Ken Rietz, a long-time political consultant, and manager of numerous political campaigns writes in his book, Winning Campaigns, “Issues are important (but) the most important thing to voters is the candidate’s character. Trustworthiness, believability, and likeability were paramount.”
Maybe. But politics doesn’t seem to attract many people who have those qualities. And politicians generally rank below-used car salesmen in all three. Can anyone honestly say that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton were/are trustworthy, believable, or likable?
Hillary is irrelevant now, and perhaps we shouldn’t speak ill of the politically dead. Still, let’s not forget that William Safire once referred to her as “a congenital liar” nor that she has been a scandal machine throughout her career. Not much character there. And likable? Not even close.
Trump is crude, vulgar, boorish, and has a haircut rivaled only by Kim Jong-un’s in the ugly department. Democrats make much of his boasting about grabbing women by their private parts and getting away with it because he’s rich and famous. And indeed he grew up as a spoiled rich brat who didn’t often hear the word “no” – kind of like Barack Obama with more money. But Trump’s comments were pretty much the commonplace vulgarities which anyone who has lived in a barracks has heard and probably said. Newsflash: men can be pigs.
Yet Democrats weren’t concerned about that sort of thing when Bill was sharing his cigars with Monica. Oh, that has nothing to do with his ability to do his job, they whined. It’s just sex. They have forgotten that oinker though Trump may be, he has not, unlike Monica’s boyfriend, faced credible accusations of rape from multiple women.
Then there was Ted “Chappaquiddick” Kennedy, who literally got away with, if not murder, something that reasonably could have been called manslaughter. Harry “the Godfather” Reid is in the mix and even the sainted JFK was known to have a less than sterling personal character. Why do you think Jackie was fuming while Marilyn was seductively singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President?” Yowza!
Oh, and remember those emails hacked from the DNC and John Podesta by the Russians supposedly to help Trump’s campaign? From them, we learned, among other things, that the DNC was rigging the Democratic primaries for Hillary. In other words, we learned that Democrats have no standing to accuse Republicans of lacking character.
It is, of course, a great shame that we are reduced to discussing character within a framework of “I know you are but what am I?” As another well-known public figure once said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course, if we followed that advice, democracy couldn’t function. Politics is a stone-casting activity if ever there were one.
When did we last demand character or integrity of our political leaders anyway? In a culture of moral relativism, are we able to require character or integrity at all? Isn’t that being “judgmental?” And isn’t judgmentalism among the worst crimes in the progressive List of Bad Things?
In its race to the bottom, our popular culture does not often present old-fashioned ideas like character or morality (they’re so bourgeois and judgmental). Instead, we get trashy television shows like “Modern Family,” “The Real Housewives of (Wherever),” and “Chrisley Knows Best.”
Can a society in which the Kardashians and professional wrestlers are role models really be said to understand much about character? Deconstructing western civilization by rejecting its moral and philosophical underpinnings is not progress. Yet this is what progressivism has given us. It should be no surprise that our understanding of character has been deconstructed as well.
This is not, however, to blame society for the failings of individuals. That’s what liberals do. It is simply to reintroduce perspective into our current civic discourse and to encourage leftward-thinking folks to stop frothing at the mouth about Donald Trump and get their own house in order.