After Trump supporters attacked the capitol, the Democrats moved quickly to impeach the President for inciting this insurrection. Trump is probably safe from being convicted for a crime, but impeachment is a political matter. As noted in the previous essay, some Republicans initially tried to claim that Antifa was behind the attack—but this lie was quickly refuted by the FBI. While this lie is still popular on social media, Trump’s defenders have employed two other tactics: accusing the Democrats of being haters and calling for unity.
Claiming Democrats are the party of haters has been a standard tactic for some time and is often used to defend Trump. The simplest version is the mere accusation of hate, such as saying “I’ve never seen such hate” in response to a criticism of Trump. Variations also include such things as accusing Democrats who point out racism of being “the real racists” or accusing them of “Trump derangement syndrome.”
While sometimes used as a mere insult, the accusation of hate is commonly used to “refute” claims. For example, Nancy might argue that Trump fomented an insurrection, and the “refutation” might be to say that Nancy hates Trump. This is fallacious reasoning. Even if Nancy did hate Trump, it would not follow that her claim is false. This fallacious reasoning is a version of the accusation of hate fallacy (it can also be considered a form of ad hominin attack):
Premise 1: Person A makes claim C about person B.
Premise 2: Person A is accused of hating person B.
Conclusion: Claim C is false.
As my usual silly math example shows, this is bad logic:
Premise 1: Dave says that Adolph is wrong when Adolph says that 2+2=7.
Premise 2: Dave hates Adolph.
Conclusion: So, 2+2=7.
While hating someone would be a biasing factor, this does not disprove the alleged hater’s claim. If it could be shown that a person’s hate biases them, then this would impact their credibility—but this would never suffice to disprove a person’s claim. Like many fallacies, the accusation of hate can have great psychological force—people tend to reject claims made by those they think hates someone they like. As such even if the Democrats do hate Trump (and others), this has no bearing on the truth of the claims they make about Trump.
The Republicans could make a moral criticism of the Democrats by accusing them of hating Trump (and others). This would require not only proving that a Democrat hates Trump (which might be easy) but showing that the hatred is not warranted by Trump’s actions. Even if this succeeded, it would not refute a claim made by the alleged hater. I do think that a case could me made that Trump merits hate, although I have a moral preference against hating people. Thus, the Republican accusations of hate have no merit as attempts to refute claims.
One variation of the claim that Democrats are haters is the claim that they are dividers (this is a similar ad hominem attack). As would be expected, the Democrats have been accused of being dividers for impeaching Trump and wanting to hold him accountable for his actions. Saying that the Democrats are dividers would not, obviously, refute their claims—such as the claim that Trump’s action warrants impeachment.
The Republicans also seem to be advancing a utilitarian moral argument: impeaching Trump (or otherwise holding him accountable) would divide the nation and thus create harm. As such, the Democrats should not impeach Trump (or otherwise hold him accountable). The Republicans are probably right that impeaching Trump again would anger his supporters and thus expand the already vast political divide. It could be rationally debated whether holding Trump accountable would create more harm than letting him, once again, escape without consequences; but letting people escape consequences because some people would be upset would seem to be a problematic moral position.
In response to the Republican call for unity (in the form of not holding them or Trump accountable) critics have pointed out that Trump and his enablers have spent months lying about the election, trying to undermine democracy, and inspiring a violent insurrection against the United States. There are also credible claims that some Republicans assisted the insurrectionists by giving them the opportunity to conduct reconnaissance before their attack.
While it might be tempting to reject the Republican claim that Democrats should be uniters by declining to hold Trump (and others) accountable because of their hypocrisy, this would be an ad hominem tu quoque. This fallacy is committed when it is concluded that a person’s claim is false because it is inconsistent with something else a person has said or what a person says is inconsistent with her actions. As such, the fact that Republicans call for unity after months of dividing does not disprove their claim: they could be right despite their hypocrisy. But their behavior is, of course, relevant to the ethics of the situation.
If the Republicans claim that the Democrats are wrong for dividing the country by holding Trump accountable, then consistency requires that their actions that divide the country would also be wrong. As such, they would need to accept that they have been acting wrongly. This could require that they accept the consequences of their actions and, at the very least, they would need to act in accord with their professed principle and renounce their lies about the election and cease instigating insurrection.
There is also the obvious moral argument that these actions by some Republicans warrant a response even if it would enhance disunity. To use an analogy, imagine that Dawn and Sam are a married couple. Sam learns that Dawn has had multiple affairs, has stolen from his family, has spread vicious lies about him, and killed the family dog. Sam files for divorce and his family files charges against Dawn. In response, Dawn and her relatives accuse Sam and his family of being haters and dividers to refute the charges against Dawn. They also say that Sam should not go through with the divorce and file charges because this would divide the family. But Dawn’s misdeeds would merit the divorce and charges—Sam would be a fool to not go through with them. The same holds true for Trump and his fellows: their actions merit consequences and their calls for unity are absurd.