a systematic racism at work.

                If C is functionally, pragmatically, operationally true – if given that we can never see inside the hearts of men, we will literally never know if it’s true, but predicting behaviors based on acting *as if* it is true gives accurate, replicable, and consistent results (not 1:1, but a strong positive correlation) – why is it more important to debate whether C is literally true in every case, or even most cases, than whether the thing-that-sure-looks-just-like-C-and-has-the-same-outcomes-as-C, namely the extremely undesirable A, gets *stopped*? If calling the thing that looks like C, C, stops A, perhaps it is a truer way of speaking.

                Again, I really do want to know what you think about that – I personally write posts far more like what you are advocating for than not, but I struggle a lot with whether I am wise, or self-indulgent, to do so.

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                • What I am talking about with A, B, C is this: If I advocate a policy (A) and then someone else says they will believe it will lead to bad outcome (B1). They can probably support that with all kinds of facts and logical conclusions. I have no issue there. The person advocating for A might even accept some of their premises but believe the result will more likely be B2. That’s an interesting debate and within the realm I would like to see.

                  Where things go off the rails here and elsewhere is when someone responds that because you advocate for A, which will lead to B1, then you are C. That last part is when people claim to know someone’s thoughts, they apply unpleasant labels and position themselves as morally superior. We should be constantly guarding against C.

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                  • OK, that’s clearer.

                    But I have almost never seen that happen.

                    I have seen responses that claim because someone advocates for B1, or that B1 isn’t actually a bad outcome, they are C. (and I feel it’s often, not always, reasonable to make a common sense inference that people are C if they advocate for awful enough B1’s. There are regular commenters on this board who have advocated for exceptionally grisly B1s).

                    I have seen responses that are taking into account not only A, but also A2-A40 positions someone has also advocated for, and thus saying someone is C. At which point it turns back to my original question about whether it’s more important to be accurate or to prevent horrible outcomes, I think, though it obviously takes a few steps to get there.

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                    • I mean, we make common sense inferences that other people are various C’s all the time – it’s part of how we function as humans. Challenging people in that context, arguing, and then enacting a repair together either by the challenger retracting the C or the challenged retracting the thing that led them to be challenged, is part of normal conversation. Having those conversations when repair isn’t possible, not so much.

                      I think one part of the disconnect is that saying “X is racist” has a very wide range of meanings with a wide range of gravities. I realize that you have advocated before that people just stop using the word along those wide range of meanings and I’m not trying to open up that whole can of worms, but I do think most folks distinguish between “You are a racist for thinking that” and “You are a racist and want to murder black people.”

                      I would struggle mightily, were someone to tell me the latter, to interpret it as anything other than a provocation; the former is something that functionally means, “That thought seems racist to me, you may want to reconsider your logic or communicate less obnoxiously.”

                      I mean, I can interpret the former a lot of other ways, but not without positioning myself to be morally superior to the person saying it.

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                    • But I have almost never seen that happen.

                      Say what? I see that on this site at least once per week.

                      I feel it’s often, not always, reasonable to make a common sense inference that people are C if they advocate for awful enough B1’s.

                      That’s exactly what I was describing and you are claiming you rarely see it. When you say ‘awful enough B1s’ isn’t that subjective? And inferring someone’s motives is an even farther leap.

                      Think about what some conservatives believe about welfare. It is designed to create a dependent class of poor that will dependably vote Democrat. I myself absolutely believe that George Bush’s ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ is very much a real thing. So if you advocate for social safety nets and affirmative action and I say that must mean you are racist…is that fair or productive?

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                      • So if you advocate for social safety nets and affirmative action and I say that must mean you are racist…is that fair or productive?

                        Yes!
                        Very productive, in fact.
                        Because then we could actually talk about government assistance, in all its forms, and whether we are creating a dependent class of farmers, military contractors and whatever.

                        We could, for example, craft a compromise idea where we enact policy which reduces government aid, but increases social norms which coerce people into providing family aid.

                        In other words, the starting position, of self reliance, is an idea, a defined concept that people can embrace or argue about, which leads to policy.

                        But I’m not seeing that.

                        What I am seeing are just positions-of-convenience, where its morality when talking about gays, but not adultery, or fiscal restraint when talking about TANF, but silent about deficit-exploding tax cuts, free markets when talking about employment discrimination, but never when talking about tariffs or subsidy.

                        There is no logic to any of this, no coherent vision.

                        There is no straight line that connects any series of Republican/ conservative/ Trumpian proposals

                        The only consistent logic to all of these things is “Rich White Dudes Should Rule”.

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                        • Because then we could actually talk about government assistance, in all its forms, and whether we are creating a dependent class of farmers, military contractors and whatever.

                          Couldn’t we also have the exact same conversation without me calling you a racist?

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                            • Question: What if a minority, for whatever reason, was able to take advantage of conservative policies and become extremely rich? Would that prove or disprove your thesis?

                              My point here is, conservative policies are designed to crate maximum potential for the individual. I absolutely agree that white males are best positioned to take advantage of those policies because of historical oppression of minorities and women. With that said though, I don’t believe the policies themselves are designed to only benefit white guys. That is an unfortunate ancillary reality.

                              I believe most liberals also want the individual to succeed so in that sense they support the same goals. Where the two sides diverge is that conservatives are less inclined to think the non-white males need extra assistance to take full advantage of those policies. Liberals believe those people do need a boost through policy. Even those two positions could be defended factually. Where the moral component comes in for liberals is when they assume that because conservatives don’t want to level the playing field through policy, they are bad people. But again, many conservatives honestly don’t believe it is necessary and that comes back to my exchange with Maribou. Just because you believe that my policies will result in bad things doesn’t mean that I am a bad person by default. Unfortunately many liberals, in my experience, believe that the answer is so clear that there is no way the other side could not see it, so they assume bad faith. This is where ‘understanding the other side’ is so important.

                              To flip this around, I could point to any number of liberal policies that I believe cause harm. I think the difference between myself and many others is that even though I see harm, I don’t assume bad intent. To the contrary I think that their hearts are in the right place. So while I may disagree strongly about your policy positions, I don’t feel the need to label liberals as bad actors. That doesn’t make me some saint, but rather just demonstrates a bit more understanding.

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                              • West African tribes benefited handsomely from the slave trade. Many black entrepreneurs grew rich off the market advantages of segregation.

                                If you want to say that conservatives believe in individualism and free markets, as a high level first principle, go ahead and make that case.

                                But I will note that this commitment disappears when it appears that the free market prefers Hispanic workers, or Chinese imports or anything that causes discomfort or anxiety to white men.

                                Again, the behavior of Trumpists is highly predictable: When free markets deliver most of their benefits to white men, they are for it;

                                When it delivers mostly benefits to nonwhites, they are against it.

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                                • I almost never argue for conservative policies within the context of contemporary politics, because…politics. If your default is to keep going back to ‘Trumpist’ then I don’t think we have much to discuss. I don’t believe they represent a significant percentage of people on the Right. Obviously Trump and his followers grind your gears since you seem to name-drop them in every other comment, but I don’t represent them and I’m not going to keep talking around them just because you want to keep going back to that.

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                                  • I know that you and Pinky are not Trumpists, but call yourself conservatives.
                                    But that’s the problem you all have to sort out amongst yourselves.

                                    Namely, that 60 million Americans voted for Trump, and every single one of them claims the title “conservative”.
                                    Every single Republican elected official across the country calls themselves a conservative. Nazis who get nominated for a Republican office call themselves conservative, those guys with the tiki torches call themselves conservatives, the Bundy gang called themselves conservatives, guys who solemnly assure us that black people have inferior IQ call themselves conservatives.

                                    You guys are fighting for control of the title, and the narrative of what it means to be conservative. And it looks like you and Pinky and David Frum are outside the tent.

                                    I’m just wondering why you would want to be let in.

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                                    • I’m actually not that interested in labels and I’m sure you are aware that I have written about that on this site several times. And that’s a big part of the problem. Instead of actually discussing policy we are too busy obsessing over name-calling one another and who has to apologize for the club they are being associated with. It reminds me of grade school when everyone was either a preppy or a jock or a hood. If you didn’t fit neatly into any of those groups then people would just lump you in with the closest one out of convenience. Honestly, it’s intellectually lazy.

                                      I label myself a ‘conservative’ because historically my views are right-of center. But I’m also ‘liberal’ when it comes to things like marijuana legalization or public education. So if it’s easier for you to keep blaming us for the club we belong to, rather than explore the nuance of its members, that is your choice, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting conversation, does it?

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                                      • There is a group of 60 odd million Americans who pursue a series of policies which have as their common denominator, the preservation of the hierarchy of white men.
                                        These people invariably vote Republican and support Donald Trump.

                                        There are other people who hold heterodox views, but really, they don’t matter. None of these people hold office or have any power to move policy to any degree.

                                        So I will continue to attack the first group, and hold that they are animated by racial animus.

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                                        • Chip, this site is dedicated to individuals talking to each other. You and I have talked to each other dozens if not hundreds of times. I’m Mike Dwyer, individual, not a faceless surrogate for Trump voters. If you are looking for me or any of the other conservatives that participate on this site to be the recipients of your outrage, I think you will be disappointed. Seriously man, can’t we just have a conversation?

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                              • conservative policies are designed to crate maximum potential for the individual

                                Which ones?

                                The ACA would do that by permitting you to leave your job without losing healthcare. Tax cuts on the 0.01%? I don’t see that increasing individual potential.

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                          • Perhaps not.

                            Perhaps your interlocutor really thinks you are racist. No matter how wrong they are, they don’t know that they’re wrong yet.

                            That in and of itself is something that would need to be addressed and resolved as part of the conversation.

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                              • How is it possible to defend yourself against the charge of racism?

                                a) By redefining the terms.
                                b) By constructing a narrative in which white people, in particular white males, are “the most discriminated against group in American.”
                                c) By attacking the messenger.
                                d) By arguing that liberals are the “real racists”.

                                etc etc etc

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                                  • Evidence. If we agree that the accusation isn’t politically or ideologically motivated and we agree on the basic terms being used, evidence determines the accuracy (the truth) of the claim. Usually this type of discussion starts with clear examples which both people agree on (even if only for the sake of argument).

                                    Alternately, if you oppose the accusation because you reject the theory from which the claim follows, you need to show something wrong with the theory itself. Institutional racism, for example, casts a wide net, presumably including all white people who either actively or passively allow racist policies and practices to persist. Defending yourself from *that* accusation would require rejecting the evidence justifying that theory.

                                    Personally speaking, I think institutional racism is a real thing, and insofar as I’m both the beneficiary of those policies and practices and passively accept them as the status quo, I am, in fact, a racist. And I’m sorta (not entirely) comfortable conceding that fact. Conservatives not so much.

                                    I think the problem you’re getting at with discussions of racism arise because all too often people, usually self-identified conservatives, refuse to admit that racism exists in the US at all, except perhaps by affirmative-action liberals. But that seems anti-empirical to me. This country was built on racism. Evidence that it persists isn’t hard to find.

                                    That said, we both agree (with Chris Rock :) that there are *types* of racism, some more insidious (by my lights) than others. Fwtw.

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                                    • I am, in fact, a racist. And I’m sorta (not entirely) comfortable conceding that fact.

                                      The trouble, it seems, when it comes to discussions, is that people who are identified as conservative* are not allowed to concede the fact (that they fit that definition of ‘racist’) and still be permitted to argue in good faith.

                                      *Whether they are actually conservative, or just somewhere to the right of the person they are arguing with.

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                                      • are not allowed to concede the fact (that they fit that definition of ‘racist’) and still be permitted to argue in good faith.

                                        I’ve never seen a conservative *try* to do that, let alone not succeed at it. Not saying it hasn’t happened, of course….

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                                        • It’s happened to me often enough that I am careful about such admissions in certain quarters.

                                          Hereabouts, yous guys generally treat me fairly and can grasp nuance. But not everyplace is here. In a lot of forums, conservatives are not allowed that concession, or rather, they are, but by doing so, they are dismissed from the conversation.

