Recently, three politicians who had fallen from grace due to their respective sex scandals are now trying to get back into politics. The former governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford who had an extramarital affair a few years back successfully ran for the congressional seat vacated by Tim Scott. Some have said that this is a “redemption” story, and voters are ready to forgive disgraced politicians and willing to give them a second chance.
Now, former congressman Anthony Weiner who resigned from his post due to sexting scandals is also trying to get some “redemption.” He is running for New York City mayor. As soon as he entered into the race, he immediately became the front runner. The disgraced former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer – who resigned from his post due to his own sex scandal – is also running for office in New York City, this time for the office of comptroller.
It is not a bad thing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Disgraced politicians, like anyone of us, deserve a second chance, and many voters are very forgiving. It is however, a different story if these disgraced political candidates are not truly repentant of their wrongdoings. Weiner recently admitted that he continued to have “virtual relationships” of sexual nature even after he resigned from his congressional post. In a recent news report, Eliot Spitzer denied that he is trying to get “redemption.” Judging by the words and actions of these two men, it seems questionable if they are truly repentant.
Some voters interviewed by the media said that politicians’ private lives should be separate from their public lives. These voters seem to suggest that they do not care if politicians cheat on their spouses and let their loved ones down. What only matters is whether these politicians are able to carry out their public duties with competence. In another word, these voters are saying that morality and personal integrity are not important and necessary in public service.
On this point, I cannot disagree more.
Can voters truly trust an immoral politician to represent the interests of the constituents? If a politician is ready to betray their families and hurt the interests of their loved ones, can we trust that these same politicians would not do the same to their constituents? I am doubtful of the hypothesis that politicians’ private lives can be separate from their public ones. Morality and personal integrity are hugely important to candidates as they seek political office, and it should be important to us voters as we make our decisions as for whom we would cast our votes.