The Respect of Humanity
In the spring of 1987, United States presidential candidate Gary Hart went from a frontrunner to failure in a sensational story of infidelity and ethics, the effects of which still echo today. Hart, shortly after formally declaring his candidacy on April 13, faced numerous allegations of maintaining an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice, a political aide who had reportedly spent the night with him at his Washington, D.C., townhouse. Both Rice and Hart would repeatedly deny any involvement in an affair, but the damage was done. Hart would ultimately drop out of the 1988 presidential race.
In every election, voters must determine which candidate they feel will best lead the country. For many, this includes inspecting how the ethical and moral history of each candidate relates to his or her own values and beliefs. While every human has the ability to change and grow internally, it would be nearsighted to ignore some of the more troublesome components of a candidate’s past. Given the presence of ethically troublesome issues in multiple candidates, it can then become hard to make a decision without simply deciding to vote down party lines. I have seen the angst of my peers as they seek to navigate this landscape: the struggle to maintain one’s personal set of values while promoting a perceived ‘best option’ is very present and real.
For those wondering how to resolve this struggle, fear not: this is how it should be. Humanity has been gifted with a moral compass that they can use to determine right or wrong. This compass is often at odds with some aspects of another’s set of beliefs: humanity has also been gifted with individual reason and thought. Though disagreement exists, we are tied together by our shared heritage as humans and ought to love and respect each other because of this. The respect of humanity then becomes an essential part of being ethical and moral. Without such respect, common dialogue is not possible and the human race begins to disintegrate.
It would then be useful to evaluate each candidate using his or her treatment of other people as criterion. This is a process that each voter must engage with personally, clearly inspecting the facts of each candidate’s history. While understanding the machinations and mechanics of one’s business or political record might be useful, those details are often hidden or misrepresented due to their complexity and the private nature of both practices and are thus limited in their usefulness. When one reaches this limit, a personal study of a candidate’s moral character can indicate how that person will approach their time in public office. For example, while proposing a given social measure, will they consider every racial group affected by that measure, or will an opinion be formed solely on the basis of their own experience? A moral politician is often a well-rounded one: this will be reflected not only in personal life but also through public policy.
The decision that every voter must make on election day might not be easy, but it can be rational. I sincerely hope that nobody leaves their conscience at home for the purpose of voting along party lines but instead picks a candidate they actually would be proud to call the 45th President of the United States of America, even if that candidate lies outside of the normal two-party system.