                                          To be fair, BSDI is in play, depending on the topic. I’ve seen conservatives use similar tactics with regards to guns, abortion, economic policy, foreign policy, etc. In a lot of places, people aren’t interested in allowing the other side any complexity of position.

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                                    • This makes me think of one the confessional prayers we use at church. It ask for forgiveness for sins of commission, sins of omission, and also ‘those sins performed in our name’. That one has really struck me since the whole separation of immigrant families thing, but I think it applies to those lingering (and sometimes aggressively defended) policies and practices that came out of institutional racism.

                                      Like it or not, that is part of our history. Those trying to deny it or attack anyone pointing it out (particularly when the attack questions their patriotism) do come across as racist to me. Not the cross-burning, hood-wearing sort of racists, but the sort (which I have been and to my regret still sometimes am) who don’t want to recognize the ‘sin performed in our name’ that has given us a leg up here.

                                      That said, there is a problem with terminology. ‘Racist’ comes across as equivalent KKK or Nazi, even when it only means refusing to acknowledge how bigotry embedded in our society/culture still affects us. The problem is that, I can’t think of an appropriate intermediary and less inflammatory term.

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                                • I rarely keep track of who made what comments, because that usually leads to spiteful exchanges, so I looked it up and saw that I recently accused you of making a racist comment. I don’t know if you think I’m a bigot, but I think you’re a bigot. As I said, my usual way of dealing with that is to forget about it. But it does raise the question, is it possible to proceed to a meaningful conversation after that assessment? I touched on this in my “second question” below. I assume that you’re an unconscious bigot, and I don’t know what follows such an assumption.

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                                          • Mike, if you’ve read my comments with anything like the attention you’ve paid to Chip’s, then you already know the answer to that. For example, I’m the commenter here who frequently reminds folks that the most racist places *I’ve* ever been to are cities run by Democrats.

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                                            • So the answer is Yes, both sides have policies that cause harm to minorities. Fair enough. Now that we have both admitted to this, do we have to still keep calling each other racists? Or can we just admit we are imperfect, commit to doing better and talk about solutions?

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                                              • Mike, only moments ago you said that even tho some conservative policies harm minorities you’re not willing to call those policies racist. I have no idea what you want me to agree to since my argument is that some policies and practices are, in fact, racist. Why would I stop calling them what they are?

                                                Add: My argument is to call racist policies/practices “racist” no matter which “side” enacts/supports them, and your argument is to stop calling racist things “racist” because both sides do it. Makes no sense.

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                                                • I have no idea what you want me to agree to since my argument is that some policies and practices are, in fact, racist. Why would I stop calling them what they are?

                                                  I would suggest looking a little deeper and trying a more precise description. Honestly, I sometimes feel like the liberals on this site have a shortcut built into their keyboards where every time they see a policy they don’t like and also overlaps with race, they just paste in racist because it’s easier. So, a couple of things…

                                                  Firstly, I do understand the liberal need to label things. Liberals are far more science-friendly than conservatives (kudos on that) so therefore they tend to like taxonomies. And I completely understand that impulse and am guilty of it myself in a lot of areas. With that said, taxonomies are only good if they are specific enough to accurately describe the characteristics of the phenomenon. ‘Racist’ is sort of like just calling everything in the ocean a sea creature. Not very accurate or helpful.

                                                  Secondly, not every policy that negatively impacts minorities is racist. An example, Louisville’s desegregation program. It is designed to improve the lives of minority students and achieve better outcomes for them. The problem is that it actually causes harm to many of those families. My wife is a school social worker and routinely gets calls from minority parents begging for their kids to not be bussed because of the cascading problems the program causes. But…there is evidence that some kids are helped by the program so the school system has kept it in place for 40 years. Knowing the motivations of the people doing this, I would be very hesitant to call the policy racist, even though by your usage it would seem appropriate. I’d much rather say it ‘has unintended negative effects on some minority families’. That took seven more words to type, but seems a lot more accurate.

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                                            • On the thread “To Buy or Not To Buy”, you said – “Well, us white people have a lot to account for. Seriously.”

                                              I replied – “That is racist, or racially prejudiced. If I point that out, where can the conversation go?”

                                              You replied – “To the facts. Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, differential sentencing, etc and so on …”

                                              Putting collective blame on a race for the actions of some of its members is bigoted. It’s pretty close to the definition of bigotry. Actually, it might be the definition of bigotry. If I did the switch-around and said that Japanese people should apologize for Pearl Harbor, I think you’d recognize that as a bigoted statement.

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                                              • A better “switch around” might be that black people should apologize to white people for allowing the false impression that white American culture has a long history of racism to take hold.

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                                                • See, culture is different. If you want to say that a culture is responsible for something, I can skittishly go along with it. But if you say that a race is responsible for something, you’re lumping people together on the basis of race.

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                                • Stillwater,

                                  We both know that the United States is no longer a place where a significant number of people call minorities savages and talk about the superiority of the white race. In the context of this site, most of the time when someone is being labeled a racist it is when they A) Support a policy liberals believe is racist or B) Do not support a policy that liberals believe combats racism. So it becomes a cudgel that people use to label someone’s policy preferences as a symbol of secret hatred. So I think what Pinky is asking (and I am wondering the same thing) is when conservatives are allowed to support or disagree with those policies without liberals being so sure of their Right that they label us racist?

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                                  • Upthread you wrote that even tho white males are the primary beneficiaries of the status quo policies and practices their support of those P&Ps is principled and not due to self-interest. Which strikes me as either a clever lie you tell yourself or the result of confusion. Recently the sheriff of a pretty large city in New jersey made racist comments and resigned as a result. Here’s part of the transcript:

                                    “He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state…better criminal justice reform. Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the fuck they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”

                                    Do you think those statements are racist? Do you think that sheriff enforced the law disparately against people based on their skin color?*

                                    I think liberals would be less inclined to ascribe racism to conservative’s views if conservatives conceded that racism against blacks actually exists, that members of their own party are in fact racists, and that policies based on racism are part of the conservative platform.

                                    *Some of those that work forces…

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                                        • I think you are missing my point. You said above that liberals would somehow be less inclined to label conservative views as racist if we would only admit that they are in fact racist. So are you basically just saying that somebody has to call conservative policies racist so if not conservatives themselves, then liberals have to do it for us?

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                                          • And I think you’re missing *my* point … :)

                                            I wrote a post about this very topic a long time ago. It’s called On Racism. Check it out.

                                            Your point is that liberals use racism as a cudgel against conservative policies which liberals believe will have racist outcomes, but conservatives justify in other terms. My response was that if conservatives *never* admit that racism exists or that their preferred policies can lead to racist outcomes, even in cases where they clearly do*, then liberals will be more inclined rather than less to attribute their views, at least in part, to racism.

                                            *The Supreme Court Finds North Carolina’s Racial Gerrymandering Unconstitutional

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                                                • It wouldn’t change me answer, no. I’m just wondering if we both have the same obligation…

                                                  I have no problem admitting that some conservative policies cause harm to minorities. I might also disagree whether or not that is actually racist but as previously stated, I don’t share the liberal obsession with that word.

                                                  I would also add this: Once again, the liberal obsession with the R word is problematic in the discussion of policy. I am can point to certain liberal policies and say with 99% certainty that they disproportionately harm minorities. I don’t call that racist though because I also know the intent of the policies are quite the opposite of the actual results. Sure, I could throw that word around to bolster my case, but it accomplishes nothing, so what is the point?

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                                            • What happens if we have a conservative policy that is clearly harmful to minorities in state A, but is very helpful in state B, simply because the two states implemented* the policy in ways that are just different enough so as to get that result?

                                              *And for the sake of argument, let’s assume no ill intent on the part of the bureaucracy that did the implementation, the harm is merely an artifact of the fact that no policy is enacted in a vacuum.

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                                  • We both know that the United States is no longer a place where a significant number of people call minorities savages and talk about the superiority of the white race.

                                    I mean this is sort of not true, at least when it comes to the “savages” part. This is one of those areas where was right to bring up Trump: he gets a lot of attention (and, it seems, political advantage) from dancing right up to that line and occasionally crossing over it.[1]

                                    And a large majority of self-identified conservatives say they approve of this guy.

                                    This is obviously incredibly frustrating for the minority of conservatives who detest him, but it does a lot of shape prior probabilities.

                                    [1] You may argue that liberals thought that racial prejudice was endemic on the Right before the rise of Trump, but it’s not like his support came out of nowhere.

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                                  • “We both know that the United States is no longer a place where a significant number of people call minorities savages and talk about the superiority of the white race.”

                                    No, we just treat every black kid as inherently more violent than white kids of the same age, so of course, the cops have no choice but to shoot, even if unarmed.

                                    Also, as far as “white supreority goes”, when there are riots in Ferguson over police violence, every conservative was tut tutting about ‘black culture’, while when (largely white) college students on a state university sets fire to couches or pulls flag poles down when their sports team wins a game, their are no conversations about “white culture.”

                                    So yeah, nobody outside of idiots on Twitter are dumb enough to say it directly, but the message is the same.

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                              • I think it depends on the nature of the precise charge.

                                Sometimes in conversations like this, it can actually be helpful to ask that question directly. Sometimes it’s not helpful, to be sure.

                                But when it does help, it does so by allowing you to understand where the other person is coming from, which is something that is advocating.

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                            • Second question: what is the value of raising the question of whether the other guy is racist? My thought: if someone’s position isn’t built on racism, whether or not he’s racist doesn’t matter. If it is built on conscious racism, there’s probably no point in continuing the conversation. If it’s built on unconscious racism, I don’t know how to convince someone to consider their unconscious racism. None of this is a recommendation; I’m just curious about your thoughts.

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                              • Second question: what is the value of raising the question of whether the other guy is racist?

                                I think it can be a good way to communicate that you are completely distrustful of where their position comes from.

                                Which is more useful than not communicating that, at least sometimes. The alternative is often just simmering passive aggressive assumptions of bad faith, which often become mutual in short order.

                                Still, it’s usually more useful to say you think a policy (or statement, or idea) is racist rather than an individual.

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                                  • In some circumstances you gotta talk to people who you seriously distrust, though I’ll grant that the OT comment section may not be one of those circumstances.

                                    Still, there’s been some worry about ideological bubbles here, and one of the things that creates those bubbles is distrust. If you want people to breach those bubbles, well, at some point they’re going to end up talking to people they don’t trust at all.

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                                    • But I think Pinky is expressing his frustration – and I have also expressed this many, many times – that once commenters have made up their mind, it is quite nearly impossible to convince people that you are NOT a racist, within the context of this site. This is especially true when that labeled is applied not based on overt ‘in your face’ racists statements, but a subjective interpretation of the motivations behind your policy preferences. Add on to that the complexities of people using aliases, not knowing one another’s personal history, expressing yourself via written word, etc. Quite honestly, once someone applies that label to you, the best course of action is to discontinue to interact with them, not expend energy on a pointless quest to change their minds.

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                                      • I’d say many liberals or even center-left folks probably feel the same about ‘virtue signaling’ , SJW, ‘identity politics’, ‘radical feminist’, and many other labels that get automatically applied to “subjective interpretation of the motivations behind[their] policy preferences”

                                        You seem to have a particular axe to grind the term ‘racist’, but how is any of that really different in terms of promotion vs shutting down conversation?

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                            • Or, in the specific context of race, they might think EVERYONE is subconsciously biased and that accepting that would allow the consequences to be mitigated.

                              I think it’s worth noting where people are obviously racially motivated (e.g. Trump, who wears it on his sleeve) and where racial bias might more generally drive behavior (e.g. criminal justice).

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                      • Awful enough *B*1’s, , not awful enough As. People advocating for awful outcomes. And sure, rape and murder are in some sense subjectively awful, but I have seen people literally advocate for them, or for them not being a big deal or a big problem, on this site (comments) for the last decade, and that’s what I was referring to. Not advocate for A’s that I believe will lead to B’s, but straight up embrace the B’s. I don’t feel the need to be “properly objective” when I condemn embracing those things.
                        And there are plenty of “lesser evils” like taking children away from their loving, non-abusive parents or physically torturing people supposedly for their own good, that I have also seen people advocate for, that are, again, technically subjective but which I have no interest in providing cover for the advocacy of, and no shame about speculating C’s for. Some of these people have been booted because we don’t want to listen to them make those arguments for those B1s; others have learned what they can and can’t say, and remain regular commenters on the site.

