11.08.2012

NewsFeed: Elections

In honor of the momentous-ness of Election Day 2012, I finally made a NewsFeed button!  It was a big day, people, and I'm still kind of recovering.  I was rather incapacitated all day Tuesday and could not bring myself to do much more than vote and constantly update Twitter (follow me here) and Facebook.  Now that I've had some time to process some stuff and read some stuff and deal with some stuff, I thought I might talk about it.  But not so much the Presidential Election.

Rather, I want to address a few smaller contests that grabbed some attention.  First, there was dual-disaster that was Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin.  By now, you have undoubtedly heard the buzz about their unthinking words about women and rape and God's plan, so I won't go into it here.  But I was proud to watch their constituents ultimately decide they didn't want that kind of rhetoric representing them.  It wasn't necessarily that these were bad men; they just used words (such power, those things) that reflected extreme and ignorant views, and the people of their communities simply said: NO.  I also found it interesting that it was still a relatively close contest.  It's not as though no one voted for them; just fewer voted than they hoped.

Locally, we had the case of Scott DesJarlais.  As I now live in GA, this case is not personally relevant, but I take it personally because DesJarlais represents my parents in the 4th District of Tennessee.  A few weeks prior to the election, our local newspaper broke this news: DesJarlais, a practicing physician, had an extra-marital affair.  With a patient.  And then encouraged her to have an abortion.  Even though he is staunchly conservative and vocally Pro-Life.  Now, he explains that he only pressured her to have an abortion because he knew she wasn't actually pregnant, and he was just trying to get her to admit it.  Oh.  Ok.  That's fine, then.  But then, we learned of this news:  another affair.  With another patient.  Who he prescribed pain medication for on dates.  And smoked marijuana with.  Clearly, dude has some ethical problems to work through, and everyone saw the writing on the wall: endorsements were pulled, conservatives backed off, the Democratic party saw their chance and pushed hard on a contest they were never going to win otherwise.  Just like Mourdock and Akin, right?

Wrong.

DesJarlais was reelected.  By a wide margin.  I simply don't know what to do with that information.  I honestly believe that Mourdock and Akin are not bad people.  Misinformed, ignorant, and short-sighted, perhaps, but not essentially bad.  In the case of DesJarlais, I'm not convinced.  I don't see any of these revelations as merely bad decisions made in the moment.  If they are true, and I don't think he has denied any of them, they seem to me indicative of a poisoned character.  And though I don't necessarily think our elected officials should be somehow more than human, I do believe we have the right to hold them to a higher standard.  To adopt some of the expectations of what Plato defines in The Republic as philosopher-kings.  Plato had a bit of an elitism problem, certainly, but his argument that the best of the best should be governing the people is a decent one.  We are a representative democracy, so when we cast our votes, we are choosing the person we want to go out into the world on our behalf.  What they say and what they do, the words they choose, and the company they keep, these things have power.  Certainly, everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes dramatic, costly ones.  But to see this man reelected makes me think the voters of that district were either completely uninformed or thought a Democrat (any democrat) was worse than an evil, manipulative, deceitful man.  They wouldn't send their daughters to his medical practice, but they have no problem with sending him back to Washington on their behalf.

I'm at a loss.

4 comments:

  1. This is precisely the statement that I've looked for since the election results came in. My Facebook feed, however, seems to be full of mudslinging, "I-told-you-so", ignorance, and unkindness.

    As for Mourdock and Akin, I agree with the stance that they are simply ignorant. I suspect their actual beliefs were poorly represented by their words. I suspect that what they meant to convey was closer to the following:

    Rape is a heinous, criminal act. There is no excuse, argument, or circumstance that can make it acceptable. God, being the author of miracles that He is, can take even something as horrible as rape and bring good from the situation. It is never His plan for such an atrocity to occur, but He is capable of bringing beauty from the ashes.

    Now, whether or not you agree, you have to admit that's a kinder God than the world saw from Mourdock and Akin. Regardless, I was glad to see them defeated, simply because ignorance and a know-it-all attitude have no place in our governing leaders.

    The DesJarlais situation is the one that truly nauseates me. I have yet to see it, but I'm sure that eventually I'll hear the inevitable "boys will be boys" argument that adultery is acceptable, even expected, among men. That particular argument sells men incredibly short and is a short, slippery slope to the atrocities mentioned above. The fact is, I simply cannot trust a man who will lie to his wife. If someone does not value honesty in the most sacred of human relationships, what on earth would make anyone think they would be honest to anyone else? And what is more important in a leader than honesty? Make mistakes? Yes, but own them, do your best to correct them, and be honest about the process. Are the solutions for Medicare, Social Security, the economy, and foreign relations going to be difficult and require sacrifices? Certainly, but don't sugarcoat it or surprise me. Be honest. And the idea that the voters would choose otherwise? It's heartbreaking. To hear his words and actions defended by those I thought I knew? That's heartbreaking as well.
    Thanks for a well-thought out and well-written (as usual) commentary on some of my own thoughts.
    Virginia

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    1. Well put, Virginia. The honesty issue is definitely one for me, and another important component that is not being discussed is how a pattern of physician-patient relationships shows DesJarlais to be closer to a serial rapist than "merely" a serial adulterer. There is a tremendous power play involved (like teacher-student relationships), and when people are aroused by power, I can't fathom why we would want to give them more.

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  2. I don't believe it's fair to hold elected officials to a higher standard. I don't believe being highly offended by Scott DesJarlais' behavior is holding him to a "higher" standard. Rather, I believe we're merely expecting him to act like a decent human being whose words and deeds reflect the same general values, and whose judgment of others reflects an ability to be equally judgmental of himself.

    In other words, he deserves to lose an election not because he failed to live up to HIGHER standards, but because he failed to clear a vastly lower hurdle.

    What angers me about the conservatives that voted him in is that they brazenly accept the hypocrisies of their leaders (in pulpits or in politics) rather than fight for something better. They make claims about how other groups need to "clean their own backyard," for example, but refuse to acknowledge that their own backyard is a wicked mess that none of them seem to have the courage to address.

    Grr.

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    1. I agree completely that DesJarlais hasn't even met decent standards, but I'm going to have to stick to my guns that our elected officials (and our pastors and teachers, perhaps) do have a greater responsibility and thus a higher bar to clear. I'm thinking of how a teacher or counselor might make or not make certain choices in public because he or she might be seen by students. These choices don't make that person deceitful; they just mean the teacher is honoring a commitment to his or her "constituents."

      And yes, the hypocrisy? It knows no bounds.

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I love a good conversation, even (or especially) one that gets heated, so fire away! I try to respond to all in a timely manner.