There’s the U.S. Senate race in Alabama where the Republican candidate is being pressured to drop out of the race due to allegations of sexual misconduct from 40 years ago. Then there’s the sitting U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez in New Jersey, who has just been on trial for eight counts of bribery, three counts of fraud, one count of conspiracy, one count of making false statements and one count of violating the Travel Act.
How about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Or former Louisiana Congressman Bill Jefferson, who stashed $90,000 in cash in his freezer that he intended to use as a foreign bribe? What about former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who couldn’t stop sending lewd photos to women on Twitter? And did President Obama tell the truth when he said, “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor”?
Then there were the Democrats in 1960 who may have manipulated the votes in Cook County enough to let John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon. Remember when President George H.W. Bush ended up not fulfilling his promise of "Read my lips, no new taxes"? And, of course, there was Hillary Clinton, who only forked out $10 million to control the votes of the largest political party in our country.
And at a time where our country needs only our best and brightest in our elected offices, what sane person would deliberately choose to get involved in politics and associate themselves with all of this mess? After all, don’t birds of a feather flock together?
I mean, if you’ve lived a life that’s been on the straight and narrow, why would you subject yourself – and your family, your business, your job, your very livelihood – to associate yourself with such a crowd, and possibly a litany of fabricated accusations from political rivals who have a “scorched earth” philosophy when it comes to winning?
If you’re wondering the same, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard University showed not only are young people disgusted with politics and are skeptical of its usefulness to make meaningful change, but there is also now a reluctance of good candidates to run for public office.
So, from where will the next generation of public servants be inspired to serve our communities, when only one in three believe running for public office is honorable?
That’s hard to say. We have fewer engaged voters today than ever before, and this will eventually reduce the pool of talented candidates to a handful of those barely worth keeping in office at all. But our country must also decide if convicting candidates and elected officials in social media or otherwise via the Internet, regardless of the veracity of the charges alleged, is what’s best for our country.
Sometimes, does it feel that we are simply castigating one politician, whose sins are known, for another politician, whose sins we simply haven’t discovered yet?
Now, please understand, I’m the first one in line to expect a higher standard from myself, as well as from those whom we cast our ballots to lead our cities, represent us in Baton Rouge, and make our nation’s laws in Washington. But having high standards and electing less-than-perfect public servants are not necessarily mutually exclusive, either.
I mean, do we all need to be defined by where we came from, or should it be about where we’re going? Unless you allow it to, why does your future need to look like your past?
So, yes, it’s important to hold folks accountable, whether it’s a high crime or moral transgression – but there’s no man or woman who is without a defect or burden. A more accurate indicator of someone’s future should be the present moment, and what they are doing right now.
Searching for a perfect public servant may be expecting something that never was – and never will be. And unless our country decides differently, the folks willing to run for office and put up with that expectation will go find something else – more honorable to do.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo
Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.