Bullying of political opponents, particularly conservatives who dare to support President Trump, now includes using the broad brush of ‘guilt by association.’ Sadly, this is happening at all levels of the political spectrum and deserves a quick resounding rebuke from the public.
Defined as an inductive fallacy, ‘guilt by association’ is intended to create a false conclusion that will result in emotional decisions and not factual conclusions. Conflating voters who supported President Trump in November’s election and the riots at the Capitol on January 6, Representative Steve Cohen, D- Tenn., offered a perfect example of this during a recent CNN interview.
Congressman Cohen told CNN reporter Jim Sciutto that, “The [National] Guard is 90 some-odd percent male, and only about 20 percent of white males voted for Biden," he said. "You've got to figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative … they're probably not more than 25 percent of the people there protecting us that voted for Biden. The other 75 percent are in the large class of folks that might want to do something."
A quick interpretation of that remark is that only 25 per cent of white males who voted in the last election supported president-elect Biden and therefore the balance voted for President Trump. And since there will be white males involved in the approximately 25,000 National Guardsmen providing security during the President Inauguration, then it is reasonable in Congressman Cohen’s mind, that 75 percent of the white guardsmen will want to do harm to either the event and/or the participants.
This is guilt by association carried out to its most abhorrent conclusion.
The remark generated some pushback from the public. Glenn Kessler, head of the “Fact Checker” feature of the Washington Post, tweeted “…does a Democratic congressman really want to suggest that if you voted for Trump you might be a seditionist? What happened to the idea that military people are professionals and do their jobs regardless of political preference?”
Kessler’s reaction is appreciated but it begs the question- why are there no other major rebukes from the public and elected officials to such a hateful and stupid conclusion?
This type of lazy thinking is now taking place in local politics as well. Last week, Sherry-Lynn Womack, a member of the Lee County School Board, was attacked by other members of the board and school personnel because she attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington D.C. at the same time rioters stormed the Capitol. Ms. Womack did not participate in the riot and in fact was critical of the rally, telling a newspaper reporter that it was cold, lacked support and that it was so crowded that it was difficult to hear the President’s remarks.
Apparently Ms. Womack’s activities, which included speaking with a USA Today reporter during which she acknowledged both her support for President Trump and the fact that she is a Lee County school board member, warrants further investigation by the school board and its attorney.
According to news reports, Lee County School Superintendent Andy Bryan read critical postings from students and the public for one hour during the board meeting. Now Ms. Womack has to defend herself in the public venue for simply exercising her First Amendment right of free speech and assembly.
Representative Cohen’s accusations and the Lee County School Board’s actions are outrageous efforts to intimidate and bully anyone who dares to think differently.
Using these two experiences we wonder if Democrats might also be tarred with the same brush. By extension should we conclude that all Democrats, by being members of the same political group, are opposed to the exercise of the First Amendment or that they approve of Rep. Cohen’s conclusion that 80 per cent of all Caucasians in the military are white supremacists and that they want to harm the President-elect?
Guilt by association is the result of lazy thinking applied by simple minded people as we are seeing with both Congressman Cohen and the Lee County School Board. We should expect better and more thoughtful conclusions from our elected officials. Otherwise the country’s division will only deepen, with little hope for a positive future for our democratic republic.