For a number of reasons, the Jacksonian Era elections marked a change, for the better or worse in American politics. The most relevant in today’s political atmosphere is arguably the importance of character.
For the first time in America, mudslinging among candidates was rampant. Jackson’s opponents called him a bigamist and his wife, Rachel, an adulteress; they even went so far as to accuse his mother of being a “common prostitute,” brought to America by British soldiers for “company.” Though the latter accusation had no validity, the former two grew out of a grain of truth.
In the last three months alone, businessman Herman Cain dropped out of the GOP presidential campaign amid allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich fighting reports from ex-wife Marianne that he had asked for an open marriage in 1999. From these examples, it is evident that Mark Twain was correct in saying the history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Let’s take Bill Clinton as an example. In 1998, as a result of issues surrounding personal indiscretions with a young woman White House intern, Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He was tried in the Senate and found not guilty of the charges brought against him. He apologized to the nation for his actions and continued to have unprecedented popular approval ratings for his job as president. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus (the WHITE HOUSE).The important question we, as responsible citizens must evaluate and ultimately answer concerning ethics in politics is- how important is the character of elected official? A good way to answer this question is to look at the actions of political figures with “questionable character.”
It would seem that his personal life did not negatively impact his decisions nor ability as a leader. This is only one example, we can readily recognize that we don’t necessarily have to like someone as a person for them to be good, or even great, at what they do – I’m sure you can think of a teacher or a boss that you have had at one point that wasn’t the nicest person you’ve ever met, but was excellent in their role. In contrast, there are many people of excellent character who are lousy at what they do. I can think of many. The point is an elected official’s personal life does not, in any way, correlate to their ability to make good decisions as a leader.