Principle is often undermined by quest for power.
The storm had been brewing for quite a while, and its epicenter landed smack-dab in the middle of Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. It was uncovered that Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) had not only had an affair, but exposed himself to be quite the hypocrite. In light of his mistress’ divorce hearing becoming public record, communication surfaced between the two in which Murphy — an avowed pro-lifer — had urged the woman to seek an abortion when they believed her to be pregnant. Rightly so, this caused an uproar among pro-choice advocates.
The hypocrisy is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only did he break his marital oath to his wife, but he fed the stereotype of the slimy politician who will say anything to get re-elected. Politics, like any profession, possesses a certain number of slime-balls. Like bees to honey, undeserving individuals are attracted to elected office. Part of it is that the profession encourages a certain amount of trickery, and in some cases, duplicity. But that in general is not unique to politics, even though the intensity may seem to be (take Bernie Madoff for example). What is relatively unique is the power and influence associated with such a position.
Whenever a large portion of the citizenry thinks of politics, their likely first thought is similar to that of Senator Pat Geary of The Godfather II, who without conscience accepts bribery. But in reality — the one in which we currently live — that kind of corruption is very limited, unless your name is Bob Menendez. Instead, the common corruption in our day consists mostly of fraudulent values professed in exchange for votes. Tim Murphy’s “abortion for me, but not for thee” attitude not only swindles his voters, but debases the entire notion that our representatives should be subject to the very laws they impose upon us. But let’s not pretend the Pennsylvania Congressman is the only example of this, or even the best one.
Hillary Clinton is guilty of this as well. It was discovered that the woman who had given quarter-of-a-million dollar speeches to Wall Street companies, while campaigning for increased oversight on those institutions, assured executives that she holds “both a public and a private position” on Wall Street reform. Instead of kissing the hind ends of the very Wall Street executives she disparaged so much in public, Hillary should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque, and found her way to Wisconsin and Michigan. If she had done so, she might be sitting in the Oval Office as we speak. However, that did not happen and she is destined to wander aimlessly through the Chappaqua woods in search of a purpose and an original thought.
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmund Burke
For many, power speaks volumes over all else. Principle serves as a means to acquire power. Once the power is acquired, principle often falls by the wayside. But this is not just principle in policy, but in procedure as well. Harry Reid’s thirst for power, and prodding of those who wished to “get something done” morphed into the destruction of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Nearly 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson’s desire to empower his progressivist movement produced the 17th Amendment, in which power allotted to the states was recklessly handed over to the people. Balance of power, once removed is not easy to reinstate — and that is why we are unfortunately, likely stuck with it.
Just as Tim Murphy saw himself above the morality which he proscribed onto his policy, many elected officials often say one thing, and then do another. After a whole campaign cycle spent preaching about the need to repeal the Affordable Care Act, my own Senator, Rob Portman (a man for whom I campaigned), refused to support the same repeal he voted for two years prior. The desire for power, or the retention of it, has pushed previously principled legislators to cater to the whim of the populace. Edmund Burke once said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Every political system is ripe with cow-towing sycophants, but ours, an increasingly democratic and populistic one, is becoming less and less resistant to it. The Burkean philosophy on governing — one of judgement over capitulation — has slowly found itself on the way out.
Tim Murphy is a microcosm of the larger problem plaguing society, mob-virtue. By that, I mean might equals right. There is no virtue in numbers, yet like the drunk who swears that the next drink will be his last, that lesson must be learned over and over again. The often misattributed quote by Lord Acton of “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” illustrates both the issue and solution. Removing decision-making power over individuals from the federal government — except in its enumerated powers — is the way in which we return to the federalist system that was intended in 1787. The first step towards that goal is to elect virtuous officials who will not cater to every whim of the majority, but will instead serve what is right, even when they may damage their political future in doing so. The Tim Murphy’s of the world can be exiled, but let’s not replace them with those of the same ilk, and instead opt for those of the Burkean mold.
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