Leah Barkoukis asked the question yesterday on Townhall.com “Does Morality Matter in Politics Anymore?” Ms. Barkoukis highlights an
answer by Washington Times’ Judson Phillips. He asks the question, who is responsible for the decline of America? Mr. Phillips’ thesis is that,
It is all of them. America is dying because our leaders are not the best and brightest. They are the dirtiest and slimiest. […]
The problem America has is our leadership seems like it is generally drawn from the sewer. And that is manifested with people like Nancy Pelosi who believe they are our public masters and not our public servants. [Bold as in original]
While I do not completely disagree with this statement, there is another angle on the failure in our governors. It is not exactly that people like Nancy Pelosi believe they are our public masters; it is that they are public enablers. It is that our elected officials lack moral convictions.
By way of comparison, consider our founding fathers. Patrick Henry made the following statement to the Virginia House of Burgesses in support of a resolution delivering Virginia troop in the thirteen colonies’ efforts in the War of Independence:
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
It is told of the signers of the Declaration of Independence that of the 56 who signed the Declaration, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war, and five were captured and imprisoned. All were driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Here stands moral conviction.
Samuel Adams spoke about the moral conviction of the founding fathers and their conviction to principle.
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!
He also perceived the result of failing to maintain moral conviction. “No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”
Today our leaders want to do “the will of the people.” These are sanitized words for doing what is politically expedient, for doing what will get them reelected. Our elected officials make their decisions based on their expectation of “backlash.” Is this moral conviction? Edmund Burke said that, “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.” If this is true, our leaders in Washington betray us every day. And it is true. Our leaders lack the moral conviction to do what is right and prefer to placate the desires of the most morally corrupt part of our society, the media, the outlet for their communications and the defenders of their positions. This does not make them our public masters; it makes them followers. When we need leaders, we get sheep. The prophet Micah would characterize it this way:
Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
I agree with Phillips that our elected officials’ lack of moral conviction is evidence of our moral decline. But our elected officials’ lack of moral conviction reflects the character of the people who elect them. Ms. Barkoukis cites a Rasmussen poll that indicates only 38% of Likely Voters consider a candidate’s personal life as Very Important. That means the remaining 62% of us do not have a moral conviction about the quality of the individuals that run our government. If we are a people without moral convictions, it only follows that we would have leaders lacking in moral convictions.
Mr. Phillips concludes his opinion with the following question: “America is a nation that was designed by geniuses and is now run by idiots. Can we survive having a permanent political class?” We could survive a permanent political class with moral convictions. But in order to get that, we will have to gain some moral convictions of our own. I fear as Sam Adams says, we will “sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”
- Does Morality Matter in Politics Anymore? (townhall.com)
- Reporters Laugh at Serious Question to Nancy Pelosi About Gosnell, Abortion (newsbusters.org)