The recent US election has been closely followed around the world. We now have a media-declared President-Elect and a sitting President who attempts to remind everyone the voting has not been completed.
Who is the rightful heir to America’s throne?
There has been no clear winner with a nation clearly divided. What fascinates me is the ethics being played out on a world stage.
Kantian ethics rose from the Medieval ashes and entered humanity’s stage during the birth of modern democracy and its Age of Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant centred his ethics around the idea of a “categorical imperative”. He believed there is a universal ethical principle that respects the humanity of others. He believes that everyone is bound to the same moral law.
Law is best choice of terminology. The Trump nation is appealing to the Law of the land (Constitution) as the basis for their morality. No surprise, therefore, that they choose to exhaust the legal system before conceding.
The Biden nation has a differing morality. It is referred to as utilitarianism.
After the founding of the United States of America, a British philosopher named John Stuart Mills influenced an alternative understanding of morality. His influence on political theory highlights the “left” in opposition to the “right” Kantian-leaning side.
The Philosophic Radical opposed conservativism in his day. Today, his political ethics are now being played out on a world stage.
In the Biden nation, politics are organised around human happiness rather than natural rights. In America, that means the right to pursue happiness are not natural or “God-given”. They are revaluated around what is the greater good for the greater number of people. Law has nothing to do with what is right.
In fact, there is no “right and wrong” in the Biden nation; there is simply what is best for most.
The question not being asked throughout this international melodrama: what character do we want Americans to emulate?
By character, I don’t mean personality. Americans should not be following either Biden or Trump’s personality. Indeed, the presidential candidates are not the benchmark: Virtue should be the standard; Virtue, not Law; Virtue, not expediency.
What is the virtuous expression of being that Americans should emulate? How can they move forward toward being a better people?
The clash between Joe Biden and Donald Trump remind me of a Bible story.
There was a time when the Davidic lineage was interrupted. Normally, a direct descendant of David would inherit his throne upon the death of a predecessor. However, when Ahaziah died, his mother attempted to kill every potential heir to the throne. Assuming there were none remaining, Athaliah declared herself Queen over the kingdom.
Athaliah ruled for seven years before learning she missed Joash. Joash was secretly raised among the priests and then publicly revealed as legal heir to the throne. Athaliah’s response?
And she was technically right – but practically wrong.
As the sitting monarch, it was an act of treason to proclaim another as ruler. However, she was installed through violation of moral laws. Her overthrow was in reality an act of patriotism, not treason.
If you belong to Biden nation, you may read into the story a different understanding then someone from Trump nation. But both can miss the point:
The God-given covenant was the basis for their moral decision and overruled the technicality of treason.
What do we desire for American citizens? That they act out Justice with honesty, purity, love, and truth. Virtue is neither “left” or “right” but character to strive toward.