                        Either way, saying they were arguing for the Bs is not the same as saying they were arguing for the As.

                        Perhaps this terminology is not productive since we both keep getting tripped up on what the other person is even talking about.

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                        • Either way, saying they were arguing for the Bs is not the same as saying they were arguing for the As.

                          That’s exactly my point though. If I advocate for B and it’s a horrible outcome, sure, call me a C. But that’s not what i was describing. If I advocate for A, which I believe will lead to B1 but you disagree and believe it will lead to B2, which makes me C…that is a bridge too far, and I see it far too often here. How can I be C when my intent is it arrive at B1, not B2? The problem there is that someone will basically believe I am either too dense to see B2 as being the likely outcome or that I secretly want B2 but just don’t want to admit it. Then I am really a C because I am being dishonest about my desired outcome.

                          There’s also an ancillary to all of this which is someone writing a post which advocates for A, which they believe will lead to B1 and then if you disagree then you must want to see B2, so therefore you are a C. Even if the other side says, “I also want B1, but I think we get there by starting at A2,” it’s too late…they are C, because people have claimed A is the only path as part of their moral authority.

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                        • Perhaps this terminology is not productive since we both keep getting tripped up on what the other person is even talking about.

                          To jump in, let’s just say that terms like ‘awful’ are highly subjective and not helpful. A woman’s right to choose is considered by many right to life advocates as an awful state of affairs, since it leads to the murder of the unborn.

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                      • Also,

                        “I have seen responses that are taking into account not only A, but also A2-A40 positions someone has also advocated for, and thus saying someone is C. ”

                        Is, I believe a large part of what you are thinking of when you say you see it happen once a week.

                        I think there’s a big difference between reacting to a single A that way, and reacting to a corpus of A1-A40 from the same person that way. Personally I still don’t like to go to C (which disinclination of mine, I see as a personality type thing, not a morally better or worse thing), but there’s a big difference. Pattern matching is a human survival skill; asking people not to engage in it – particularly in arenas where they believe they’ve experienced, or seen their loved ones experience, a lot of clearly harmful treatment, regardless of what the interior sources of the harmful behavior may be – is a big ask.

                        And I say all that in the full knowledge that I have at times been the to-me-unjust recipient of accusations of various Cs due to my set of expressed preferences for policies A1-A40 (at least as they saw them), from folks around here.

                        I still think it’s really different.

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  7. Related, this article at Vox.

    Although it is mainly about how the YouTube algorithms supercharge radicalism, it touches on how our political divide today is not so much about ostensibly political issues like economics by cultural issues of identity.

    The rapid cultural changes across ethnicity, orientation and identity have sparked a reactionary backlash, which is resistant to the notions of compromise and consensus.

    When a follower of Jordan Peterson insists for example, that patriarchy is the foundation of society which must not be overturned, what point is there in trying to “see both sides”?

    What is the use of good faith, if someone is arguing for your lesser status?

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    • What is the use of good faith, if someone is arguing for your lesser status?

      This is the argument I see the most around here and (bias) it seems to come the most from the Left. Typically they take conservative position A, carry it forward to Z and then say that people are trying to do all kinds of nefarious things.

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      • The problem is that there are frequently are conservatives [1] who want to carry conservative position A who want to carry it to nefarious end Z, just as there are others who are happy to stop at A, or maybe B. And for purposes of coordination and coalition-building, or due to imprecision, or for a dozen other reasons, the people who would be happy with C and can live with B make arguments that don’t clearly distinguish them from people who want V at an absolute minimum.

        So people want to disambiguate. There are more and less constructive ways of accomplishing this, ranging from the often constructive: “Why is it that you want A, but you don’t want E?” to the less-constructive: “You just say that because you don’t want to admit you support Zedism!”[2]

        And a lot of the time people have experience with people who argue for A or B and then suddenly do spring a Z. Or maybe they have experiences with a lot of environments where a lot of people just really need to hear that it’s valid to not even want A.

        Recognizing that is, of course, not necessarily easy. And it’s extra not-easy if someone is accusing you of being zedist.

        But that’s part of understanding too, as tough as it is.

        [1] Pretty much all of what follows applies just as well to other ideological affiliations.

        [2] I admit that I personally have a tendency to go on tilt and make a beeline right for the less-constructive end of the spectrum.

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      • We all laughed at Trump because he WAS the Z Candidate, so cartoonishly awful that it was an insult to paint all Republicans as mini-Trumps.

        Who do you think are the right wing Z candidates, the ones who are fringe outliers wholly unrepresentative of the mainstream movement?

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      • Mike,

        Typically they take conservative position A, carry it forward to Z and then say that people are trying to do all kinds of nefarious things.

        Conservatives and libertarians do this a lot with economic policy when it involves some form of regulation or suggestion that offends their “free market” sensibilities, which is why I have no patience for arguments that revolve around some abstract concept of markets.

        Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, as dumb an idea as it is, isn’t socialism, communism or the biggest seizure of private property etc. etc. etc. Not even close. Yet, here I am watching political pundits that claim some kind of authority over their subject showing me how little they understand it. It’s like political discourse becomes a giant game of “Hold My Beer” because it never fails that a dumb idea prompts a dumber response.

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        • They do it with criminal justice reform as well, extrapolating things like letting non-violent felons out into a state of affairs that is dangerous to YOUR FAMILY! Or how increasing police accountability will result in a state of affairs that is dangerous to YOUR FAMILY!

          I love election years, the hyperbole is a hoot. Or it would be if it wasn’t so damned effective.

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    • Klein is right, but he doesn’t realize what he’s right about. His side has no commitment to open debate or the life of the mind. If you want to engage with ideas, you’ve got to talk to people on the right side of the aisle – “right” in this case being so broadly defined as to include most anything but Klein, but that definition of “right” is so important because it includes thinkers from the mainstream to the wacky to five other kinds of wacky. Read Vox and you’ll get the same opinion over and over again, along with their usual factual errors. Listen to Dave Rubin and you’ll hear a lot of things worth talking about.

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      • Ezra Klein just had an hour long conversation with David French of the National Review a few weeks ago. I mean you can make arguments about us evil lefties being close minded all you want, but Ezra’s not the guy you target for this.

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      • What are the right’s “ideas”?

        Seriously, I’ve asked this a few times here. What are the main ideas propelling the Republican/ Trump partisans?
        Buckley was able to do it concisely with his famous Three Legged Stool.
        What would be yours?

        I contend that there are no ideas animating Trump’s fans, other than reaction to cultural changes.
        I contend that there are no ideas animating the Republicans, other than transferring wealth upward.

        But if you disagree, lay it out here, the ideas and goals of conservatism.

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        • I think you’ve got the question backwards. It’s not about what I would pick as my top 3 issues or positions. I’m a socially conservative, small government, internationalist-type. I don’t know if any of those positions is the majority or the plurality among the “right”, Republicans, and/or people who voted for Trump. But if you want to talk about any of the issues, you’re going to find more opinions (including some batty ones) outside the liberal bubble. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say: the bubble on the right has popped. You’ve got ideas flying all over the place. It makes the other side look even more like a bubble.

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            • One good example is trade. Now, I’m a free trade near-absolutist. It makes me nervous that we’re debating the merits of free trade. But it’s not just the question of whether trade is a good. We’re seeing better coverage of particular trade deals, and examples of possible abuse of them. There’s debate about Trump’s tactics, too. Is brinkmanship too dangerous? Are there some deals that we’d be better off without? Are there some industries that are vital for our national security?

              The Democrats (or the left, or the people who voted for Clinton) seem to be stuck in a position dictated by their coalition. Generally pro-trade, but very aware of the private sector union money that the party relies on. It’s stasis. The Republicans (or whatever) are in chaos.

              I think trade is a good example because the pattern plays out on a lot of issues. On immigration, there’s the traditional Republican position, but that’s being challenged by Trump’s position, and the various voices of the Republican/whatever coalition are speaking out. The Democrats are in stasis, held there by their Six Degrees of Calling Someone a Bigot strategy.

              Ditto Syria. One gets the impression that there’s more debate going on in the White House than in Congress on this issue, too. Ditto education and tech issues. Not as much about deficits and entitlement spending, but some. The debates are about first principles, specific policies, and tactics. I don’t hear a lot of that from Democrats/whatever. They always seem to be walking the balance between a promise to a portion of their coalition and the overall assessment of how far along we are on the Gramscian march. Maybe that could erupt into chaos, but it hasn’t. For the time being,if you want to have an interesting debate on an issue, there’s nothing added by including a Democrat.

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                • I wasn’t talking about the debates going on in Trump’s own head (if any). I was talking about the Republicans / right / Trump voters. I’ve been trying to use some phrase to refer to them and to the other side / party / faction / whatever, but I don’t know how to express it well.

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                  • It just occurred to me how wrong it is for people to equate the Republican Party, the people who voted for Trump, and all the factions of conservatism. You can’t shame me by pointing to Trump, because I didn’t vote for him. You can’t tell me that Trump represents my movement, because I’m part of the movement and I know that Trump’s not. If you point to something disgusting he’s done, and I find it disgusting, I’ll say so. It’s a truism to say that there are more than two sides, but it’s something I should say more often, especially in response to articles with titles like this one has.

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                  • I wasn’t really even asking for your personal beliefs.

                    I’m just trying to find a single idea or principle that Trumpists hold to.
                    I’d even settle for one that Republicans hold to.

                    I’m still not hearing anything.

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                    • I’m obviously still working through this approach, so maybe I’m wrong, but at least for the time being my thesis is that there isn’t a single idea or principle that animates all members of the side.

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                      • Stopping the left.

                        And it’s not tribalism. It’s because vocal and powerful elements of the left are scary and out of control. Yet the sane and nice and rational people on the left purport not to see it. Even worse, those sane and nice and rational people on the left are turning away from the values that are nobly and admirably liberal, turning away from even the most fundamental of liberal principles, to embrace the scary and out of control stuff. And as they do it’s like they forget that those fundamental liberal principles ever even existed.

                        Fear. It’s making for some pretty strange conservative bedfellows.

                        Good piece, Mike.

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                        • Where are these scary and out of control leftists, such that I may join them?

                          Seriously, what you have just stated, is Corey Robin’s Reactionary Mind thesis, that conservatism is a reaction to the assertion of power by those who conservatives view as illegitimate holders of it.

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          • Oh gosh, there are an infinitude of ideas, including batty ones, flying all over on the liberal side too. If you’re seeing a liberal bubble that lacks diversity of opinion, I’d strongly suggest looking for a broader range of sources on that side as well. I can’t even keep track of all the friction-inducing, mind-expanding arguments I come across on the liberal side of things day to day…. I don’t bring them here because I’m not super-interested in being told that I’m only interested in that because I believe in X, Y, and Z extreme ridiculous thing, which I get from multiple sides here, left and right, who are wary of anything too radical on the left side of things, but they’re certainly *there*.

            (Vox certainly ain’t outside the bubble, nor does talking to the national review prove they aren’t – both of those guys are inside a bubble of their own, there. Although there are a few bloggers there that are pretty interesting and novel – I don’t read them directly but I do come across them from time to time.)

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        • Chip Daniels: What are the right’s “ideas”?

          If you’d put me on the right, and you probably would since I wouldn’t want to be caught dead on what passes off for the left these days (and I identify as liberal – go figure), I have plenty of my own ideas and I bet they’re the polar opposite of yours. I see myself as more reality-based and pragmatic and have little to no patience for political partisans and their infantile chest-thumping.

          Just saying.

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        • Chip – define ‘The Republicans’. I’m no longer a member of the party but I know plenty of Progressive Conservatives who have ideas you would probably be okay with, or we could at least see potential for compromise. The problem is that so often the guy who sounds reasonable immediately gets dismissed because ‘The Republicans’ don’t agree with him. So the problem is, are we debating one another or just serving as proxies for McConnell and Schumer?

