I was recently in Alaska and witnessed firsthand the love most Alaskans have for their embattled elder statesman, Sen. Ted Stevens. Since 1968, Stevens has committed just about all his time and energy to help the great state get everything it deserves, and then some. And the citizens up there recognize that and are willing to give the recently indicted Republican the benefit of the doubt on this one. But Stevens’ behavior throughout the years is symptomatic of a larger problem that I fear is permeating American politics today and certainly the Republican Party.
Since President Bush began his second term in 2004, it seems like just about every corner of the Republican Party has been infected with some sort of disease. If you want to skip work for a week and review a few of the highlights, err lowlights, google these names: Tom Delay; Jack Abramoff; Mark Foley; Alberto Gonzalez; Karl Rove; Paul Wolfowitz; Randall Tobias; Trent Lott; Bill Frist; Larry Craig; David Vitter; Scooter Libby; Bob Ney; Duke Cunningham. The list of offenders gets even more disturbing if you look at the local and state levels.
The point here is not to presume that one party is morally better than another (because that judgment simply cannot and should not be made), but rather to show just how low our elected officials in the Republican Party have sunk. Character and behavior of members of congress and all elected officials should not just skirt the line of propriety, but rather remain far from it.
It appears the United States Congress and its members have lost all semblance of shame. They appear as though they are impregnable at times, absent humility; and when the wheels of justice turn against them, they sprinkle around the magical pixie dust of crying “political witch hunt!” and hope they get off.
Can we really blame them? At some point, the average voter like you and me bears some responsibility here. When these guys get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, we’re all too quick to dismissively say, “Pfft, they’re ALL like that…” and then act as though we can’t do anything about it. The crookedness of political figures is something that has become an accepted social norm, and therefore we seemingly hold them to a less-stringent standard than a doctor, doorman, or deputy. In reality, shouldn’t the individuals who represent us be asked to meet higher expectations — not lower?
Additionally, during a time when even faithful Republicans are questioning where their vote belongs, findings like the aforementioned provide little incentive for the electorate to continue voting red. Honestly, unless the Republicans clean up their act, this country will continue to move left. Polls show that historically conservative states such as Alaska, Georgia, and Ohio are moving to the left because of political missteps by conservatives.
Now the Bible taught me to focus on the log in my own eye, rather than judge others. So I’ll be the first to admit my involvement in a mini-scandal a few years ago. You may remember hearing about the Department of Education paying me to speak highly of the No Child Left Behind Act. This contract, however honest, was wrong from the beginning. I should have realized that as an impartial political pundit, I should not accept funding, advertising, or pay from any entity that could influence my opinion. Because of this misstep in my life, and because of the consequences I rightly suffered, I can say firsthand that mistakes happen; to err is human, and we are all fallen people who sin everyday. However, I can also say that nobody who breaks the law should avoid punishment, regardless of their position or power. I took responsibility for my actions, welcomed the consequences, and learned from my mistake. Politicians should do the same.
In a politically puzzling time like this, undecided and Independent voters are looking at both sides to find an individual to cast their ballot for. If members of Congress — Republican or Democrat — want to get or stay elected, they need to pay more attention to not only what they do, but the appearance of their actions and what sort of message that sends to voters who put their trust in our system of government. Remember, the people have the power, and with each passing scandal, they are more likely to use that power at the election booth.