Ethics, like the lack thereof, is not a matter of partisanship or ideology. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, have at times, "had their day in court."
The first president for whom I ever voted, a conservative to moderate Republican, later became the first president to resign from office. Richard Nixon's Watergate arrogance brought down his presidency, along with a host of many too-loyal staff members around him. Years later, moderate to liberal Democrat Bill Clinton's Lewinsky arrogance resulted in only the second impeachment in the history of the country. In Canada, it appears that the Liberal Party will be tossed out of the national leadership it has held for 13 years. Canadian pundits are predicting a victory for the ascendant Conservative Party. Meanwhile, in the United States, many conservatives are under more pressure than liberals for untoward entanglements with corrupt, influence-buying lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman said this during a party conference this weekend, "The public trust is more important than party. Which is why the first solution to the problem is rooting out those who have done wrong, without regard to party or ideology." He's right, of course, even if it is in his party's interests for him to say it.
The lesson of these stories is that all political parties, all ideologies, all points of view, all charismatic individual spokesmen or women, no matter the person's demographic characteristics or place of origin, must live under the rule of law and must be held accountable to a moral standard outside themselves and their vested interests. No political party is or should be "the" Christian party, even if at a given point in history that party's platform seems to best align with biblical principles and the ethics that spring from them. In politics, as in life, things change. So the process of critique and evaluation must always continue.
One of the reasons we still honor the lives, memories, and achievements of this nation's founding generation of leaders is that so many (not all) of them based their political expressions and contributions on well grounded understanding of at least natural law if not also the moral will of God. Men like George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison--in spite of their own human weaknesses--understood human nature and established the new nation accordingly. They were men with profound political passions, but they attempted to govern those passions with a code of personal and political morality that reached beyond themselves and the issues of the moment.
America seems sorely lacking in these kind of statesmen or stateswomen today. Motivated more by power, personality, and partisanship than by principle, American politicians don't say or do much that lasts. I'm more conservative than moderate or liberal, and I vote Republican more often than Democrat, but I reserve the right to think independently. I wish more American political leaders would surprise us all and do the same. We'd all be better off.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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