Opinion: Politics are not moral, politicians are not moral beacons


American politicians are not the ethical leaders we want them to be. We can no longer be shocked when their morals do not reflect our own.
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Bill Clinton cheated on his wife. Americans were shocked.

Richard Nixon headed up Watergate. Americans were shocked.

Alabama governor Roy Moore sexually preyed upon teenage girls. Americans were shocked.

Al Franken groped a woman without her consent while she was asleep and even took a photo to document the occurrence. Americans were shocked.

Most recently, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was booked for felony invasion of privacy. And still we are shocked.

Why are we shocked when those in power abuse that power? Why are we shocked when the people we ask to spend years doing a morally questionable job have questionable morals?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not permissible in the slightest for politicians to act in such a manner. Abuse of power is never okay.

But what we need to understand is that politicians were never intended to be moral leaders. They are not the leaders to look to in an ethical dilemma.

The Merriam Webster dictionary lists the following as a definition for politician: A person engaged in party politics as a profession; often disparaging: a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons.

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Graphic by Kearstin Cantrell

The moral standards that you hold are not necessarily the same as the politicians we elect. When a politician is being elected, it can be difficult to tell what kind of ethical standards they hold.

Politics changes people. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s true character, give him power.”

The person elected by the people 2014 may not be the same person who leaves office in 2018.

Another reason to put the shock away when politicians don’t adhere to our personal moral standard?

We accept it.

According to ppri.org, In 2017, 70 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Independents say that public officials can behave ethically in their professional life even if they act immorally in their personal life.  

If we accept it, why are we shocked by it? If we continue to think the way we have been thinking, things will never change.

Politicians are not moral beacons. That is not their role in our society. I wish just as much as anyone that we could rely on our country’s politicians to hold themselves to higher standards, but that’s just not the way it is in the United States.