Something to Think About: The Person vs. the Policies
April 6, 2016
There are a lot of things that one might look for in a politician. Economic sensibility, effective foreign policy, meaningful social stances.
But policy failure is not the reason why Alabama governor Robert Bentley is currently facing the possibility of impeachment charges.
No, the Governor had an affair.
Whenever something like this happens, I always ask myself why it matters so much. Why did Rachel Maddow devote an entire block to talking about Robert Bentley’s sex life? Why does the Alabama legislature care? Where is all this outrage coming from?
The answer, I think, lies in what the people truly value in their politicians.
If a high-ranking government official has an affair, that matters to us. We feel lied to. They kept something from us. How can we ever trust them to make any kind of decision if their character is so questionable?
Personally, I’m not sure if the two issues are related.
Take Bill Clinton for example. If you ask high schoolers what they know about the 42nd president, most of them will mention the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Very few know that he compromised with Republicans in Congress, balanced the budget and led the United States through some of it most prosperous years.
Our tendency to base our preference for politicians off of their personal attributes is almost uniquely American.
It’s part of the reason for which Donald Trump is so loved by his supporters. His personality resonates with them, and if his policies seem a little iffy in terms of factual merit… eh.
The same is true for Hillary Clinton. People say they could never vote for her because they just can’t bring themselves to like her.
Logically, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it’s common in American politics to vote with your gut rather than your head.
While it’s true that whoever is elected president will have to make some tough calls on their own, what their administration focuses on and ultimately achieves, comes from a much more collective place. Hardly anything will be determined by an individual’s personal stance, but rather a larger ideology, usually encompassed by their party.
So, at the end of the day, will Robert Bentley’s stance on infrastructure be influenced by his adulterous habit? Probably not. Does Donald Trump’s “winning attitude” make him the best person to run the United States? No.
It’s time we learn to separate the person from the policy.
Isabel Giovannetti is a senior at Robinson High School. She loves politics and is part of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council.