Today, it seems expedience rules. Say and do anything to prevail. Winning at all costs is what’s important. The only thing that matters is results.
Read the business and sports pages and the pungent odor of cheating and deceit reek from the pages. Sports heroes ride or run to victory on the guile of pharmaceuticals. Business and other leaders use false claims, faulty metrics, and Madison Avenue blitz to deceive for private gain and profits.
The saddest arena, that carries the largest devastation, is in our politics. Our government and its leadership rest on credibility, which is the coin of leadership. Without it, leaders are nothing more than vacuous symbols of cynicism and disdain. When trust dissipates our democracy suffers and becomes vulnerable to the grip of cynicism and apathy.
Credibility rests on truthfulness. Our politics and the deceitful campaigns both Democrats and Republicans are running destroy the fabric of honesty and credibility needed to unite a country and lead based on the values of truth in thought, speech, and action.
The congruence between words and deeds is essential in a democracy. If its citizens can’t trust the government or its leaders to be truthful, then our country is threatened from within by cynicism, apathy, and separation. Viet Nam, Watergate, WMD, Gitmo are all examples of deception and broken promises.
Truth is an absolute. It is not a relative value, and deceptiveness reduces moral standards. Candidates use political gunslingers like David Axelrod and Karl Rove to obfuscate and deceive in order to push the body politic to a rush to judgment or group think. The means and ends of political discourse should be truthful and carry moral reasoning, not expedients to push a poll number that in itself may come from questionable data.
Character assassination, distortions, half-truths, frivolous diversion, or lies drag the political process precariously close to being divorced from any credible thought. Any semblance of integrity in the system is totally curtailed as mature discussion of issues with integrity to principles and values is avoided in the interest of expedience.
What both candidates demonstrate is a lack of moral courage. Telling the truth may not be popular but it is the right thing to do. Leaders with moral courage do not tell people what they want to hear, but what they need to know. It would be quite refreshing for citizens to hear candidates candidly describe and explain the issues of the day and their plans to address them. But, platitudes win, and truthfulness is shelved for self-interest at the expense of the common good.
Moral courage is doing what is right and accepting the consequences. The sad state of the current presidential election belies any semblance of moral courage by both parties. Candidates become attached to power and their own electoral self-interest.
People scoff at candidates and say, “Why listen to the them, they all lie anyway.” Leaders who are party to deceptive, untruthful or honest campaigns lose trust and lower the moral standard for the country. They set a poor example for youth and others by their deception and expedience, and they weaken the democracy they all say they want to prosper.
Finally, leaders who are not trusted will not be able to challenge others to greatness. Truthfulness matters, particularly when there are hard truths that citizens have to consider. Elective office is not about the future of the incumbents or those who aspire to power. Serving the public is really about serving the citizens and the democracy they cherish. And the hard truth matters.