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                • Tell you what.

                  I will never ask this again, if we can all just agree that Trumpists are motivated by racial animus.

                  But if anyone protests that they are motivated by Deep Conservative Principles, I will demand to hear one.

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                  • It would be easier if you didn’t conflate Trumpists / Republicans / The Right as one group, which you do above. As we have already discussed, Conservatives are not a monolithic group. Myself and Dennis Sanders, for example, consider ourselves Progressives. My brother is a die-hard Reagan Republican but hates Trump. Same for my father-in-law. My crazy neighbor loves Trump, but is also pro-immigration and married to an Asian woman. So, if you insist on pigeon-holing the whole group, our answer will never satisfy you.

                    I will also say this: I’ve made this point in other threads which is that even among Trump supporters, it’s not always racial hatred. The Atlantic had a very good piece where they talked about a lot of anger in Appalachia directed at whites by their neighbors, much of it due to poverty and drug issues. Their world pretty insular and racially homogeneous, so it doesn’t fit into the Trumpist = racist narrative. I know two other admitted trump supporters. One supported him because he was pro-law enforcement (retired cop) and one because he thought he had a good economic policy. I’ve never known either one of them to ever say or do anything that seemed racist to me, but maybe they have secret racist feelings i am not aware of. I’d like to believe not though.

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  8. I think most of the problem at the national level lies not in the Manichean state of our current political divide, but in quasi-parliamentary system we seem to have evolved into. To take Mike’s example of the Cavanaugh nomination, or really any other Supreme Court nomination over the last several presidents, the names are considered holy writ. The Judiciary Committee hearings are a farce of the party of the president falling all over themselves to tell the nominee what a great justice he or she would be, and the other party trying to play gotcha, usually with Roe being the subject. Nothing is learned.

    To Mike’s greater point, I guess the question is who is going to blink first? Labor Day weekend I sat and had a drink with my farmer father-in-law. He wanted to talk about Alexandria Ocasio’s political platform and how it was a crazy giveaway. I told him I wasn’t going to talk politics with him since no minds were going to be changed. In the very next breath he told be about how he got a letter from the USDA telling him to be on the lookout for his check to make up for what he’d lose to Trump’s tariffs. How on earth do you find middle ground there?

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    • A lot of people out there think a divided US government works better – one party with the Presidency, and the other with Congress, and variations. Because then they have to negotiate, and all the crazy hyperbolic campaign promises get quashed because, gosh darn it, the opposition just wouldn’t go for it, so give us more money.

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      • I actually think the exact opposite. Let’s be an actual parliamentary body and let the party that wins actually legislate. I think right now you can make nutty promises because you know they’ll never actually happen. If they could, perhaps that would create some caution. If not, people could at least fully experience GOP policies, which might be necessary.

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  9. Mike Dwyer: Firstly, I do understand the liberal need to label things… And I completely understand that impulse and am guilty of it myself in a lot of areas.

    Such as labeling every liberal, or even just every liberal on this site, as prone to calling anything and everything racist? I mean, gosh, based on just this comment thread, one would think you had a shortcut built into your keyboard… ;-)

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  10. I liked this essay. It speaks to how I try to treat people I don’t know. These are challenging times, and not simply because of who is in power, but because we don’t truly communicate in our public spaces anymore. We talk at and over each other.

    I remember when Sarah Palin was chosen as McCain’s VP she gave a speech referring to “Real Americans”. She didn’t specifically say who was or was not a RA, but I knew that I was not one in her eyes. Too…West Coast. It pissed me off! I have a lot of empathy for those who felt/feel the Democratic Party and the talking heads on cable news ignore them or don’t include them in their definition of who counts as a “Real American”. And I get their added anger at feeling lumped in with the Racists.

    I still feel as if the Republican Party and their talking heads on cable news look right past me when talking about Americans. I am not being labeled as a Racist, but Liberal Elite is used a lot to discount any opinions I might try to offer. I see terms such as The Left, Dems, Libs, and Progressives thrown around in the ether to describe the group that I am supposed to belong to, and opinions I am supposed to have, and they are caricatures of me and my friends who generally vote Democratic. They are not describing me any closer than left leaning pundits are describing my Republican friends when they talk about all Trump supporters being Racists.

    The thing is, all this is happening at the impersonal level. Those talking heads, left and right, are paid to make broad, over-reaching, academically authoritative statements. They are not paid to be thoughtful and nuanced and to dig deeper than the talking points, because a majority of people get bored with that. If that is what most of us wanted, we would all be watching PBS News Hour or BBC News, and Fox, CNN, and MSNBC would be changing their formats. So we watch the talking heads, read the clickbait articles, and get mad. We take our anger out on each other on Twitter and it comments sections, and then the anger of a small group of people suddenly becomes The Opinion of all people who might somewhat belong to a group whose membership has been imposed from the outside. (I hope that makes sense!)

    I stopped watching cable news years ago and I feel my life is better for it. I don’t feel less informed, but I feel less pigeonholed and outraged. I want to connect with all people on a human level, but I find that harder to do when I am not, in fact, in the room with them. When commenting somewhere, I do give people the benefit of the doubt, but if they don’t reciprocate, I also recognize how hard that can be with a stranger online. I can get angry when I see an unfair characterization of The Libs, but it serves no purpose to get into a virtual shouting match.

    This got waaay longer than I intended! I guess my point is, don’t stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. Keep engaging on a human level. For all the people who refuse to reciprocate, there will always be a few who will be thankful you stayed human and resisted the urge to mimic the talking heads on TV.

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  11. For the record-
    I actually think very highly of everyone who comments on this site, the conservatives included. I don’t think any of them have align ulterior motives regarding race.

    But see, it almost doesn’t matter.
    The political faction that holds the federal government and most of the states is also comprised of mostly good people, who propose and enact policies that are causing actual harm, tremendous suffering to very real people.

    When I accuse this faction of racism, it isn’t so signal, or score debating points, its to state clearly that what is happening is a monstrous wrong, on par with Jim Crow or Manzanar or the turning away of the St. Louis.

    The idea that somewhere out there, hovering in the intellectual ether, exists some Respectable Conservatism is a red herring, like interrupting a discussion of Stalin’s cruelty by insisting that I am only defending True Socialism.

    If someone wants to align themselves with that Respectable Conservatism, fine, but don’t step into the line of fire we are directing at the political faction that calls itself American Conservatism.

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    • If someone wants to align themselves with that Respectable Conservatism, fine, but don’t step into the line of fire we are directing at the political faction that calls itself American Conservatism.

      Chip – I hate to tell you this man, but those people are probably not reading the comments on this site. You’ve been snarking about Trumpers on this entire comment thread while the conservatives are repeatedly saying, “That ain’t me.” So what are you trying to accomplish?

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  12. Mike,
    Nice to see a reiteration of a point you and i have long discussed. As you well know I do try to engage my fellow Americans who are conservatives, but lately I am struck by several observations:

    1.) You, and many others, seem to miss the larger points about Kavanaugh. What you are seeing play out is Democrats trying to overcome their legacy against Anita Hill, AND sticking it Republicans for Merrick Garland. McConnell has no one to blame for the latter but himself, especially since he seems intent on proceeding to a vote no matter what. While the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are serious, and growing in number, Mr. McConnell’s failure to hold a hearing on Judge Garland, much less a floor vote, was and remains despicable. Democrats have finally found a way to make him eat crow on the matter. Many of them, by doing so, hope to erase the stain that was not better supporting Professor Hill – though most of the current Democratic members of the committee were not in the Senate the time.

    2.) Many of us on the liberal side of the aisle can indeed describe the positions of our conservative opposition. We do so in what we see as real world fashion, where we ignore the lipstick and call the thing a pig when warranted. This seems to give a great many conservatives heartburn, and while i have sympathy for that position, I don’t see why liberals should stop doing so. As but one example, I currently find myself on the outs with a conservative uncle of mine for A) calling him for a less then compassionate response to Dr. Ford and B) refusing to say that Mr. Trump is my president (as he claims he did with Clinton and Obama etc). The second of those two things is, frankly, the most difficult for me, because while Mr. Trump is the President ( and therefore my boss as a Fed), he is not MY president. Mr Obama was not MY President, Nor was Mr. Bush, nor was Mr Clinton. I no more own the President then you do, but that sort of realism seems lost on so many on the right. Which leads to the third issue . . .

    3.) Even when the Left tries to debate policies on the presented merits, we are told we don’t understand, we aren’t patriotic, we had our 8 years under Mr. Obama and now the country needs to recover form the disaster etc. As you noted above there are a slew of prior policies – which have increasingly become aligned with the Republican Party – that preserve or seek to preserve institutional racism. yet to say that those policies (especially when focused on economic or law enforcement issues) are racist is often met with the “we endured Obama” defense, or with silence. The former I don’t understand in any context other then racism since Mr. Obama was handed the Great Recession and drove the country out of it as best he could; the later prevents engagement. So too, frankly, do the bumper stickers one sees in my part of the south proclaiming that liberalism is a mental illness.

    I don’t expect you to have many or all of the answers – you can no more really speak for other conservatives then I can for other liberals. I do think, however, that continued engagement with people who refuse to engage, who refuse to understand the history of their own arguments, and who accuse me of mental illness because i disagree with them is a fools errand.

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    • While the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are serious, and growing in number, Mr. McConnell’s failure to hold a hearing on Judge Garland, much less a floor vote, was and remains despicable.

      I know a lot of libs think this way, and I want to be sympathetic, but it just doesn’t hold up. I’ve tried to get some libs on this site to give a nuts-and-bolts justification for this that holds up, ie the part about McConnell not bringing up the nomination of Merrick Garland (including a couple lawyers IIRC) but nobody could. You’re welcome to try if you’d like.

      B) refusing to say that Mr. Trump is my president (as he claims he did with Clinton and Obama etc).

      Even when the Left tries to debate policies on the presented merits, we are told we don’t understand, we aren’t patriotic, we had our 8 years under Mr. Obama and now the country needs to recover form the disaster etc.

      I’d like to be sympathetic with this as well, but you’re making things hard for yourself with your other comment above. A lot of libs share this train of thought without thinking very much about how denying that Donald Trump is their President would reflect against their patriotism which seems very obvious to me.

      Btw, your uncle is just as wrong for saying the same about Mr Obama during his period of office. fwiw.

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    • Phillip – I have trouble with the whole notion that all of the theater surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination is justified because of Democratic shortcomings with Anita Hill and what McConnell pulled on Garland. I have never subscribed to two wrongs making a right and I can’t here. The whole way this rolled out stinks and the fact that Democrats timed this in the way they did just proves why I am an Independent. We need to clean out a lot of dead wood from Congress and start fresh.

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      • I don’t know if Anita Hill is a justification per se, but it motivates a fair amount of the interest that the Democratic base has in seeing things handled differently with Ford and Kavanaugh. Less two wrongs making a right than righting a past wrong in their (OK, who am I kidding, my) perspective.

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        • To be clear, I don’t think that Kavanaugh should be blocked just because of how Hill was treated.

          But I do want to see a more thorough and fairer process. I think Kavanaugh is probably guilty of the conduct that Ford described, but if that can’t be established in the hearings, that is how these things go.

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          • But I do want to see a more thorough and fairer process. I think Kavanaugh is probably guilty of the conduct that Ford described, but if that can’t be established in the hearings, that is how these things go.

            What in particular is your complaint about the process? Kavanaugh was nominated 10 weeks ago. He has already been investigated by the FBI several times, including one for this nomination which finished some time ago.

            One thing that’s clear to me, that I haven’t seen anyone left-of-center acknowledge, or even understand internally, is that all the accusations against Kavanaugh were initiated in such a way as to avoid the usual FBI investigative process. It’s comical for me at least that the libs want an FBI investigation for something that would have been investigated by the FBI as a matter if Sen Feinstein referred the matter to the bureau in a timely manner.

