By Editorial Board
Dirty politics is as old as politics. Yet, just because something isn’t far out of the ordinary, or has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it should be accepted.
We citizens lament the lack of good choices in our elections from the White House down to dogcatcher, and we’re often right to do so. Given the nastiness of some contests, it’s no wonder many of the best and brightest shies away from the searing heat of the election spotlight.
A brilliant, Ivy League-trained biochemist serving as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company bringing about major advances in the treatment of diseases which used to be an automatic death sentence might make a wonderful candidate for office.
If, however, she went through an ugly divorce a decade ago, it’d be a coin toss whether we’d even get to hear her ideas for public service because she’d likely not want all the dirt of those days pulled out of the history bin to bludgeon her now and might decide the chance to serve isn’t worth the pain of running.
Sometimes the ugliness of politics rears its head in overt abuses by those holding power, using their office to punish those who’d dare throw their hat in the ring. Years ago, when local boroughs and townships handled their own residential trash pickup, it was common to hear of candidates for local office not having their home trash picked up for months ahead of an election. In more recent times, ideas beneficial to the community are often scrapped because the success of the initiative might reflect positively on an out-of-favor candidate.
Petty actions by those holding office show incumbents willing to abuse their office, shortchange their communities and begs the question of their worthiness for the seats they occupy. Candidate abuses like using false primary residence addresses to qualify for a seat where they don’t actually reside start off a campaign asking for the people’s trust with a lie.
Other times, as in the recent Republican primary in Robinson Township, the abuses rise above shenanigan level to raw personal attacks and illegal threats of physical harm and retribution aimed at the folks assumed to have been behind ugly anonymous personal attacks and their families —including their kids.
None of this brings about a sense of trustworthy competence in those running. When we look to those who’d like to serve in roles of leadership, decision-making and public service, we’d like a sense of confidence that these folks are above-board, even a cut above most others when it comes to integrity and morality.
In one of today’s great ironies, the folks deemed least trustworthy in public polling have, for the last few years, been folks we truly need to have integrity for a healthy society: lawyers, sworn as officers of the court, one of the pillars upon which our sense of justice rests, and the pool for our future crop of judges… yet widely viewed as playing fast and loose with the truth; news media, the famed Fourth Estate, the source of our understanding of the goings-on of today, once held in the highest of esteem and now seen as propaganda and narrative merchants; and elected officials, always maligned, but from whose ranks some of history’s brightest stars rose. Does anyone sense any greatness in the ranks?
If our campaigns make it torturous for wise and successful leaders in their fields to get in the running for elected roles in government to help find new solutions and cast brighter visions for tomorrow, we’ll always only be looking at watered-down machine politics and small-mindedness and we’ll continue to be uninspired by the dirty campaigns and the personalities they produce.