There is a lot of talk about “morality” in politics these days. Roy Moore, a senate candidate from Alabama who has been accused of sexual improprieties, is roundly condemned. And of course President Trump is accused of various moral outrages on an hourly basis.
I am struck by how many of my friends seem to be outraged by Republicans Roy Moore and President Trump but did not care at all about President Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, former presidential candidate John Edwards and Anthony Weiner. In fact, when I mentioned the scandals regarding these people, who happen to be Democrats, some of my Democratic friends did not know anything about them until I gave them some links. And in the same way, I see a lot of people defending Roy Moore and President Trump who were quick to criticize all of the Democrats.
So, there is hypocrisy all around when it comes to sexual issues. But morality does not only have to do with sexuality of course. What about the immorality of stealing other peoples’ property and encouraging people to covet the property of others? I wrote about the forgotten eight and 10th commandments, which are often ignored when looking at politics. But how about the morality of a U.S. foreign policy that, according to one source, has resulted in millions of deaths since World War II? As Americans, we may see many of the conflicts promoted by the United States as noble causes, and certainly some were, but if our father or mother were killed by a U.S. bomb in Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam, perhaps we would feel very differently about the issue. Finding morality in war is a very difficult thing, as the Book of Mormon reminds us again and again.
Or how about the morality of supporting laws that have resulted in tens of millions of babies being killed in the Unites States alone since 1973? Abortion kills 2900 babies a day right now in the United States. Abortion is a complex issue, and I don’t want to minimize that, but I find the moral preening about guns supposedly being the problem insufferable when the same people have no problem with 2900 abortions a day.
One of the reasons I oppose capital punishment is that there are credible studies showing that one in 25 of the people killed were innocent of the charges. The fact that my tax money is helping kill innocent people in the U.S. is very bothersome to me. I have a moral problem with it.
My young socialist vegetarian daughter, who thinks the solution to every problem is more government, discovered just the other day that her tax money is helping fund the meat and dairy industry. Indeed, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars every year in subsidies. So perhaps the truth is that when the government gets bigger it ends up using your money to fund more and more things that you find morally objectionable. And that is, in my opinion, immoral.
Even Mitt Romney, one of the more moral men in recent politics, supported raising the minimum wage, which mostly hurts the poor. He said illegal immigrants should “self-deport” and seemed to show very little sympathy about the fact that his immigration policies would cause families to be separated. And of course former Gov. Romney also supports capital punishment and a militaristic foreign policy that I personally find immoral.
I have a lot of friends, all of them smart people, who are outraged at the often immoral behavior of President Trump but apparently have amnesia about the rampant immorality of past presidents. Woodrow Wilson was a virulent racist and supporter of eugenics who unnecessarily caused millions of additional casualties by forcing the United States into a war that had little to do with the United States. FDR was an adulterer who threw 120,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Eisenhower: adulterer. JFK: serial womanizer. LBJ: a mountain of immorality who helped cause millions of unnecessary deaths in the Vietnam War. Should we go on to President Nixon?
I am sure there are readers who want to pick nits with points of this post. I have managed to sully the reputations of all kinds of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. Many readers may feel a need to stick up for one of your favorite politicians or one of your favorite causes. But if you feel this way, you are missing the point of this post.
The point is that politics is necessarily a dirty business. It inevitably involves getting in the pig pen with the pigs. And the problem is that the pigs like getting dirty, whereas most readers of this post do not. This is one of the reasons most readers of this post are not politicians.
I am not sure what the solution is. The Church says we should vote for moral people, but many moral people are still immoral when it comes to one issue or another. There is a part of me that wants to become like a Mormon Amish person and withdraw from the world and not have anything to do with the dirtiness. But we are also encouraged by the Church to be engaged with the world, rather than to completely retreat.
If there is one main point I would like to drive home, it is this: your current outrage about one immoral act by one politician or another is inevitably hypocritical because other politicians you support have done immoral things themselves. If you have voted anytime in your lifetime, you have voted for at least one immoral politician, and it is likely you have voted for many immoral politicians. So spare me the lectures on morality about whoever you hate right now. That person is immoral, sure, but so are many of the people you think are paragons of virtue. Consistency is a very difficult thing in this fallen world.