            Libs should feel shame and embarrassment at circus-like nature of this nomination process, which is completely a consequence of their actions. Among other things, if the FBI had investigated these allegations based on the facts we have now, the Democrats would not even be trying to discredit Kavanaugh with them.

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              • The refusal to subpoena Mark Judge and Ed Whelan.

                As you might imagine, I don’t feel very much sympathy for this. But if I did, it would still be pretty small beer. It’s difficult for me to see otherwise.

                Again, the Republicans are the majority, they set the calendar. Sen McConnell sets the calendar for the Senate, Sen Grassley sets the calendar for the Judiciary Committee. And in this case, I think it’s difficult to say that their decisions have been rash or abusive.

                In fact, it’s much easier to see, for me at least, how the minority has abused, in multiple incidents and in multiple ways, the leeway it’s been granted. Do you disagree on this part?

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      • Phillip – I have trouble with the whole notion that all of the theater surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination is justified because of Democratic shortcomings with Anita Hill and what McConnell pulled on Garland. I have never subscribed to two wrongs making a right and I can’t here. The whole way this rolled out stinks and the fact that Democrats timed this in the way they did just proves why I am an Independent. We need to clean out a lot of dead wood from Congress and start fresh.

        It’s hard for me to see the conclusion from this line of argument. It seems easier to think that we should just vote Republican in repudiation of the Democratic theater surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination (assuming that such theater is a bad thing that the Democrats are responsible for, which seem to be fair enough assumptions in your case).

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      • Mike, when Mr. McConnell stated in 2010 that his prime objective in leading Republicans in the Senate was to be the party of No to Mr. Obama he set the stage for this theatre. He exacerbated it with his childish and hyperpartisan denial of Merrick Garland’s hearings. he could easily have held hearings, and then the party line vote would have killed the nomination. But he didn’t. I wasn’t at all happy then with Democrats “Oh well” response (it put too much faith in a Hillary Clinton election I was never sure would transpire). But to say these two things aren’t linked is, frankly, to perpetuate willful ignorance. I expect better of you.

        I agree the way this was rolled out stinks, but Sen. Feinstien is probably being truthful in that she was trying to protect Dr. Ford from the character assassination and death threats she is now receiving. Given the fact that the FBI can’t reopen a background investigation absent a formal request from the White House – and one does not seem forthcoming – Her only earlier recourse would have been to question Mr. Kavanagh about this in his initial hearing. Has she done so (and I wish she would) there would have been more howls from the Right, but the process would still be played out as an attempt by Mr McConnell to ram Mr. Kavanaugh through. Frankly the very real (and under reported) accusations of perjury lodged against Mr. Kavanaugh by staff of the D.C. Circuit should have been enough to grind this to a halt, but no one seems to even have noticed.

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  13. I really liked this post Mike, and thanks for writing it. Even though I think I agree with some of Maribou’s points about certainty sometimes being necessary or effective,* overall I think understanding is the way to go. Not that I always succeed at doing it or even wanting to do it.

    In fact, and speaking only for myself, the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t try nearly so hard to understand others’ positions. That in part is due to me sometimes thinking I’m a “liberal” and therefore understand the “liberal” position on things. I’m probably not a liberal anymore, even though most of my policy preferences would seem to mark me as one. Therefore, I probably need to read and engage more liberals than I do.

    About the Kavanugh thing, I don’t know what to make of it. I also don’t know what to make of making someone answer for something they did in high school (assuming they did do it) 25 years ago. To be clear, I’m not 100% primed to say it shouldn’t be used against him during these proceedings or that he needn’t answer for it in other ways (assuming he did what he’s accused of, of course).

    *I admit I got kind of lost in the “if A and B, then C” discussion.

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    • About the Kavanugh thing, I don’t know what to make of it. I also don’t know what to make of making someone answer for something they did in high school (assuming they did do it) 25 years ago. To be clear, I’m not 100% primed to say it shouldn’t be used against him during these proceedings or that he needn’t answer for it in other ways (assuming he did what he’s accused of, of course).

      What do you make of Bill Cosby’s conviction for similar crimes decades after they happen? Is that somehow less important then a lifetime appointment to SCOTUS?

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      • I really hate to parse out degrees of guilt but… Cosby was an adult and is accused of drugging and raping women. Kavanaugh was a minor and is accused of groping a girl through her clothing. Even the allegations that came out this morning simply accuse of him of ‘being present’ at a party where gang rape was allegedly taking place. It feels like grasping at straws in many ways.

        With that said, Penelope Trunk details a bunch of shady/creepy stuff that Kavanaugh is reportedly linked to in more recent years. Why not focus on that instead of the other stuff? I’ll answer my own question: Democrats are leveraging the #metoo movement and using thin evidence from 30+ years ago to stop this process and gain points in an election year.

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        • Kavanaugh was a minor and is accused of groping a girl through her clothing.

          This is so painful. He was not accused of groping a girl through her clothing. Full stop.

          He was accused of dragging a girl into a room, where he friend was laughing, throwing her on the bed, climbing on top of her, putting his hand over her mouth, and trying to rip her clothing off. His friend jumped on them, and she was able to break free.

          That is what he is accused of by Dr. Ford.

          There are others now; specifically of spiking drinks and gang rape.

          I really suggest you read this: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-says-toxic-masculinity-more-than-alcohol-leads-to-sexual-assault/

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          • Rebecca,

            Let’s say Kavanaugh responded that he thought she was giving him signs that she wanted to fool around, so he ‘playfully’ dragged her into a room and started trying to take her clothes off, but then she said No – so he stopped. Is that assault?

            And the thing from this morning… Spiking the punch does not mean nefarious intent. And if he was knew people were being gang raped and stayed, yes, that looks very bad. But didn’t the woman that reported this also stay at the party? Isn’t she actually accusing him of the same thing she did?

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            • Isn’t she actually accusing him of the same thing she did?

              You actually wrote that? And meant it? Because you are implying that she is an accessory to gang rape – which she stated in her affidavit she was a victim of.

              Man, I have never lost respect for you until now. That was so beneath you as to not be even remotely funny.

              Let’s say Kavanaugh responded that he thought she was giving him signs that she wanted to fool around, so he ‘playfully’ dragged her into a room and started trying to take her clothes off, but then she said No – so he stopped. Is that assault?

              That’s a hypothetical that Dr. Ford states is NOT what happened. He dragged her in, pinned her down and covered her mouth. That’s NOT playful or a “misunderstanding.” That you would seek to dismiss it is bad enough but with the above . . . Why are you working so hard to defend this guy?

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              • What I am saying is that she accuses him of being ‘present’ when there was a line of men gang raping a girl. But wasn’t she also ‘present’? She says she observed him spiking drinks and implies nefarious intent. If she knew this was the plan, why didn’t she do something? Her entire story contends that she was regularly attending parties where women were drugged/plied with alcohol and raped and then claims Kavanaugh was more bad for doing the same thing. I don’t understand that line of logic.

                And the reason i asked about Ford is that, absent the hand over mouth claim, does this cross the line if it was an honest mistake? I mean, unless every male participating in this conversation has asked permission before every sexual encounter they have had…aren’t we guilty of the same thing?

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                • And the reason i asked about Ford is that, absent the hand over mouth claim, does this cross the line if it was an honest mistake? I mean, unless every male participating in this conversation has asked permission before every sexual encounter they have had…aren’t we guilty of the same thing?

                  Mike – stop trading in hypotheticals. There is no “absent his hand over her mouth” in this instance. She has said that’s what happened. Which means she sees it as a violation in that he was trying to use his power physically and probably socially to get his way sexually. I’m not guilty of using force to create a sexual encounter, nor have I ever tried to cover a woman’s mouth so she won’t scream. I suspect neither did you.

                  What I am saying is that she accuses him of being ‘present’ when there was a line of men gang raping a girl. But wasn’t she also ‘present’? She says she observed him spiking drinks and implies nefarious intent. If she knew this was the plan, why didn’t she do something? Her entire story contends that she was regularly attending parties where women were drugged/plied with alcohol and raped and then claims Kavanaugh was more bad for doing the same thing. I don’t understand that line of logic.

                  And as a white male in our society you probably never will. You also won’t face the disbelief, denial and shaming that women face for reporting such things. You won’t face having your wardrobe or your walk or your makeup derided. You won’t be expected to resist male urges instead of being able to insist males control themselves. You won’t face the real and perceived power imbalances that come from being a woman. Sam’s piece on Nassar makes it clear why young women don’t do anything. And in that part of the 1980’s in that social scene it would have been even worse.

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                  • I’m not guilty of using force to create a sexual encounter…

                    Would every woman you have been with confirm that? Just being a strong mail with a smaller woman could be considered intimidation, right? And force isn’t just physical. It could be coercion. It could be peer pressure. Etc, etc.

                    …nor have I ever tried to cover a woman’s mouth so she won’t scream. I suspect neither did you.

                    I have never been much of a drinker, but if I was ‘stumbling drunk’ I’m not sure I could account for what my hands were doing at all times. And that is my point. He was a child and plastered by Ford’s own admission. We also don’t even know how much she was drinking. This entire thing is ultimately based on the placement of his hand and the assumption of ill intent…right?

                    And with regards to reporting the goings on at that party… #1 she could have at the very least stopped attending. #2 Are we sure that Kavanaugh didn’t also feel peer pressure to keep his mouth shut? Is his obligation more than hers? We have all looked the other way on questionable behavior from our friends at one time or another.

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                    • Unfortunately, I can’t decide whether this defense of Kavanaugh is more irrelevant or disgusting.

                      If his story was along the lines you are inventing to excuse him, perhaps we could discuss whether it was an honest misunderstanding. Instead, you are inventing a story no one is telling to dismiss the story someone is staking her reputation and safety on. Why?

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                      • Further to this, here’s her statement (which you should read in full and not omit any part of in describing her allegations).

                        This is not the imagined alternate statement you are attempting to defend. Instead it is graphic and unmistakeable.

                        When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom.
                        I couldn’t see who pushed me.
                        Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.

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            • “Is that assault?”

              If she didn’t want to be “playfully dragged”, then yes. Next question. I’m a larger guy in my 30’s and I’d freak out if the same thing happened to me that Ford is saying to her, let alone if I was a relatively sheltered teenager probably half the size.

              “Isn’t she actually accusing him of the same thing she did?”

              If she’s nominated by Kristen Gillibrand or Kamala Harris to the Supreme Court, then we can talk about that, then.

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            • She’s not just saying he was present where these things were done, she’s saying
              – he specifically targeted girls for rape
              – he stood in line outside a room where someone was being raped, in order to be next to rape them

              Besides which, even if it were a fellow rapist accusing Kavanaugh – so? Does that mean we throw out the accusation because it came tied to a confession? I mean, (in that counterfactual) that would be basically someone willing to throw themselves on the pyre to sound the alarm, doesn’t that carry some added credibility?

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                • And if she was also there and didn’t report…why? Did she feel intimidated? Peer pressure? Why did she keep attending these parties?

                  Please tell me you are trolling us? Because – yes she felt intimidated, probably even threatened. She also probably felt shamed at her own inability to prevent her rape. And had she withdrawn it likely would have had serious social consequences beyond peer pressure.

                  And that I have to explain this to you man to man is very disheartening. You have a daughter. I would think you already understood all this. It still plays out today.

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                    • Mike.

                      The affidavit includes the assertion that he stood in line at a door for it to be his turn to rape someone.

                      That cannot be brushed off by saying he stuck around at the party out of fear of social opprobrium. He is not accused of having stuck around at a party, he is accused of participating in a gang rape.

                      Please stop pretending Swetnick’s affidavit does not contain the things it contains. I don’t know why you’re straw-manning the affidavit as you are, but it doesn’t look good on you.

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                        • Her affidavit had “written by a lawyer” all over it. It was carefully worded to avoid easily attacked assumptions. She was not in the room seeing him participate in a gang rape, but she saw him in line for the room where one was happening. A conclusory statement that “I saw him participate in a gang rape” would be picked apart so it was very specific as to what she could confirm. As to her own attack, I read it as not accusing him and Judge of participating, but just that they were “present”, which could mean in the building or in the room.
                          Avenatti may be kinda sleazy but he’s no dumb attorney. Every word is carefully chosen to maximize impact while remaining defensible.

