Sideline View of Politics Podcast Episode#1 Hypocrisy: A Conversation with John Dougall
New Podcast: Sideline View of Politics
I’m excited to announce that I’ve started a new podcast called “Sideline View of Politics.” For my inaugural podcast, I met with my friend, John Dougall, Utah State Auditor or as I like to call him Frugal Dougall. We’ve been friends for over twenty years. I first met John when he was serving with my late wife Becky.
Hypocrisy in the News
Treatment of Joe Biden vs. Brett Kavanaugh
A theme that I’ve been noticing more and more in the news is hypocrisy.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen headlines discussing the allegations of Tara Reed against Democratic Candidate Joe Biden. It is interesting to compare the way that Joe Biden is being treated to the way Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his Supreme Court nomination when accusations came from Dr. Christine Ford and two other women.
Kavanaugh was harassed and attacked for his alleged sexual assaults, while Joe Biden’s accusations by actress Tara Reed seem to be being swept under the rug. The disparity of treatment seems to vary depending on the political party of the person. The hypocrisy that seemingly turns a blind eye when the accused is a member of the same political party is problematic.
John brought up the double standard: “Lots of folks are saying, ‘Believe the women’. Until all of a sudden, it’s Joe Biden and then it’s ‘Well, you need to prove it at the court of law even though maybe it is not criminal at this point.’”
Difficult to Prove
We have a premise in this country that you’re innocent until proven guilty and these allegations are virtually impossible to prove. We get little bits and pieces here. There’s something in Tara Reed’s divorce proceeding where her ex-husband mentions that she had often talked about being abused by Joe Biden. We have other little bits and pieces.
One thing that makes these situations difficult is that the events took place over 30 years ago and it is almost impossible to determine what really happened.
How the Lense of Partisanship Affects our View
When the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinskly scandal broke in 1998, I felt such righteous indignation that our President was doing that type of thing in the White House. I said to myself, “Let’s go impeach him.” It was just this moral imperative. And at the time I felt so sure that I was right.
But then you fast forward 20 years and we’re impeaching Donald Trump for different things but now I’m saying that as a Republican, “Oh that’s inappropriate.”
I have to wonder if this hypocrisy is because we see things through the lens of our partisanship, of being a Republican or being a Democrat. If so, is that really the way we should be living our life? I’ve been thinking about that for a couple of months.
John said, “There is a lot in politics which is about team R or team D, control and power and justifying our own behavior. We are in a certain position. We think our philosophy is correct. We think our philosophy is best. We want to impose our will on others. Oftentimes we will rationalize other activities or other behaviors that might be inconsistent with our beliefs because we believe the ends justify the means. We tell ourselves stories to rationalize and justify those behaviors. “
Supporting Someone You Don’t Agree With
John asked me, “How do you justify when you support someone whose actions you don’t agree with?”
I responded that for me it is a relative choice. The enemy of perfection is good. Ronald Reagan once said, “If you agree with me 80% of the time, you’re on my team.”
What we are looking for is who is better and who is not perfect. We aren’t going to completely agree with anyone. If we agree with someone 80% of the time we can support them. But then that goes into a slippery slope. We may agree with them 70%, 60%, or even 51% of the time.
John made the point that we slowly lower the standards: “One of the other dynamics is that we place so much responsibility in the hands of government well beyond what is reasonable and appropriate. Then it is a higher-stakes battle. The more high stakes game, the more we will look the other way and rationalize so that we can be the ones in control.”
Utah Examples of Hypocrisy:
Something that has been difficult is watching the response to the pandemic. They have taken money out of the federal government and the Republicans are giving the charge to give cash payouts in order to get our economy started.
I get it. People are in dire straits. But we are literally paying people more to be on unemployment than what they get paid for working. We are always talking about less government, but then we are doing this.
John made the point that we want strong states that can weather these kinds of storms. We also need strong cities and strong people. We have created a culture in which we expect the government will bail us out and we aren’t taking personal responsibility.
Federal Oversight: Bears Ears Monument vs. Inland Port
Another example of hypocrisy is when people say they want local government but then ask for national oversight. People want the government to create a national monument called Bears Ears and were opposed to having it be reduced.
However, at the same time, these people are not willing to have state authority over the Inland Port. On the one hand, they want a more centralized government oversight but at the same time it has to be local control.
Cynicism and Politics
A lot of the apathy we have right now about politics comes from this inconsistency that we seem to have.
John talked about how people get upset when the government doesn’t give them what they want. We have trained society to believe that what the majority wants, they get. When that doesn’t happen they get upset.
One example is federalism. With the recent COVID19 crisis, many governors were issuing shelter in place orders. Our governor did not. I think what he did was smarter because there would have been a certain amount of rebellion if he imposed the shelter in place.
Lots of people love the governor of South Dakota but others were condemning her because she was not doing the same thing as New York and California. They are completely different states though.
I found this quote from 1984 by George Orwell intriguing and think that it relates to our conversation:
“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.”
We see it so often. Doublethink is the ability of an entity, many times a political or government entity, to persuade us that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right.
We have all these self-justifications that allow us to see blue and say it’s red. It is just really a dangerous place to go not just for us but for society.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves and How to Overcome Hypocrisy
John said, “We are really good at telling stories. We will engage in certain activities and certain behavior. And then we will then tell a story after the fact to rationalize why it is appropriate behavior, why it is acceptable and appropriate, and even principled even though it is clearly very inconsistent with what we’ve been espousing up to that point.”
John gave us these two pieces of advice on how to avoid hypocrisy:
- We need to be more humble in our approach to life, politics, and other things. That element of humility is important in recognizing how fallible we are and can be.
- It is critical that we get past the talking points, the soundbites that set us off into our respective teams and really study and think about the outcomes that we are advocating for and whether or not it is appropriate.
Overall, the takeaway here is to be humble in our approach and educate ourselves.
Thank You and Next Episode
I appreciate John Dougall being with me for our inaugural edition podcast and giving us some greater insights into how we can better act when it comes to politics and how to act with our lives in general.
I look forward to our next episode.