On several occasions, this blogger has invoked the concept of Occam’s Razor, the principle espoused by medieval philosopher William of Occam that “one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed.” Among the variations of this tenet is the most often cited, all things taken into consideration, the simplest explanation is likely the most accurate. If it did not already exist, perhaps it might be called Mr. Obvious’ Razor.
This past week I realized there should be a corollary which for lack of a better term I have dubbed Occam’s Sledgehammer. When given a question, provide the obvious answer. The need for this additional guidance became evident during Bernie Sander’s appearance at the She the People presidential forum. For those unfamiliar with She the People, it is an organization designed to give women of color a voice in the political arena.
When asked a direct question, if elected president, what would you do to stem the increase in white nationalism, Sanders began by telling the audience his life-long interest in this topic was first inspired when he attended the 1963 march on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. He followed with a brief summary of his major policy proposals such as Medicare for All and free college tuition. The audience, which had moments earlier given him a rousing ovation when introduced, began to mumble and even boo Sanders. Sanders’ staff and supporters seemed surprised. This morning on MSNBC, Dr. Jason Johnson, a political science professor at Morgan State University, ‘splained it to them. We don’t need Medicare for All or free tuition after we’ve been killed by a white supremacist.
Which brings me back to Occam’s Sledgehammer. There is one, and only one, answer to this question.
Unlike the current occupant of the White House, I will take every opportunity to call out acts of violence and discrimination based on the totally un-American belief the United States is the domain solely of white people. I will direct the Justice Department to make the identification and disruption of hate groups which embrace this nonsense a priority. In instances of actual violence, I will make sure the Justice Department in coordination with state and local authorities prosecute the perpetrators. And if current laws are insufficient to safeguard the protection of any American, I will work with Congress to correct that. Furthermore, let me make it clear, if you disagree, fine. I do not seek nor do I want your vote.
In my lifetime, until 2017, every president of the United States, Republican and Democrat, has offered some variation of this response. Lyndon Johnson championed civil rights legislation knowing it would forever change the political landscape in the Deep South. George H. W. Bush told racists they were not welcome at the 1988 Republican National Convention. His son stood by the Muslim community after 9/11 and told Americans they should not take out their anger against all followers of Islam because of the acts of one radical sect. And in response to Donald Trump’s suggestion of moral equivalency after Charlottesville , Barack Obama wielded Occam’s Sledgehammer by asking, “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”
Any Democratic or Republican candidate for high federal, state or local office who cannot get this softball question right, does not deserve the vote of anyone who understands the moral underpinnings which, while always falling short of the ideal, should make us all proud to be Americans.
For what it’s worth.