The Las Vegas Review-Journal published this editorial after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted to an extra marital affair. Here’s an interesting passage:
“But despite the predictable cries of “hypocrisy” from leftists who are only spared the label because so little is expected of them, it’s worth pointing out that this is a personal matter — not the kind of betrayal of official trust Democrats demonstrate every time they sacrifice the public welfare to satiate their paymasters, the trial lawyers or the public employee unions. “
Well, it goes without saying one does not charge another with hypocrisy unless one tries to pass themselves off as “morally superior” to the other fellow or party. The modern GOP and its politicians have set themselves up for such charges and subsequently such downfalls if their politicians are exposed as being morally challenged. Politicians for both parties are caught in such scandals all the time. That Republicans suffer perhaps more so is their own fault given what they wish voters to perceive themselves as being as Patrick Ruffini points out:
“This is a structural disadvantage that, on the margins, hurts Republican officeholders, forcing them into resignation or disgrace more easily than their equally adulterous Democratic counterparts.
Simply put, it is a strategic error to sanctify the idea that it’s worse when Republicans cheat. The hypocrisy charge exacts a double penalty on Republicans where none exists for Democrats — first, in the accusation of hypocrisy itself, and second, in the media whipping social conservatives into a frenzy in a bid to belatedly “enforce” their moral code — exactly the thing the secular media believes you shouldn’t do 364 days out of the year — to hound a Republican out of office. ”
This penalty exists because since 1980 various Republicans running for public office in many states have had to go through a morality “litmus test” because courting religious interest voters requires it. This could be anything from stands on issue, to campaign talk about “family values” to promoting said family (wives and children included)in a campaign to burnish one’s credentials. Mark Sanford, even though his policies and rhetoric focused more on economics and federalism, was forced to do such things (or at least he felt he had to) in order to pass such a litmus test with South Carolina’s Republican primary electorate.
If GOP does not wish to see up and coming party leaders like Sanford and Ensign continually be tossed onto the ashbin of history because we all are sinners and none of us are perfect, then forgoing such litmus tests in regards of judging candidates might well be in order. There were many reasons for rejecting Rudy Guliani last year besides all his extra marital affairs. GOP candidates need to stop pandering to a base that will vote for their candidates regardless of whether they are as pure as the Holy Mother (and a base that votes for them on more than just “religious” issues) and they need to (hint, hint Mitt Romney) stop saying the government must “create strong families” because that is not something government can do nor should do. I could also wonder about the value of appearing in front of such symposiums like “Values Voters Forum,” that force such politicians to take such stands they themselves cannot reach, but I doubt GOP candidates will suddenly stop appearing before their religious supporters any more than Democrats will stop appearing in black churches. You go where the voters are for the same reason you hunt where the ducks are.
Still, there would be a value of going to such forums and saying to such voters that if you yourself or your family wishes to vote for a candidate based on a standard of morality you wish him or her to have that’s fine and if a politician and his family wishes to hold themselves to a high standard of morality of their own accord, that’s fine too. But these must be personal decisions and not group or party platform positions. Otherwise religious beliefs and moral standards become nothing more than rhetoric a party or a politician uses to gain votes. And such rhetoric, as Mark Sanford and John Ensign are finding out, can be easily used against them when they are unable to live up to those standards. Hopefully, someday, politicians will not feel the need to say they support of “family values” (who isn’t?) in order to win elections.