MINOT, N.D. — On a long enough timeline, everyone involved in political advocacy ends up a hypocrite.

The trouble with principles is that they're hard to stick with when they produce outcomes you don't like.

For years we've had a debate about businesses and discrimination. Call it the "bake me a cake" issue, because it's perhaps best exemplified by the years worth of outcry and litigation surrounding a Colorado bakery that didn't want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding event.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission sued the Masterpiece Cakeshop and won, with the state court ordering the cake baked, but it was a fleeting victory. Later the Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, would find that the state of Colorado had engaged in religious discrimination.

During that debate, conservatives, including this one, generally took the side of the baker, making religious liberty and free association arguments. Those were supposed to be arguments of principle.

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Maybe they weren't.

A new, not-so-dissimilar debate has emerged. Can employers require vaccination of their employees? Can businesses require vaccination of their customers?

If conservatives were consistent in their principles, the answers to these questions would have to be "yes" with some reasonable accommodations for those who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons, or because of sincerely-held religious beliefs.

If we conservatives believe that business owners have a right to refuse service, if we believe they should be allowed to choose who they associate with and generally conduct their business in accordance with their convictions, then we have to accept that businesses can refuse to do business with the unvaccinated, be it as an employer or provider of goods and services.

And our liberal friends, to be consistent, must accept that acknowledging these broad rights to discretion when it comes to vaccination apply in other places.

Like who you might want to bake a cake for.

Sadly, in this pathetic era of populist politics, when a crummy charlatan like Donald Trump can be a revered and worshiped leader of a not-small movement, and a doddering fool like Joe Biden can be touted as a competent and serious leader, disciplined thought, and consistency of principle are not en vogue.

These days, whatever you feel is right, in a given moment, is right. Which in turn contributes mightily to the great political and cultural divide convulsing our society.

People who are consistent in their principles can be reasoned with. Their positions are predictable, and honorable at least insofar as there is a pattern of belief they can be attributed to.

It's easier to swallow a position you disagree with when it's honestly arrived at.

So yes, employers can require vaccinations from their employees and even their customers.

Whether or not they should is a different question.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.