Does character matter in elections? The majority polled recently said no. I guess that explains the fact that both parties nominated a person with shall we say character issues. That leaves the rest of us underwhelmed. I agree that so-called character issues are usually private stuff that is just mud slinging. Issues matter more. We have no business trying to find out who worships where, who sleeps with whom, what someone’s tax returns or credit reports are, what their elementary school record was or whom they had dinner with.
There is a level where it does matter. If I can’t trust you to ever tell the truth, how can I trust where you stand on the issues? If you don’t care about people, how can I trust you to serve them? If you look down on people because of their faith group (I am not talking about radical ideology such as terrorism), if you treat people poorly based upon their race, sex, economic status, disability, age, etc, if you are careless with national security, if you gloat about deceiving people, if you leave people to die in the service of this nation, or if you are a person who has no interest in facts, then that is relevant.
What is sad is that people with character are attacked. People like Paul Ryan who is full of integrity is ruthlessly attacked. Democrats attack him because he won’t support a criminal who left Americans to die in Benghazi and would undermine our Constitution and rule of law. Republicans attack him because he won’t sacrifice the standards that he has proclaimed all his public life and campaign with someone he believes has serious character issues even though he endorsed him as the best available choice. Paul Ryan is the type of person we used to admire just a few years ago. The fact that so many don’t is a reflection on them not him. Sure, I hate that a private conference call was leaked, but he was not making a public statement to undermine the choice of the plurality. All he was suggesting is that Republican house candidates do what worked for Democrats in the past.
It is interesting that since the Clinton’s even extreme character issues have not mattered in Democratic politics unless it is something that a Republican does. The divide in the GOP is over whether we go the same way. Cruz, Rubio, Lee, Ayotte, Tomey, Sasse, Ryan, and others say no. Some endorsed their nominee because an election is a choice. Some like Lee, Ayotte and Sasse seem to be opting out. Other fine people like Gingrich, Guiliani, Pence, and others see issues as paramount. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh struggle to different conclusions. Limbaugh focuses on the fact that the stakes are too high to through this election away. Hannity seemed to have no struggle at all supporting the nominee, his struggle is understanding the people who are hesitant. 57% of Republicans didn’t vote for the nominee but the system forced upon the majority the will of the minority. The question is where will the party go? Will it abandon its credo of the past “character matters”? Will the Democrats say that they want an inspirational choice again? Will balance come back in a future cycle? What happens to America if both parties abandon character?
Maybe this election will bring a measure of balance to the system for the next few elections. If not, maybe America really is in decline.