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                • The specific allegation is that he intentionally put drugs in girl’s drinks (punch) so that they could not say no, could not resist, being sexually assaulted.

                  It’s a lot easier for a bunch of guys to follow through on a chick on ‘ludes than it is for someone who’s actively resisting.

                  Again, that’s the specific allegation, and it alleges a pre-planned gang rape.

                  The excuses you’re making are painful, an example of presumed innocence run amok. Very specific things have been alleged, repeating them as something else, something not-so-bad, is the very foundation of how presumed innocence contributes to a culture where sexual assault and harassment thrive.

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                    • You can WTF all you want but it won’t change that that HAPPENS and it happens all the time. Dissociation is one of the most common responses to sexual assaults and rapes, especially but not only when they occur in shared social settings with positional differentials, and dissociation often leads to very WTF behavior on the part of the assaulted.

                      You not knowing that isn’t you making a choice that is better or more cautious or more wise or even more interesting than people who do know that, it’s you keeping denying something that’s been known across mutliple disciplines and through enormous amounts of lived experience for a long long time. It’s just that it’s only in the last few years that anyone has been able to push through the whole Denial of Guilt business in sufficient numbers to confront society with what that knowledge *means*.

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                      • I will add, since folks have said they don’t understand why you would do this given that you have daughters – to me that is a very understandable response, more so because of your daughters. (And, I’m not saying you respond this way because of your daughters, just that if you did I would understand it.)

                        If I put myself in the place of one of my young nieces, and imagine them going through the things I and the adults (mostly but not exclusively women and feminine men) I know who have been assaulted and/or raped have gone through, I absolutely would love to deny that those things could possibly have happened and to believe in the possibility of as many rapists and assaulters being innocent as I could. Not even being SURE they were, but just leaving the door open that they could be, that all of this might not be true.

                        Because the alternative, that it is this common, that it is this likely, that it is this pervasive, is terrifying and heartbreaking. I would also much rather it was not so common and likely and pervasive, especially when I look at the 20 year olds I know and contemplate how little has changed in this arena since I was their age, even given all the things we tried to make it better (some of which actually did help SOME, but)….

                        I don’t want this to be the world my nieces are going to step into any day now (if they haven’t, unbeknownst to me, already — and I don’t want to think that, I want to think their parents’ clear-eyed badassery on this topic would protect them at least until they hit puberty, but I know it’s possible I wouldn’t know, if I were wrong about that). I would give *a lot* to make that not happen. And I think that you too, and a lot of commenters on here, would give a lot to make that not happen.

                        But not being willing to imagine that it *could* happen – using typical features of real sexual assaults as reasons to disbelieve in and be suspicious of ones that you don’t know if they’re real or not – is not going to get us any closer to that day when it doesn’t happen.

                        Not one step closer.

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                        • But what might bring that day forward is parents like many of my friends. One friend in Florida, when his daughter went of to college, got her a Sig Sauer P320 9mm and made sure she could use it flawlessly. Last month we ran eleven junior high girls through a week of pretty intense, but fun, combat and survival scenarios with top of the line laser rifles good to 200 yards.

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                          • The idea that knowing how to shoot is going to magically protect women is another mistake.

                            I was taught to handle a gun and to defend myself by the same person who abused me. Taught to do so skillfully.
                            I used to be a fair target shooter, when I was forced to shoot. Some of the time, he got off on the self-defense lessons because it meant putting himself in positions where he could physically dominate and hurt me. But he taught me correctly and I have the skills, could I bring myself to use them.

                            I could shoot any rapist if I were willing to handle a gun. But I won’t allow ammo in my house because my memories of abuse are too tied up with someone who owned one and used it as a threat.

                            Many many women are abused who are also completely self-confident outside the realm of the person / context where they are abused. Women cops, women firefighters, women hunters, get raped and assaulted by men they can’t bring themselves to kill for reasons of love, fear, or even more complicated stews than that. Most women in this country are harmed by people they know who are in positions of trust, not by stranger danger.

                            So, no, I really doubt your proposed solution will be all that much help.

                            That said, if the girls’ parents are upright people who encourage the girls to tell them the truth about everything that happens in their lives, even situations where they think their parents might be disappointed in or ashamed of them…. that their parents are, fundamentally, safe and strong people who see the truth of the world around them and aren’t in denial about it…. that their parents will fight to protect them and to protect their friends, and will have their backs if and when they ever need to stand up for themselves…

                            Yeah, that might make the day come faster, if more people are like that, regardless of whether said people are teaching each other to use guns, or not.

                            The problem is with what society will accept about reality, not with how violent or not victims’ responses are.

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      • H

        On the question of Cosby specifically, he was tried and found by a jury of his peers for a crime which he was accused of committing while he was an adult and for which the statute of limitations hadn’t expired.

        Now, a potentially more apt comparison might be if Cosby had been nominated for the Supreme Court. If the only allegation that had been brought against him was something he did when he was 17, I’m not so sure it should be the reason not to vote him in. I’d have to consider other things. By saying “I’m not so sure,” I mean I can be persuaded that even that thing by itself could disqualify someone. As I said, in the part of my comment you quoted, ” I’m not 100% primed to say [the allegation] shouldn’t be used against [Kavanaugh] during these proceedings or that he needn’t answer for it in other ways.”

        Mike, in his answer, mentions other, more recent accusations against Kavanaugh.I hadn’t known about those, and those allegations, if true, sway my opinion more in the direction that it’s a reason not to vote for him.

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        • I don’t understand the “but he was in High School” defense precisely because he isn’t making it. If that was his defense, we could talk about it. Instead, however, if this happened he’s lying now. And lying now is an adult thing we shouldn’t accept in a Supreme Court justice even in a world we we excuse attempted- or honest-to-god-rape on the grounds that he was a teenager.

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          • If he is not making that defense, then I guess I shouldn’t raise my concern, but I want to repeat that I’m not saying it’s a defense. I’m open to making someone answer for what they did when they were in high school. I was musing on whether and to what extent we should do so. I’m not making a blanket statement that we should excuse it. If it sounded like I did, then I renounce that interpretation of what I was saying.

            And I agree that if he knowingly lies about what happened, then yes, we shouldn’t accept him as a supreme court justice.

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            • That comment probably came off as overly terse, and I apologize. Truth is, I haven’t been following this very much and outside of what I’ve read at OT in this post, in Em’s post, and a couple others, don’t know what defenses he’s mounting or what the latest developments are. I raised my “musings” in ignorance and while I still hold to those as musings, I suppose this isn’t the right forum to air them.

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              • Quite frankly, if he’s *unknowingly* lying about what happened, given what is said to have happened, that doesn’t suggest he’d make an acceptable Supreme Court justice either, at least not without several years of therapy first.

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                • You’re right. I define lying as something willful and therefore something that can’t be done “unknowingly.” In my comment, I departed from that definition and was therefore being inconsistent with my own understanding of the term. I was wrong and I shouldn’t have said that.

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            • Fair enough. I do get the instinct, and it’s an important/valid one (particularly as people in the social networking age start to age into “old people” jobs like this).

              I just think it’s an important/valid instinct that doesn’t apply in this setting precisely because Kavanaugh has chosen the “I never did any of the things I’m accused of” defense (along with the “I was a virgin” and “I didn’t drink much” defenses), which is either true and a complete exoneration, or not true and proof that as an adult he should not sit on the Supreme Court.

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          • I don’t understand the “but he was in High School” defense precisely because he isn’t making it. If that was his defense, we could talk about it. Instead, however, if this happened he’s lying now.

            Exactly right. Kavanaugh has consistently *denied* that he engaged in any sexually inappropriate behavior in high school, in college or beyond. Yet his defenders in the Senate, almost to a person, have been arguing that HS transgressions shouldn’t disqualify him from being seated on SCOTUS. By conceding that the claims against Kav have merit they’re making an argument that he’s a liar. Which is a bizarre way to defend his character and integrity.

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    • My point was that certainty is how we tend to write, and that there are also situations in which certainty is called for. It’s also the case that uncertainty on one thing tends to be underpinned by unspoken certainties about other things.

      Basically that speaking as if things are true is not something we as humans can get away from very often, nor should we expect each other to do so, as is perhaps proved by the fact that this post itself is not taking an open-ended consider-all-sides-of-the-question stance.

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      • I agree with your first sentence, although my agreement might hinge on how much you (not you, but the generic you) can say “we” “tend” to write (or speak)* that way. While I do tend to write (and speak) that way a lot of the time, maybe more than I realize, I find much of what I say and write plagued by a sense of uncertainty. Maybe that’s a quirk of my own.

        I agree with your second sentence.

        I’m not sure yet if I agree fully with your last sentence. But it seems to make sense. I certainly believe it’s always or almost always impossible to take a true and complete “open-ended consider-all-sides-of-the-question stance.”

        *Apologies if your point were focused more specifically on writing over speaking. I can see a distinction, but I took you to be referring to speaking as well as writing.

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  14. Koz: I know a lot of libs think this way, and I want to be sympathetic, but it just doesn’t hold up. I’ve tried to get some libs on this site to give a nuts-and-bolts justification for this that holds up, ie the part about McConnell not bringing up the nomination of Merrick Garland (including a couple lawyers IIRC) but nobody could. You’re welcome to try if you’d like.

    I’d like to be sympathetic with this as well, but you’re making things hard for yourself with your other comment above. A lot of libs share this train of thought without thinking very much about how denying that Donald Trump is their President would reflect against their patriotism which seems very obvious to me.

    Btw, your uncle is just as wrong for saying the same about Mr Obama during his period of office. fwiw.

    Not sure what you want RE nuts and bolts, but the historical fact is that the Constitution allows a sitting President at any time to nominate a replacement for a SCOUTS Justice, with the advice and consent of the Senate. When Mr. Scalia died Mr. Obama nominated Mr. Garland, who had been advised and consented by the Senate previously to the federal bench with bipartisan support. The historical record then shows us that Mr. Garland was denied formal committee hearings and a floor vote ( the advice and consent part) by Mr. McConnell under the ruse that we were too close to an election and the people needed be allowed to speak through that election BEFORE another Justice could be seated. Here we now have Mr. McConnell refusing to actively and properly investigate serious charges being brought against a nominee who was put up less then 4 months before an election, and attempting to force through the vote on that nominee before the people have a chance to weigh in through the electoral process. Leaving aside the need to actually verify whether the allegations are true, the process smacks of hyper partnership and hypocrisy.

    You also seem – as does my uncle – to confuse statements about Mr. Trump being President (which I fully acknowledge) with claims of owner ship (which the phrase “my President” implies). I agree completely that legally Mr. Trump is President, and entitled to run his administration as he sees fit within the bounds of the law. I also believe that my patriotic duty requires criticism of him when I believe he fails, just as my patriotic duty required my criticism of Mr. Obama (as Mike knows well I have done). And I have presented this argument this way to many conservatives for along time, my uncle included. Not claiming ownership of the President makes me no less a patriot.

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    • Not sure what you want RE nuts and bolts, but the historical fact is that the Constitution allows a sitting President at any time to nominate a replacement for a SCOUTS Justice, with the advice and consent of the Senate. When Mr. Scalia died Mr. Obama nominated Mr. Garland, who had been advised and consented by the Senate previously to the federal bench with bipartisan support. The historical record then shows us that Mr. Garland was denied formal committee hearings and a floor vote ( the advice and consent part) by Mr. McConnell under the ruse that we were too close to an election and the people needed be allowed to speak through that election BEFORE another Justice could be seated.

      That’s right, there was no hearings or vote for Garland, there was no consent from the Senate, therefore there is no Justice Garland.

      Now, my question is, how is that nomination supposed to be handled differently? It is routine for the Senate (or individual Senators) to create meaningful personnel or policy leverage for themselves by refusing to confirm Presidential nominees for this or that (authorized under the same part of the Constitution). In fact, it’s basically the most meaningful power they have left.

      So what is special about Merrick Garland?

