Perspective: Principles

Jul 18, 2019

Listening to NPR’s interviews of citizens after the Mueller Report was unveiled, I was struck by the statement of an older woman. She was adamant that President Trump was a “despicable man.” But she would probably vote for him for President this time. Her excuse was that things were going well. People had jobs, the economy was booming, things seemed to be going in the right direction. 


Why is it that a person would call a politician “despicable” and yet firmly announce her intention to vote for him? Does “character” count for nothing? 

How many Illinois governors have been jailed? What kind of men surround President Trump? Or Jimmy Carter? Or President Eisenhower? How many Presidents honored their marriage vows? Ike? Kennedy? Clinton? Trump?  

Alexis de Tocqueville observed: “I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” 

Are we condemned to choices among the unworthy? 

Why would that woman feel a despicable man was the best she could expect? Are assaults on “character” just political coin? 

Pundits with serious mien and profound voice assert what the candidates have to SAY to be elected: The necessity of their election becomes their “principle.” One person’s “fake news” is another’s truth -- with each side believing “truth” and “principle” is that which gains the election. 

De Tocqueville observed in 1830: “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” That appears to be true today: Principle is an illusion. We are sentenced to, like that woman, give our vote to the darkest souls knowing their words and deeds are empty; their principles “despicable”. 

I’m Karl Winkler and that’s my perspective.