Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Praise of the Double Standard

Good article in defense of social conservatism at NextRight, in the context of the saga of Gov Sanford's infidelities.
Conservatism preaches that we are creatures of habits, we are not angels, and that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." We cannot and should not give in to Cults of Personality. Thus, nothing in the personal affairs of Gov Sanford diminishes those insights. However, it does obviously diminish the credibility of leaders when this happens.

It is well that hypocrisy is brought up. We hear in scandals like this about how this proves Republicans are hypocrites. Well. Let someone show me that brave speech by Bill Clinton and John Edwards where they forthrightly forsook the hypocritical route of pretending to be faithful while having affairs. Someone please point to John Edwards' admission that his love child is his and his announcement of his financial support for his own son. We got instead a bizarre Larry King interview by John Edwards' wife that made clear she aided and abetted him during the Presidential campaign in covering up this story - politics before everything. No hypocrisy among Democrats?

Often the hypocrisy comes most from the anti-moralizers. If what Gov Sanford was sinful in your eyes, then you can't go on prattling about social conservatives are moralizers. You are one too. And if what Gov Sanford did wasnt wrong in your eyes, then you cant go on prattling about hypocrisy, as YOU are the hypocrite for trying to impose a morality you dont really believe in.

Christians know that Jesus came to save, not the perfect, but sinners. Sin occurs but redemption is possible. In the end, Gov Sanford has given in temptation and now has to face consequences of personal decisions on his family. At the personal level, its his wife and children that he has to atone to, not us spectators. At the political level, he has lost personal credibility and as such has almost certainly ended his career. He needs to put family first and amend his home situation before he can amend the political damage. But that loss is his alone and not on the wider conservative movement.

One last thing: Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. I believe the double-standard is a tribute from Democrats to Republicans that says "Hey, your politicians actually have to have principles. Ours dont."

Patrick Ruffini thinks Gov Sanford shouldn't resign because "it is a strategic error to sanctify the idea that it's worse when Republicans cheat. The hypocrisy charge exacts a double penalty on Republicans where none exists for Democrats."

I disagree. I am sorely disappointed that a Governor I regarded highly for his forthright fiscal conservatism has let his family and his constituents down, but the double standard exists for a reason.

"But adultery is different -- a human failing that strikes Democrats and Republicans equally"
Yes, the human failing strikes equally, but the political impact is different. Bill Clinton lives on, popular as ever, while Republican adulterers become side-show acts. When you base your politics on principles, you need to live up to them. Failure to keep commitments on the personal level exhibits and impacts on the political level. If you base your politics on pandering, than philandering is just a side hobby.

The double-standard is the homage that unprincipled Democrats pay to the Republican voters for actually voting based on principle. We can always find new leaders to follow, but we can't always find new principles. So the double-standard stays, a marker that says a Republican will need to be more ethically clean, more honest, and do more to live his or her professed values to be considered a credible leader. So be it.

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