It may come as no surprise that individuals high up in the echelons of our society feel that they are above moral standards to the extent that they commit lewd acts, but when these individuals operate in a public capacity, their actions can be made public and scrutinized by everyone.
As news stories of Anthony Weiner and Bob Filner’s sexual harassment come to light, voters are asking themselves once again whether the indiscretions of public individuals should preclude them from serving the public.
Unlike CEOs of private multinational corporations, elected officials like mayors, governors and members of Congress are funded entirely by taxpayer dollars.
This fact has led many to believe that all actions of public officials are subject to the scrutiny of the voters who elected them to office.
In the case of Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, public opinion indicated that Clinton’s accomplishments as president—including his handling of the economy—outweighed any moral harm he may have committed by having sexual relations with Lewinsky.
Anthony Weiner, on the other hand, has only managed to pass one piece of legislation in his twelve and a half years in Congress.
The measure had been backed by a major donor who contributed a vast sum of money to his campaign, according to the New York Times.
Evidence thus far seems to indicate that voters are willing to forgive indiscretions if the politician has done enough for his constituents.
If elected officials do not succumb to the pressure to resign, they can be recalled in several states if enough petitions are collected to enact a recall election.
Recalls can happen for any action, but recall elections cost states additional money to operate.
The case of Bob Filner proves to be more ambiguous than it initially appears, as the allegations that have been made against him happened while he was serving in Congress.
According to Southern California Public Radio, sexual harassment training is not mandated by law, and members of Congress receive little to no training in workplace ethics.
With that in mind, if Filner were to admit to the accusations against him, he could argue that he was not aware such actions were inappropriate.
We talk about what is right and wrong in terms of acceptable behavior for politicians, but with respect to vague indiscretions, we fail to acknowledge that these expectations are subjective and have yet to be addressed in public policy.
Should it be up to policymakers then, to address these shortfalls via legislation, or do we prefer that these moral expectations are intentionally left unaddressed so that we can make judgements based upon the national mood?
The question is not whether voters should establish a clear code of moral ethics for elected officials, but whether or not the public should scrutinize their non-political actions to begin with.
And if we do, we must determine at what points in time it is appropriate for us to make our opinions heard.
We, as taxpaying voters, should never be naive to the fact that we will never have corrupt, immoral, outright gross politicians.
This is not to say that we should throw our hands in the air and say “to hell with it, there’s nothing we can do.”
Certainly, there are policymakers whose moral compasses remain intact. It is up to us, the voting citizens, to have enough pride in ourselves and our communities that we want only the best to govern our towns.