Should a qualified employee’s political views determine whether he gets—or keeps—a job? For a growing number of Americans, they already do. As I wrote in an article published recently at American Greatness:
[Last month] a Pennsylvania police chief was forced to retire by his “progressive mayor” after 26 years on the job. His offense? The chief’s wife posted a Facebook message supporting President Donald Trump.
Lancaster Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser might be the latest victim of cancel culture, but he won’t be the last.
The article was written before the 2020 election. Since then the female African-American police chief of Portsmouth, Virginia, lost her job. The town’s progressive leadership fired Angela Greene after she pressed charges against rioters who decapitated and pulled down a Confederate statue, striking a middle-aged black man in the head. The injury left the man temporarily comatose, caused him to flatline twice as his brain swelled dangerously, and required months of therapy to teach him to walk and talk again. City officials fired Greene on Monday morning, a little more than two months after placing her on paid leave. She said she plans to sue.
Blacklisting the Red States
Greene will have company in the unemployment line, and not merely because of another round of proposed COVID-19 lockdowns or impending minimum wage hikes. A number of political figures have in effect declared a Bush Doctrine against the Trump administration: They will make no distinction between the 45th president and those who “enable” him. For instance, former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Reich proposed a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to discover the names of anyone who helped “enable” the Trump administration.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted support of the Trump Accountability Project, an effort to blacklist “Trump sycophants” to stifle their employment prospects. (After the blacklist backlash, TAP announced last Thursday that “this project will no longer be active.”)
“Employers considering them should know there are consequences for hiring anyone who helped Trump attack American values,” said former Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan, threatening not only Republicans but those who hire Republicans.
I love the people responding to this tweet as if it's a radical, undemocratic idea. https://t.co/39Bef6JMIy— Robert Reich (@RBReich) October 18, 2020
Lol at the “party of personal responsibility” being upset at the idea of being responsible for their behavior over last four years— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 6, 2020
Depending on how broadly one wants to define “helped,” this description could encompass 73 million Americans. It could go well beyond Trump administration alumni to include anyone insufficiently supportive of the Great Awokening, and perhaps the whole point is to instill the maximum level of fear in the greatest number of political apostates.
This is alarming. Americans of all political backgrounds should seek to reverse this lamentable trend for several reasons.
How Employment Discrimination Harms Society
First, threatening to lock someone out of “polite society” over run-of-the-mill political differences normalizes discrimination. While some find it more acceptable to discriminate against people based on their beliefs rather than immutable factors such as ethnicity, sex, or gender identity, legitimizing employment bias against any group opens the possibility of bias against every group. Worse, researchers have found that Americans already indulge political animosity “to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race.”
Second, employment bias denies people the opportunity to share their God-given gifts and talents with others. It deprives their families of an adequate livelihood, entirely out of spite.
But discrimination does not simply hurt those who are discriminated against. It also violates the bigot’s self-interest. Viewpoint discrimination in the workplace denies a firm the most productive talent on the basis of often-irrational biases. That lowers the office’s efficiency, productivity, and ingenuity.
Two researchers, Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, bore this out by conducting an experiment that allowed participants to award scholarships to either the most qualified applicant or a student who shared the same political views. When it came to a time for choosing, they wrote, “partisanship simply trumped academic excellence.” Discriminating against the best and the brightest leaves bigoted firms competing for second place.
Politically prejudiced hiring also harms businesses in another way. One source summarized the late economist Gary S. Becker’s groundbreaking work on the economics of discrimination this way:
Suppose that an employer does not want to employ members of a particular group even though these workers are as productive as any others. If the firm has to pay all workers the same wage it will simply not employ members of the disadvantaged group. However, if it is possible to pay these workers less than those from other groups the firm then faces a trade-off: it can employ members of the disadvantaged group at lower wages and thus increase its profitability, or it can discriminate and employ only workers from the high wage group even though this will mean lower profits. Discrimination in the latter case therefore imposes a cost on the firm.
Finally, if the neo-McCarthyites really believe that President Trump and his supporters are revolutionaries, the last thing they should want is for this group to find itself unemployable, aggrieved, and awash in free time. If they honestly think that job losses make people “cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them,” it would behoove them to see their political enemies busy themselves punching time clocks, creating goods and services, and entangling themselves in the joys of family life. One can only speculate how better employment prospects might have thwarted previous revolutions. What if Adolf Hitler had been a better artist? What if Fidel Castro had been a better baseball player?
For economic as well as philosophical and moral reasons, we should oppose viewpoint discrimination in secular education and employment. As I wrote at American Greatness:
We must stand up for Jarrad Berkihiser. We must demand our right to offend and be offended. We must insist on being judged on the content of our character, not the color of our skin.
Among those rights is the right to be judged on our performance, not our political orthodoxy.