Why Democrats Are Suddenly Unforgiving Moralists

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An Economist/YouGov poll asks respondents if they’d back “a presidential candidate who has done immoral acts in private life.”

Surprisingly, Democrats seemed less forgiving and flexible than Republicans: A full 48% of Republicans found it acceptable to back a candidate with moral failings, but only 19% of Democrats agreed.  After three decades of Democratic infatuation with the profoundly imperfect Bill and Hillary, this counts as a shock.

Yes, these attitudes reflect the polarized response to the current incumbent, but other factors make the GOP less judgmental and moralistic than the stereotype. More common identification with religion helps Republicans see “immoral acts in private” as nearly universal, so they pick the most capable sinner.

It’s liberals who view politics as life’s highest calling, while conservatives look askance at politicians in general, and feel ready to trade a bit of private imperfection for a lot of public competence.

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  1. James Brice  •  Mar 23, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    I would guess it is a matter of whose Ox is gored. The Dems forgive their own representatives for their failings, unless they no longer need them. They can get along without Al Franken. The Kennedy and Clinton families are more important for Democrats. I suppose Republicans protect Bush because they need the Bush family. They are less understanding for Trump, because they want liberal Republican candidates who will speak out like conservatives but go along with leftist laws. The Dems and leftist news attacked Trump as immoral for congratulating Putin but accepted it when Obama did.

  2. Ty  •  Mar 23, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    If I was being unkind, I would speculate that conservatives need to look past the sins of the sinner more than liberals because of how much worse they behave.

    They can no longer afford to be as morally picky as they used to be, there would be almost no one left! Especially for moral failings of adultery and paying women to have abortions, while claiming to be pro life. The scales of hypocracy over moral superioty of conservatives is BROKEN! Now that all pretence is gone, we are back to more atavistic and cut throat calculations of pure self interest. The sheepskin has been ripped off revealing the beast underneath, may as well act the part and tear into the policy they want without pretending. That was basically Trump. Pretend we think illegals are still human beings and decent? Nah, rapists, criminals, and maybe SOME might be good people.

    I prefer this form, I prefer it when people and movements are not hiding what they truly care about and what they truly believe.

    • kmeechan  •  Mar 24, 2018 at 2:08 am

      virtue signaling gibberish lacking in evidence……can you provide examples besides Trump? As a conservative who did not vote for Trump or Clinton as they were both unfit for office Trump was clearly preferable at the end of the day for numerous reasons but he embarrasses me daily. And yes Trump is obviously hypocritical and flawed. And for the last time the immigration debate has NOTHING to do with brown skin or nationality, those that actually believe that literally don't understand conservatism at all. Unfortunately Trump used this legitimate issue inappropriately for his campaign in my view. And yes you regularly go out of your way to be unkind on here, you are rather full or yourself in my view…It has clearly been the modern left/progressive that is enraptured with their own moral superiority for many decades. Conservatives think liberals are wrong and misguided, liberals think conservatives are evil….just like you Ty.

      • kmeechan  •  Mar 24, 2018 at 2:10 am

        clarification: I meant that you Ty think the right is evil, I was not implying you are evil, my wording came across wrong.

      • Ty  •  Mar 25, 2018 at 10:29 pm

        I am definitely unfair to conservatives here, this is partly my release valve after hearing so much nonsense from the right. It's only about 15-30% of the conservative population that is openly hostile to immigrants with varying degrees of not looking/BEING one of "us" being part of the implicit mix and rationale. That means most conservatives are not feces throwers, but the ones that are… I kind of despise them. Evil is a strong word, too strong, but I do think they are awful people.

        And it is not merely a function of me not understanding their rationale. This is a mistake people make, that if people like myself ONLY truly understood where people were coming from, we'd see things in a different light. But sometimes knowing more about what goes into a decision and attitude, what moves people one way vs another, makes things worse.

        Case in point. Healthcare.

        I do not believe any conservative WANTS to see someone who is sick and needs to be treated to die because they cannot pay. They are not indifferent to seeing such people get help, though often they'd prefer that come from someone elses charity and not their own. But when you balance that desire to not see people die because they cannot pay for some extended medical treatment or drug against a hostility to using tax dollars collected from society to help pay for that treatment, you find MANY more conservatives CHOOSING to allow more people to die because they place a HIGHER value on their own personal pocket books.

        Now in some cases, many of these conservatives have bought into the arguments that big bad government funded healthcare inevitably produces worse results. They know this with the certainty of an omniscient GOD, because the free markets and their conservative ideology tell them so, along with a few cherry picked stats that make other systems look worse while ignoring the oceans of problems our own system has. But to give these people the benefit of the doubt, I think there is an AWFUL lot of motivated reasoning here where conservatives WANT to maintain the truth of their SACRED doctrines and conservative dogmas and ideology and that makes believing the conservative anecdotes easier.

        But there are plenty of other conservatives who might think, even IF we could still have decent care for most people in a universal healthcare system, and cover everyone in need, they are still opposed to it because it's not the governments job to use tax dollars to ensure that people don't DIE because of an inability to pay for known and effective treatments.

        I fully understand that some subsection of conservatives place a higher value on not having their earnings redistributed to others, and want their earnings to go to their own selves and families healthcare and not to some strangers.

        But as a liberal, I look at those differential preferences, and think to myself, that is a monstrous effing choice. This is what I allude to when it comes to liberals tending to have BROADER circles of concern. Some conservatives would be willing to have their tax dollars pay for others if they thought it was effective, but many others would not. That me and mine attitude, and KNOWING that some people simply have different priorities than I do, takes ZERO sharpness off the edge of my contempt and scorn for such people.

        I do not respect their preferences, they have a choice of what kind of society they want to live in and build, and in their preferred society, more people die on the margins to preserve a HIGHER value (in their minds) of not redistributing money from them to someone else. And may we all rise and fall on our own, a community of a nuclear family, but NOT a nation. Not EVEN in the case of life and death, live, die, what it's to ME. I'd rather people live, or someone else spend charity, but if I HAD to choose them living by having a treatment paid for via taxes out of my pocket, I'd RATHER they die and I kept more taxes from the government.

        Understand, I look at that preference, that choice, that attitude, that psychology, and I have open contempt for it.

  3. kmeechan  •  Mar 24, 2018 at 2:12 am

    BTW yes Roy Moore was an idiotic candidate in case you had him in mind

  4. kmeechan  •  Mar 25, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    I lack the energy to respond to all this, maybe another day as you are still missing the point, maybe this brief read will help:

    • Scott  •  Mar 29, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Ty – Thanks for your rational, honest response – I think you represent the liberal point of view well when you tone down the emotionally charged rhetoric that is so common these days. Like kmeechan, I lack the energy for a point by point response, but I would say your main misunderstanding is that most conservatives actually prefer other people to die over surrendering more tax money. That's certainly not me, or any other conservative I know. We simply think that people are rarely better off, physically, emotionally, or psychologically, as well as economically, when we bet on the government to take care of us, because the government is colossally inefficient in almost every way. So the bottom line is we want the same good things most liberals do, but have a vastly different view on the best way to accomplish those things.

      • NetworkDr  •  Mar 29, 2018 at 9:45 pm

        Scott – a very clear, concise, and succinct statement.

        "…We simply think that people are rarely better off, physically, emotionally, or psychologically, as well as economically, when we bet on the government to take care of us, because the government is colossally inefficient in almost every way."

        It's the one I have extolled for decades. There probably is a suitable, efficient and equally distasteful to both sides, version of healthcare that everyone could live with but neither side seems willing to barter for better outcomes, choosing instead to simply keep retrying the same failed options, again and again, with the same outcomes.

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