Political Intentions: Do They Matter?

“You gave your girlfriend a tracking device.” “That wasn’t the intent.” Those are two lines of dialogue in the movie Star Trek Beyond. The first line is spoken by McCoy, who is commenting on a gift that Spock had given to Uhura – a gift that was functioning as a tracking device during a critical time. Spock’s reply “That wasn’t the intent” was a defensive reply on his part. Spock didn’t like the idea of the intent of the gift being twisted.

Spock isn’t alone in disliking someone twisting his intentions. In the USA, it is common for political disputes to boil down to one side disputing the intent of the rival side.

For example, in my blog post Political Deplorables, I point out that it is deplorable to twist the intent of those who want a wall built across the USA’s entire southern border. Those wanting such a wall built do not intend on using the wall to keep all foreigners from entering the USA. Instead, their intention is to minimize the violation of the USA’s immigration laws.

Is there anything wrong with that intention? No, there isn’t. So, why are Democratic Party leaders reluctant to admit that the intention isn’t bad?

Answer: To admit that would be to admit that not all Republican ideas are bad ideas. Such an admission would not fit the anti-Republican narrative of the Democratic Party.

Likewise, the Democratic Party wants new federal gun legislation. The Party’s intention is to reduce the ability of a person to commit mass murder in the form of a mass shooting. Is there anything wrong with the Democratic Party’s intention? No, not in my opinion. As long as the Democratic Party isn’t trying to violate the 2nd Amendment, the Democratic Party’s intent isn’t something that I can disagree with.

Do Republicans ever openly admit that Democrats might actually have good intentions? I am not aware of GOP leaders ever doing so. Such an admission would not fit the anti-Democrat narrative of the Republican Party.

Whenever people want their political side to gain and to keep political power, they are reluctant to acknowledge anything positive about political rivals even when there is something positive about the those political rivals. When one’s intent is to put one’s political rival in a bad light, one doesn’t speak of anything good coming from one’s rival.

Intentions matter even when it comes to historical debates. Perhaps the most controversial historical debate of the present is the debate about Confederate monuments. Certain people want certain Confederate monuments relocated from their current locations.

What is the intent of these people? Is it their intention to erase a part of American history? No, that is not their intent. Instead, their intent is to prevent Confederates from being honored.

People are honored whenever statues of them are set up in public places of honor. Indeed, statues of Confederates were set up in public places of honor. That was a mistake that certain people are wanting to correct.


Answer: Because, as historical Confederate documents reveal, the intent of the Confederacy was to keep black Americans enslaved. That was the intent of the Confederacy, the reason for the Confederacy’s existence. When Robert E. Lee decided to side with the Confederacy, he decided to side with the Confederacy’s intent.

When historical figures had a horrible reason for going to war, when their intent was inhumane, how then are we to talk about them? Are we to honor them by using their likenesses to represent us or by displaying the flags that they displayed while out on the battlefield?

Can we have an honest discussion about those historical figures without whitewashing their intent? Can we acknowledge their place in history without venerating them?

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