It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially in politics where part of the job is having — and voicing — a strong opinion.
The simplest defence from charges of hypocrisy is to hold yourself to the same standard (or better) than the one to which you hold others. This, of course, is more easily said than done.
For example, in this political cycle, there are some especially strong opinions in both races. On our side of the aisle, we had the home stretch of the GOP race. The battle between Trump and Cruz created a deep and bitter rivalry among supporters.
Even after Cruz suspended his campaign, the #NeverTrump banners were still waving, for any number of reasons. This, by itself, is not really a big deal. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
Enter Nebraska’s Republican Senator, Ben Sasse, is a key figure in the #NeverTrump movement, being floated by some as a viable third option. He publicly gave Trump “what for” partly because Trump failed to disavow the KKK quickly enough.
Others among the movement have picked up on this, and (while calling Trump things like racist and xenophobe) have claimed that to endorse Trump is to “own all that”.
The question for Sasse and his supporters, is that really a standard they are prepared to be judged by?
Any movement will attract a variety of people to support it, each for private reasons. Some because they like one guy, others because they hate the opponent. Endorsing a candidate is something nobody forfeits a right to do. (Even people not legally able to vote can still have an opinion.)
Does that mean we have to agree with every supporter about every issue? That is literally impossible.
Here is where the “refusing to disavow” standard — if it isn’t walked back — will bite Sasse in the ass. If Mike Cernovich (himself a pro-Trump partisan) is correct, there is an association in Ben Sasse’s life that could be far more damaging than association with any KKK member.
According to Cernovich, Ben Sasse was a tutor in the Congressional Page program — a program which was shut down in 2011 because of sexual abuse scandals (including the Mark Foley scandal).
In October 2006, several representatives supported a motion to suspend the Page program until an outside team could evaluate its security protocols. Dennis Hastert, on the other hand, announced 3 days later that he was launching an investigation to make improvements.
Cernovich’s main point is this: if Sasse was responsible for supervision of the Pages during Hastert’s time in office why has he never disavowed the (judge’s words: “serial child molester”) Dennis Hastert?
Cernovich’s main point comes down to the hypocrisy question.
They are upset with Trump not disavowing the KKK quickly enough. That, they say, taints him.
And yet, they are not upset with Sasse having never disavowed a serial child molester.
With the charge of hypocrisy levelled against them, are they going to dial back the rhetoric about disavowing the KKK, or will they hold Sasse’s associations to the same standard?