Loyalty vs. Principles

Three threads today, all related.

  • Considering whistle-blowing as an example of wrestling loyalty vs. principles, and how this applies to Trump and his followers;
  • Related items about how Trump supporters vow to “lie, cheat, and steal”; how Donald Trump knows what he’s doing; how the GOP Louisiana lawmaker can’t answer the question about why she presumes her own religion’s rules should be imposed upon everyone;
  • And Salon’s Amanda Marcotte on how Republicans violate the Ten Commandments every day, and how MAGA folks think rules are for other people.

Here’s a piece that triggers wide-ranging thoughts. More nascent conclusions.

Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams, 20 Jun 2024: The toll of truth: What happens when you expose medical wrongdoing?, subtitled “Whistleblowers are often shunned and discredited, but honoring one’s moral code is ultimately worth it”

I’m not even quoting from this piece; my concern is the broader question of loyalty vs. principle.

It strikes me that loyalty predominates in smaller groups; it’s a key element of base human nature, especially among families and tribes and communities, any groups small enough that everyone, more or less, can know everyone else. Bigger than that, and groups need to form rules, and laws, that are applied ‘equally’ to everyone in the group. The rules and laws are principles, moral principles if you like, that supersede rote loyalty. They will never supersede loyalty to *family,* for reasons I could explain clinically via the logic of genetic interest, so-called kin selection; even if there’s one bad apple in your family, you support him because he might well have children and further the existence of your *own* genes, albeit proportionally. This subconscious motivation falls off as genetic relationship diminishes, but still might apply, via rules of altruism (see Wilson, Pinker, et al), in situations where every member of a group can be counted on to reciprocate favors.

What about the insistence on loyalty among much larger groups, like Trump and his followers? Trump is ready to fire or character-assassinate anyone insufficiently loyal to him. Republicans who used to distance themselves from him now kowtow to him. Why? To preserve their own careers? (This would be why employees of any kind are reluctant to whistle blow on their employers.) Because they see him as the way to promote their tribe’s causes? (That is, the values of conservatives and Christian fundamentalists.)

The relics of base human nature are played upon by cult leaders, who insist on absolute loyalty, never mind laws or rules or principles. And it still works. Thus we call Trump followers a cult, since they seem to have abandoned ordinary values of social norms and the rule of law, in deference to him. Why does this happen? Because our brains are still wired to respond to living in smaller groups, where loyalty to a tribe leader is valuable in a world in which tribes fought against one another, typically for resources, but also because humans have the instinct to identify in-groups and out-groups, and always need to have an enemy, if only to bind their own tribe together. And now this is playing out writ large in American politics.


Here are numerous other links that support the idea that tribal solidarity — loyalty — reigns supreme over principles, among Republicans. Conservatives say they venerate the Constitution, and the Ten Commandments, but their behavior suggests otherwise.

Ring Wing Watch, Kyle Mantyla, 20 June 2024: MAGA Cultist Troll Brenden Dilley Vows To Lie, Cheat, And Steal If It Helps Trump


TNR (The New Republic), 21 Jun 2024: Trump’s Disturbing Message on Lousiana’s Ten Commandments Law: subtitled “Donald Trump has come out in support of forced religion.”

But Trump knows what he’s doing. This is a calculated effort to appease the Christian right, along with his attacks on abortion rights, which he tries to disguise but very clearly states to Christian audiences. Somehow, despite his philandering, lying, business fraud, and numerous other violations of the Ten Commandments, he continues to be thought of as a person of faith by 64 percent of Republicans.


CNN, CNN anchor spars with GOP lawmaker on Louisiana Ten Commandments bill: ‘Answer the question’

This is a video, not an article.

She is just an ignorant person. She can’t answer the question. “Don’t look at it” is all she can say. Would she say the same thing if, for whatever reason, a different set of moral principles, or even rational principles, were posted on classroom walls? Of course not. She assumes her religion is privileged.


One more.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 21 Jun 2024: Louisiana’s mandatory Ten Commandments law invites the Supreme Court to impose more theocracy, subtitled “Christian nationalists might as well force Trump Bibles into in every classroom, too”

Lots of good bits here.

Not that actually reciting them out loud would do Republicans any favors, either, as on any given day they’re violating at least half of them. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is violated on an hourly basis, with the exaltation of Trump as their replacement Jesus. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is a joke in an atmosphere where the GOP standard is to lie about everything: Why Trump got 34 felony convictions, whether or not storming a Capitol to overturn an election constitutes an insurrection, why one’s house keeps manifesting January 6 flags. “Thou shalt not steal” seems like it would also cover Trump’s efforts to steal a presidential election.

Even in passing this law, Louisiana Republicans are violating the spirit of “honor thy father,” as they thumb their nose at the men they love to call the Founding Fathers. The founders were quite clear in their intentions for a secular state, in no small part to avoid exactly the conflict that is being teed up here. About one-third of Americans aren’t Christian,  a percentage that rises to almost 40% when looking at people under 30. Mandatory Christian iconography — and that’s how this is meant, no matter how much they disingenuously toss the word “Judeo” around — sends a clear and unmistakable message: Only Christians are “real” Americans.


“I can’t wait to be sued,” he crowed at a Republican fundraiser last week. In the same speech, notably, he denounced Trump’s 34 felony convictions. The number of commandments Trump broke in the series of events that led to the conviction, by the way: At least seven, including adultery, stealing, coveting, false witness and, hilariously, breaking the Sabbath, since the golf tournament all this sinning happened it was on a Sunday.

And this, especially for its last line.

When we’re talking about theocracy, it’s about more than having to see religious iconography in a public classroom or even being forced to play along while a teacher makes kids pray. It’s the Christian right snaking its way into the most intimate parts of people’s lives, using “Jesus” as an excuse to tell us who we can love, whether we can marry or divorce, and when we should have children — even as they can’t or won’t follow their own religious rules. As with all things MAGA, rules are forever only for other people.

Every day I reread and copy-edit my post from the evening before. If this comment is still here, I have not yet done so for this post.

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