Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking we know someone simply because their name is a household word. The truth is we often do not have a clue about the person behind the title.
Scandal in the personal lives of politicians is an every-day occurrence. America has a long history of incidents involving politicians who were caught with their pants down.
Republican Representative Wilbur Mills, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was found drunk in his car in 1974. Along for the ride was a stripper named Fanne Fox. Mills left Congress two years later.
In 1988, Gary Hart, the Democratic senator from Colorado, was on course to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. That was, until it was revealed he was having an affair. The revelation creation an uproar that sent his political ambitions down the drain.
When Bill Clinton began his first presidential campaign in 1992, he was dogged by rumors of extramarital affairs. Two years into his second term, America learned of his affair with a White House intern. Clinton finally admitted the indiscretion but would face impeachment proceedings over claims he committed perjury.
A certain charismatic senator from North Carolina was a rising star in the Democratic party in 2008. John Edwards was the golden boy who was about to lay claim to the party’s nomination for president. Edwards soon found himself facing allegations of an extramarital affair. He later admitted to the affair and the fact he had fathered a child with the woman. All of this while his sick wife was dying of cancer. Needless to say, Edwards faded into the woodwork, never to be on the political scene again.
Republican Senator David Vitter from Louisiana had political ambitions of running for governor of his state. After his name appeared in the little black book of the “DC madam”, his hopes for future roles were sunk.
Alabama has had a few scoundrels of their own.
Governor Robert Bentley was forced out after the revelation he had been involved in an extramarital affair.
Republican Secretary of State, John Merrill recently saw his ambitions go up in smoke after the public learned of his two-year affair. Merrill announced he would not be seeking re-election or vying for the senatorial seat of retiring United States Senator Richard Shelby.
Mr. Merrill may have been a little hasty with his decision to give up on his dreams. It is possible a new day has dawned regarding infidelity and politics.
A recent poll showed many voters say infidelity would not affect their choice on the ballot.
The biggest surprise in the survey was that views of Republicans and Democrats have shifted.
Today, 57 percent of Republicans say infidelity would not affect their vote while 47 percent of Democrats share that view. In 2016, 48 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats said it would not matter.
Researchers have named this change the “Trump effect.”
Former president Donald Trump had been married three times when he was elected. Allegations of affairs and sexual misconduct have been a constant in his career. After all, he was even elected after his taped admission that he gropes women without their consent. And we know he paid $130,000 to a porn star to prevent her from talking about their hookup.
Trump’s colorful past has not prevented him from being a popular candidate within his own party.
Historically, if cheating politicians do not run into legal trouble, they usually manage to keep their jobs.
Experts contend it is natural for society’s views to shift over time. Psychologists say people tend to justify a politician’s cheating if they like his or her other traits.
We all understand that public leaders are human beings, but they should learn to behave.
They forget their actions could affect their ability to govern. Evidence of cheating could put them at risk for blackmail which could lead to inability to do their jobs effectively.
Some of us still believe the lack of self-control makes them untrustworthy and that good character is an important trait in great leaders.
Most of the politicians who have been caught cheating always apologize and admit they should have known better.
The adage that all politicians lie, and cheat may be true after all.
But they do not have to. It is a choice.
It is not a good sign for future leadership if folks really believe it is okay for leaders to be unfaithful to their spouses.
Maybe it is true America has decided not to be so picky about that pesky character thing.
But if you cannot trust them to keep a commitment they made before God, then there is no reason to believe they will care about the people they govern.
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.