Seems almost an oxymoron. That is quite a statement when you step back and give it some thought. I am involved in local politics and I think that ethics and basic good old honesty are critically important at this level. There are only a handful of us and we interact weekly or so. It seems very important at the state level, as well. I like to think that ethics is important to those for whom I cast a ballot for the U.S. House or Senate or the Presidency.
There are those times when I have to question what I see happening, and that leads to the whole question of political ethics. I know that it is, from my perspective, an individual thing at both the state and the national level. The phrase ‘go along to get along’ rings a bell, and that, in my mind’s eye, suggests that one might be called upon to vote against a personal belief to get along in some future situation where that ‘favor’ is returned.
The phrase “art of the deal” seems to be the operative phrase. I associate that with our current President since he is seen as among the consummate deal-makers. Naivete’ is another word that is said to mean “innocence or unsophistication”. Ethics is defined to mean “moral principles” and that might be the area where the art of the deal is directly involved.
The bottom line seems to be this: I am politically naive, maybe too innocent and certainly not nearly sophisticated enough to dip a toe into waters deeper than those locally.
BUT, that having been said, I don’t see every politician at the state or national level to be willing to sacrifice personal ethics. In fact, I see relatively few who seem ready and willing to engage that way. I confess that my personal politics let me see this more often in members of the opposition party, but I digress. When I bring to mind the Democrat leaders of the U.S. House and the Senate, I see people who are willing to do essentially whatever it takes to cut a deal. I see people who actually appear to take pride whenever they ‘snooker’ the other side. I see people who consider politics to be ‘blood sport’.
Might the title of this blog ought to have been”Politics or Ethics”? That seems more appropriate as I picture members of the two parties. Maybe, too, if they saw their constituents daily, they would see more of what I see than they appear to see in the state or national capitals. It probably stands to reason that the further removed a politician is from his or her constituents, the easier it would become to make deals that might not have even been considered in a small town or even at the state level. It also, to me at least, seems to be reasonable that the fewer our constituents the easier it is to serve them.
So, the size of one’s constituency and the distance from that constituency might be drivers in this question of deal-making and of the importance of personal ethics. I fear that politicians at the level of the U.S. Congress and even the Presidency are susceptible to forces that can seem quite compelling on any number of fronts. For those reasons, we who cast the ballots for those people have the obligation to be as certain as we can be that this person will be capable if he or she should win.
In the end, we can do nothing better than choosing based on how we would feel if that person were to be handling our personal affairs which, in a sense, is what we elect them to do. Would you or I feel comfortable spending a half-hour with that person over a cup of coffee? Do we feel they have our best interest at heart or are they out for self more than others? What has been their history? Have they been in positions before that would prepare them for the position they’re seeking?
Those we choose to send to our nation’s capitol have a tremendous responsibility and we need to be sure, for their sake and for ours, that they are up to the job. In order to do that, we are challenged to cut through a lot of claims and suggestions and innuendoes heaped on each by his or her opponent.
And, most importantly, we have to decide if that person, no matter their party affiliation, is the person each of us feels best about among our choices. Finally, we have to be willing to fire them if necessary if we think their opponent is the better of the choices.