      For at least several decades, the expectation regarding judicial nominees and most other nominees for that matter, was that if the person is qualified, in general he should be confirmed (usually with substantial or overwhelming support by both parties), unless there are substantial personal or policy issues preventing that. Clearly, as a norm that was weakened in the case of Robert Bork, it’s been getting weaker ever since. Clearly, the Democrats have refused to consider themselves bound by that in consideration of Gorsuch or Kavanaugh.

      Some libs, maybe you, have implicitly tried to argue that there is a norm specifically centered around hearings. In any case, I’ve never seen an explicit case to that effect, and I don’t think it would be historically credible if there were such an argument.

      As far as the timing goes, that Sen McConnell waited 9 months after Scalia died where as Kavanaugh will likely get a vote within four months of Justice Kennedy’s retirement. Well yeah, that’s a legitimate exercise of Sen McConnell’s discretionary power as Majority Leader of the US Senate, just as it was a legitimate exercise of President Obama’s powers to nominate Merrick Garland in lieu of Brett Kavanaugh in the first place.

      Again, what in particular is special about Merrick Garland?

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      • Again, what in particular is special about Merrick Garland?

        He was denied a process based on alleged electoral politics that Republicans are busting a nut trying to protect for Mr. Kavanaugh. And on the basis of nothing more then a multi-year stated desire by Republicans to prevent Mr. Obama from doing anything as President. I seriously doubt you would support Democrats doing that to Republican President. Nor have they.

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        • He was denied a process based on alleged electoral politics that Republicans are busting a nut trying to protect for Mr. Kavanaugh.

          This isn’t quite coherent. It’s not exactly clear what “based on” electoral politics is supposed to mean here.

          What’s more clear is that Sen McConnell and the Republican Senators acted that way as a result of electoral politics. To wit, as the result of being elected a majority, they controlled the calendar, and they used that control to deny Merrick Garland a seat on the Supreme Court.

          If we don’t believe that they have some obligation to support Mr Garland, it’s hard to see why that particular exercise of control is a bad thing.

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  15. Koz: What in particular is your complaint about the process? Kavanaugh was nominated 10 weeks ago. He has already been investigated by the FBI several times, including one for this nomination which finished some time ago.

    Yes he was, and either they failed miserably to do their job, or certain things they uncovered by the check have been ignored by the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are also credible and uninvestigated claims that he perjured himself both in this testimony and his prior confirmation hearings relating to his relationships with other judges as well as his receipt of stolen materials from Democratic senate staff. No one is concentrating on those allegations, and they deserve no less investigation.

    One thing that’s clear to me, that I haven’t seen anyone left-of-center acknowledge, or even understand internally, is that all the accusations against Kavanaugh were initiated in such a way as to avoid the usual FBI investigative process. It’s comical for me at least that the libs want an FBI investigation for something that would have been investigated by the FBI as a matter if Sen Feinstein referred the matter to the bureau in a timely manner.

    If the Reporting is Accurate, Sen. Feinstein became aware of Dr. Ford’s allegations in July. Its now mid- September. I’m not sure what you find untimely about that. None the less even had Sen. Feinstein reported this to the FBI immediately, they had closed their investigation by that point and absent a request from the White House can not legally reopen it. Last I checked, the White House is not doing anything Democratic Senators ask for.

    Libs should feel shame and embarrassment at circus-like nature of this nomination process, which is completely a consequence of their actions. Among other things, if the FBI had investigated these allegations based on the facts we have now, the Democrats would not even be trying to discredit Kavanaugh with them.

    Conservatives should feel shame and embarrassment that their claimed Party has a multi-decade track record of allegedly supporting both law and order and a strict interpretation of the Constitution and yet refused to even hold hearings on Mr. Garland. They should also feel shame and embarrassment that the current Administration has exerted Executive Privilege over the writings and papers of Mr. Kavanaugh from his work in the Bush Administration, thus denying both the Judiciary Committee and the American People a real chance to actually advise and consent on Mr. Kavanaugh.

    Had the FBI included this in their report to the Adminsitration I am quite sure Democrats would have used it int he hearings, as these allegations speak both to Mr. Kavanaugh’s moral fitness for our highest court, and to his truthfulness in answering questions about how he might approach cases dealing with woman’s right.

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    • Uhm…

      Sept. 12
      Feinstein sends Ford’s letter to the FBI after several days of rumors about its existence leaking out from Democratic senators. The bureau puts the letter in Kavanaugh’s background check file but does not launch a criminal investigation, in part because the statute of limitations on the alleged sexual assault expired years earlier.

      If DiFi didn’t send the letter until AFTER the hearings (Sept 4-7), but Ford sent it in July (30th, so the end of the month.) The hearing was announced on Aug 10, where Dems complained about not getting time to read all of the Bush-era docs (which I agreed with them on). But, according to you, DiFi knew in July (prob. in August in reality) but Dems didn’t ask about it then. So, it looks like Koz has a pretty good point in the probability of anything solid having come up in an FBI investigation. The fact that D’s weren’t jumping all over this makes it seem more like a hail mary in the end-zone to me, and indeed, as the Republicans have a hearing scheduled it looks like they are taking this seriously.

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    • Yes he was, and either they failed miserably to do their job, or certain things they uncovered by the check have been ignored by the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

      That’s not true based on the substantiation of the accusations against Mr Kavanaugh so far. Based on what we’ve seen, there’s no credible reason at all to believe the Mr Kavanaugh has ever committed any meaningful acts of sexual misconduct. The current question is whether we should extend the nomination so as to give Mr Kavanaugh’s ideological adversaries the opportunity to substantiate them. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t.

      I’m not sure what you find untimely about that. None the less even had Sen. Feinstein reported this to the FBI immediately, they had closed their investigation by that point and absent a request from the White House can not legally reopen it. Last I checked, the White House is not doing anything Democratic Senators ask for.

      Right, but if that had happened, the FBI could have reopened their background investigation without interrupting the schedule of consideration for the nominee.

      And contrary to your other comment, if the state of the facts then (after an amended background check) were the state of the facts now, the Democrats would have no use for them. They have actual reputations to protect and voters to be accountable to. Sleazy freelancers like Avenatti can barter in sleaze, as he is, which is why people like him are supposed to be kept away from the nomination process.

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      • Based on what we’ve seen, there’s no credible reason at all to believe the Mr Kavanaugh has ever committed any meaningful acts of sexual misconduct.

        So you don’t believe these women?

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        • That’s a point that is lost, perhaps owing to most people not being lawyers. They keep saying “there’s no evidence”. Well, that’s not true. Testimony is evidence. A trier of fact is tasked with weighing the credibility and can base a verdict on testimony alone. It happens all the time.

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          • Em Carpenter: That’s a point that is lost, perhaps owing to most people not being lawyers. They keep saying “there’s no evidence”. Well, that’s not true. Testimony is evidence. A trier of fact is tasked with weighing the credibility and can base a verdict on testimony alone. It happens all the time.

            Agreed. And as time goes on there is also mounting evidence that Dr. Ford’s testimony could be corroborated through other witnesses should the Judiciary Committee choose to do so. Republicans however seem hell bent on not choosing to do so.

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              • If she told her story under oath, there would be.

                Well yeah, but as things stand right now, it’s unlikely that she’s going to.

                In fact, her machinations at avoiding testimony is a significant part of her lack of credibility.

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                • Koz: Well yeah, but as things stand right now, it’s unlikely that she’s going to.

                  In fact, her machinations at avoiding testimony is a significant part of her lack of credibility.

                  You do know there’s a hearing scheduled for tomorrow where she will in fact testify under oath? Or do you think thats also a fabrication?

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                  • Well, tomorrow he’ll find another reason not to believe her. Give him time. To reveal today why he won’t believer her tomorrow would be a faux pas, like when the newspaper accidentally prints the election results before the polls are counted.

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                    • dragonfrog: Well, tomorrow he’ll find another reason not to believe her. Give him time. To reveal today why he won’t believer her tomorrow would be a faux pas, like when the newspaper accidentally prints the election results before the polls are counted.

                      You will notice that consideration didn’t stop Senator Graham.

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                    • To reveal today why he won’t believer her tomorrow would be a faux pas, like when the newspaper accidentally prints the election results before the polls are counted.

                      What are you talking about? I can tell you right now why she’s not credible. It’s because of the representations and machinations of her attorneys, who are not representing a forthright person.

                      In fact, I elaborated on that just a couple days ago on this very site.

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                      • I will also agree that the demands from Ford’s lawyers in the last few days has swung me more against Ford than previously. This paragraph is ridiculous:

                        “In our view, the hiring of an unnamed “experienced sex crimes prosecutor,” as Mr. Davis described in his email, is contrary to the Majority’s repeated emphasis on the need for the Senate and this Committee’s members to fulfill their constitutional obligations. It is also inconsistent with your stated wish to avoid a “circus,” as well as Dr. Blasey Ford’s repeated requests through counsel that senators conduct the questioning. This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate. Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial. The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case.”

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                        • This paragraph is ridiculous:

                          And it’s been this way for ten days, more or less. Her attorneys (and the libs in general) have tried to get some traction that Chuck Grassley is mean. That’s obviously bullshit, these developments have basically been drawn out in public, where it’s obvious to see that Chuck Grassley has been judicious and fair with this woman.

                          That said, the machinations of the attorneys is just the icing on the cake. It’s important to appreciate that the story itself is bullshit. That’s the cake, as it were. Like I wrote a few days ago, it’s completely plausible that she doesn’t remember everything. It’s not at all credible that she remembers nothing (and no other details have surfaced on her behalf).

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                  • You do know there’s a hearing scheduled for tomorrow where she will in fact testify under oath? Or do you think thats also a fabrication?

                    No, I don’t think she’s going to testify tomorrow. Among other things, she was in Palo Alto a few days ago, and supposedly she doesn’t fly, and she hasn’t made any meaningful progress towards Washington. I suspect she’ll be stuck in a Quality Inn in Salt Lake tomorrow. Oh, I guess I can’t testify, whattya gonna do?

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                    • Koz: No, I don’t think she’s going to testify tomorrow. Among other things, she was in Palo Alto a few days ago, and supposedly she doesn’t fly, and she hasn’t made any meaningful progress towards Washington. I suspect she’ll be stuck in a Quality Inn in Salt Lake tomorrow. Oh, I guess I can’t testify, whattya gonna do?

                      Considering she had to go into hiding because of death threats I seriously doubt you know anything about her whereabouts. Or her travel plans. And While I don’t expect much from you after today’s exchanges, I do hope that after she raises her right hand in the Senate Committee Room and agrees to tell the truth – you will at least publicly acknowledge that you go this wrong.

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                      • I do hope that after she raises her right hand in the Senate Committee Room and agrees to tell the truth – you will at least publicly acknowledge that you go[t] this wrong.

                        Of course I will, why wouldn’t I?

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        • So you don’t believe these women?

          I don’t believe Mrs Ford for sure. The others I haven’t looked at in any detail, except that everything I’ve read about them secondhand suggests they are even more ridiculous than Mrs Ford.

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          • If I’m Christine Ford and I’m fabricating this story of sexual assault, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to claim the presence of multiple witnesses, especially one who was best buds with the accused, knowing they won’t be able to corroborate. I say we were alone, nobody in the room with us. And I probably don’t stop with a mere thwarted attempt. If you’re gonna lie, may as well go all in.

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      • Right, but if that had happened, the FBI could have reopened their background investigation without interrupting the schedule of consideration for the nominee.

        According to numerous statements from the FBI, they can not legally reopen a close background check unless asked to do so by the White House. And since Republicans currently control the White House and the Senate they are choosing not to make that request.

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        • Yeah, that’s right. If, on the other hand this request were made eight weeks ago, the answer might be different. Or the Judiciary Committee could have investigated the matter themselves, either way placating the interest of Mrs Feinstein and the other Democrats.

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  16. Mike Dwyer: And the reason i asked about Ford is that, absent the hand over mouth claim, does this cross the line if it was an honest mistake? I mean, unless every male participating in this conversation has asked permission before every sexual encounter they have had…aren’t we guilty of the same thing?

