Listening to discussions on Facebook about the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, I was surprised and disappointed to see the “innocent until proven guilty” principle so often misapplied (and in two different ways). It became clear to me that a lot of people just don’t understand the concept.
A Larger Doctrine
When something is being awarded to somebody, whether it is good, bad, large, or small, most people would like to think the recipient deserved the award. It is the presenter’s responsibility to make sure that’s the case. The more extreme the action, whether reward or punishment, the more effort the presenters should take to see that the award has been earned.
When the award is a punishment, this doctrine takes the form of “innocent until proven guilty”. If the death penalty is under consideration, for example, we need to go to great lengths to be sure we aren’t making a mistake. I’ll save the discussion of the two types of possible errors – letting a murderer go free vs. hanging an innocent person – for another day.
When the action under consideration is a reward, one would expect some law of symmetry to apply, and it does. In this case, the slogan “innocent until proven guilty” has no place. Whether it is the Mega Millions jackpot or the Nobel Prize, one does not assume a prospect is ‘innocent’, or deserving, until proven otherwise. It is up to the claimant to prove they deserve the award. For the Mega Millions jackpot, that would be by showing a ticket and identification. The Nobel Prize has even more stringent requirements. Republicans have no trouble applying this principle to welfare recipients but seem to get tripped up when it comes to Presidents and Supreme Court nominees.
In either of the above cases, it is well understood, as stated above, that the candidate will be fully vetted. And the more significant the award, the more serious the investigation. For someone to insist that a candidate is “innocent until proven guilty”, especially for a reward, and then refuse to hold a meaningful investigation into any evidence of guilt is the height of duplicity. But that seems to be the current state of the Republican Party. It hasn’t always been this way.
Anyone with a logical alternate interpretation of the facts is welcome to share. You can be sure the civility of this discussion will be maintained.