Neal Larson gave my something to chew over in his Dec. 10 column. I understood him to say that, in the world of politics, it is sometimes necessary to make a choice between a candidate’s positions and his personal attributes. He was supporting Roy Moore over Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race. He acknowledged that Moore’s character was less than honorable, but his Republican vote was worth electing him.
I have been a political junkie since I was in high school, and I long ago realized that selecting a candidate is a process that requires balancing many pros and cons. However, I would never vote for a candidate who engaged in activities which would banish them from my circle of friends. I once told a married business acquaintance that I would accept his referral of his girlfriend, but it did not mean that I was giving him tacit approval of their relationship.
This is not an essay on morality. I am addressing practical politics and the ability for public officials to operate in an ethical manner. Someone who’s moral behavior is typically judged negatively is subject to coercion. Surrounding people can be swept up into corruption because of their complicity in keeping secrets. It seems to me that being inattentive to moral dilemmas leads to inattention to ethical ones. This is an unfortunate reason why good people can find themselves in unbelievable situations that only their hindsight clarifies.
My view of a functioning political party is one which, to the greatest extent possible, weeds out candidates who present moral and ethical dilemmas to the electorate. This duty is, frankly, why I chose to remain active in a political party when I am an independent voter. In addition to influencing political thought, I believe that it is my duty to vet potential candidates, encourage the worthy and rebuff those who would not represent me well — including those whose personal conduct I find offensive. Only acquaintance over a period of time can satisfy this mandate.
In life as well as in politics, I have no problem with someone who says, “I was a bonehead.” Or “I never should have done that, and I never will again.” I might (and I stress might) think more of our president if he just said something like, “That’s just me. I make the moves and talk about sexual things. Take me as you find me.” In public life, hypocrisy is a major complication. Why should we ever trust someone who has the power to regulate our life but regularly ignores that regulation in their own life? Public trust is eroded when lies and corruption seem to be the order of the day.
It is intriguing to me that no one ever runs for office proclaiming, “You can trust me, I’m a Buddhist.” However, Christianity is sometimes equated to divine sanction. Even for those who stand on the side of the theology that we are saved by faith and not deeds, it is generally thought that one’s deeds should align in some way with Christian values. Proclaiming one’s faith or saying that one’s public policy is based on faith should not provide a cloak of invisibility. Show me the actions.
As a final note: In this time of year, all of us in the Northern Hemisphere get to experience how the despair of dark days eternally gives way to the light. This holiday season metaphorically does the same thing in religious ritual of all kinds. I pray that you all are experiencing the light of hope taking you into the new year. I thank you for the honor of your attention to my ramblings.