    You mean a hand over her mouth and turning up the radio so no one could hear her if she did manage to scream was somehow an honest mistake? A simple misinterpretation that any man could be excused for making?

    If you can’t tell the difference between getting verbal assent at every step of a sexual encounter and forcing a woman who is struggling, trying to get away or yell for help… I don’t know what to say to you or if it’s even worth trying because as woman this hits me right in the gut as the same rape apologist excuses I’ve heard since I was teen in the 80s.

    I really liked this essay, but honestly if this is what you meant by exploring uncertainty I have lost any interest pursing that with you.

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    • I get that it sounds like I am defending Kavanaugh. I’m not. What I am ‘defending’ is his right to be presumed innocent until a lot more convincing evidence is brought forward (and as Em points out, Ford’s testimony tomorrow counts towards that). The problem with the entire #metoo movement is that men are presumed guilty until proven otherwise. Everyone just assumes Ford is telling the truth. Why? They have no cause to believe her other than they dislike Kavanaugh and the president that nominated him.

      I think there are holes in her story. I think that she was probably drunk when it happened. I think that he was also drunk. I think people misinterpret things and I think that no prosecutor would ever touch this case…so why are we holding mock courts in every corner of the internet?

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      • You have a right to be presumed innocent in a court of law.

        Outside of that, it’s up to society and if after thousands of years of women not being believed, if we go a little too far to the “believe women about sexual assault” side for a little while, it’s not the end of the world.

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      • I can articulate many reasons why I believe her that are not based on my dislike for Kavanaugh or his political affiliations. But why bother? Nobody is listening anymore. The entrenchment is irreversible at this point.

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        • Em – Ford asked to testify. I assume she will clear everything up tomorrow…right?

          Also, a woman who dated Kavanaugh when he was 17 and was in his circle of friends has just issued a statement saying this is all nonsense and she believes his story. So, yes, the entire thing is very confusing.

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          • It won’t matter. Whatever she says won’t be “credible” to the naysayers. If you don’t believe her now, that’s not going to change if she repeats the same story under oath.

            And I don’t know what your second paragraph proves. Ford has people who knew her back then saying she’s not a liar, but that apparently doesn’t matter either.

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            • And Kavanaugh has said what he remembers. Why should I believe one over the other?

              Both Kavanaugh and Ford have dozens of people saying they believe them. They both have people that were in their social group at the time confirming their stories. Ford says it happened. Kavanaugh says it didn’t. From what I have seen we are no closer to knowing the truth than we were when this story broke. So…how do we determine who is telling the truth?

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              • I consider who has motive to lie. What’s Ford gaining from this? Kavanaugh has everything to lose here.
                Then I consider whether her allegations have a ring of truth. Maybe they don’t to you, that’s fair enough. To me, they do, for reasons I put forth earlier: why say there were witnesses that won’t back your story? If you’re lying, wouldn’t it make more sense to say no one else saw rather than name people who can be questioned? And why stop at the attempt and not say he actually raped her?
                Then there’s the part about Mike judge jumping on them repeatedly and ultimately knocking them over? Such an odd and unnecessary detail to make up out of whole cloth. It adds nothing.

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                • If you learned that Ford had some axe to grind against Kavanaugh from way back then, maybe some social slight, whatever…would that change your mind? I mean, it’s not as though anyone has ever lied in public to get even with someone…right?

                  My daughter’s mother, who suffers from a range of mental illness, once accused my then girlfriend of molesting my daughter. CPS got involved. It was ugly and scary. Ultimately CPS determined that my daughter’s mother made the whole thing up and coached my daughter (age 4 at the time) to say the things she did. Rather than prosecuting my girlfriend, they referred my daughter’s mother for psychiatric care. So…I’ve been on the receiving end of revenge from someone unhinged. Not saying that is what happened with Ford, but I can certainly find lots of reasons not to believe her.

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                      • If you’re not refuting them because they are all valid points, you should stop saying stuff in the first place such as:

                        ” They have no cause to believe her other than they dislike Kavanaugh and the president that nominated him.”

                        Em was responding to you claiming *she had no cause to believe Ford other than her dislike of Kavanaugh and the president that nominated him*.

                        Going from there to “but my points are valid too” is not acknowledging what you said about her, that she was responding to.

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                  • My daughter’s mother, who suffers from a range of mental illness, once accused my then girlfriend of molesting my daughter. CPS got involved. It was ugly and scary. Ultimately CPS determined that my daughter’s mother made the whole thing up and coached my daughter (age 4 at the time) to say the things she did. Rather than prosecuting my girlfriend, they referred my daughter’s mother for psychiatric care. So…I’ve been on the receiving end of revenge from someone unhinged. Not saying that is what happened with Ford, but I can certainly find lots of reasons not to believe her.

                    Mike, as a fellow divorced father I HATE that this happened to you. And I can certainly see how it influences your response.

                    Unfortunately, there is no evidence from anyone that says this is the situation. What I and the other commenters are practically begging you to do is set aside your very clear biases and deal with the situation as we know it, not waste your reputation tearing up the actual facts trying to find a reason to let the guy off the hook. We are doing that both because we accept the premise of your original post that we should actively and compassionately engage voice of the other side, and because we respect you as a fellow writer.

                    You have made it abundantly clear that you don’t want to believe her – not because you see anything redeeming in Mr. Kavanaugh but because you see nothing apparently redeeming in her. You are being more polite in your reticence the Koz – who appears delusional – but you none the less seem closed minded to the reality that Dr. Ford is likely telling the truth; that Ms. Ramierez and Ms. Swetnick are as well, and that Mr. Kavanaugh is thus unfit for the Court. I would ad that he is also credibly accused of perjury regarding his relationships to and knowledge of the actions of another judge and emails he received that were stolen from Democractic Senators during the Bush Administration. Those Perjury charges have been buried under the weight of the Ford allegations, but are no less damning.

                    Yet since you seem hell bent to tear down the road of inventing things to deflect Dr. Ford’s allegations I’ll ask pointedly – what evidence do you require to assert that she is telling the truth?

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                    • Phillip – Even if Kavanaugh admitted to what Ford is claiming, I probably wouldn’t disqualify him from the court for that alone. And I don’t think I am a minority among males for saying that. This has been the primary point of discussion within my workplace for the last 2 weeks and my very un-scientific polling suggests that 100% of my male coworkers think this is an overreach.

                      With all of that said, the other shady stuff you are talking about would be a much better reason to keep him off the courts. it is recent, well-documented and has directly to do with his actual job. I have no idea why Democrats decided to seemingly ignore all of that but go after a he-said/she-said strategy.

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                • I consider who has motive to lie

                  This is a poor way to get at the truth of what happened. For one thing, your analysis of the motivations of these two utter strangers to you is biased due to your natural sympathies and not considering the full range of human behavior; but even more than that, there are more options than just that her story is accurate or she’s lying — we know for a fact that memories are fallible and apt to be inaccurate for any number of reasons, even soon after an event occurs, and these events were over 30 years ago.

                  Anyone who has more than a very low level of confidence in their opinion about what actually happened is deluding themselves. There’s basically no evidence, so our assessments just come down to where our sympathies lie and how the accounts mesh with our personal experiences, neither of which is a reliable way to get to the truth.

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                  • I’ve been a prosecutor and I’ve been a defense attorney, both of which require some attempt to discern credibility. My opinion is not based on natural sympathies, partisanship, (or even my own personal experience.) I weigh what I know and go with where that leads me.

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              • I’ll make the same point I made with Anita Hill, lo these many years ago. One had to be pushed into testifying, because there’s nothing to look forward to but hatred, ridicule, and death threats. One is getting a lifetime appointment to the most prestigious job in his chosen field. Who has more incentive to lie?

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              • Mike Dwyer: . So…how do we determine who is telling the truth?

                Either call all the people coming forward to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee or have the FBI reopen the background investigation – which legally will take a White House request. And that includes subpoenaing Mark Judge, since he is named by everyone as a witness. Including his former girlfriend who is willing to testify to what he told her at the time to the Senate and has communicated that to them.

                Really this isn’t that hard.

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        • I can articulate many reasons why I believe her that are not based on my dislike for Kavanaugh or his political affiliations. But why bother? Nobody is listening anymore. The entrenchment is irreversible at this point.

          Really? Then you should try. For me, Mrs Ford had a lot more credibility when her name surfaced. Then, over the next few days the supporting details which I expected to be filled in weren’t, and then the anti-witnesses started showing up, saying not only that the offense never happened, but the underlying event never happened either.

          I don’t think it’s very plausible to believe Ford at this point.

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      • When Kavanaugh is facing prison time, that will be the time for presumption of innocence until proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Right now, he faces returning to his current job as a judge on the DC Circuit. The prospect that one of the eleven judges on the DC Circuit might not be a rapist is not particularly terrifying to me, as I understand conditions there are somewhat better than even a minimum security penitentiary.

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        • Yup, the absolute worse case for Kavanaugh is that….he remains more well off than 99% of society, firmly ensconced in a gated community where he’ll likely never actually have to face anybody who thinks he’s a rapist.

          Hell, even if he has to resign from his circuit court position, he’ll be immediately given a six figure job, either from either a prominent law firm, a conservative think tank, a pro-GOP company, or a lobbying group.

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        • When Kavanaugh is facing prison time, that will be the time for presumption of innocence until proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

          So what happens this isn’t Kavanaugh but the manager of a grocery store, whose career and family are suddenly under fire because of a claim that he did something 35 years ago? Where is the socio-economic line between ‘okay to assume guilty’ and ‘due process’?

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          • That store will decide whether to fire him, which his manager will be able to do. Because he won’t be a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land.

            I, for one, would have thought that expecting higher qualifications for Supreme Court justices than grocery store managers would be uncontroversial. I also seem to recall someone complaining recently about slippery slopes in argument…

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              • Umm…. reread that comment.

                You’re literally saying we should think about Kavanaugh one way because of how we will then think about grocery store managers. Then saying it isn’t slippery slope. THEN saying there is a bad trend.

                Also, I don’t know what “reparations for past wrongs” has to do with anything. I don’t want a rapist and liar on the supreme court, and don’t buy your slippery slope (both as implausible and as irrelevant).

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                • I’m saying that ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is never okay, even if you and Jesse justify it upstream because Kavanaugh is in the 1%. And it’s not a slippery slope argument if it is already happening.

                  A lot of that attitude is being justified as men having to pay the price for years of oppressing women i.e. reparations. And as the party of feminists, I could have accepted it from Democrats prior to 2016. After you all ran Hillary again, you lost all credibility.

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                  • Good grief dude.

                    I’m not sending him to jail, and this isn’t about him being in the 1% (which is not mentioned anywhere in this thread until just now). As to “it is already happening” point me to the case of the grocery store manager being fired over 35 year old sexual assault allegations, and we can discuss it.

                    None of the attitude expressed anywhere on this thread is being justified in the manner you suggest. Nor did anyone “run” Hillary (she chose to run herself), a particularly hilarious comment coming from someone who tries very hard to distance himself from Trump. Nor does supporting Hillary have anything to do with whether this man should be a Supreme Court justice. Nor, frankly, do I think you really believe that it does. We’re just at the random-allegation-rather-than-admit-error phase of the discussion. Which probably means any further discussion is a waste of everyone’s time.

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                    • Right here:

                      …if we go a little too far to the “believe women about sexual assault” side for a little while, it’s not the end of the world.

                      and here:

                      …he remains more well off than 99% of society, firmly ensconced in a gated community where he’ll likely never actually have to face anybody who thinks he’s a rapist.

                      That is the attitude that concerns me and what Kavanaugh represents. You’re right, this isn’t a trial. He’s being tried in the court of public opinion and a lot of liberals are okay with convicting him before Ford even testifies. It’s a bad precedent to set.

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      • This is what the other post is about. A presumption of innocence is not applicable to a job application to the United States Supreme Court.

        Fortunately, though, Kavanaugh has you inventing defenses he hasn’t made designed to explain away some of the claim while pretending the rest of the claim wasn’t made.

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