Moral Accountability: Holding Politicians to a Higher Standard

In light of senator Ted Cruz’s recent support for accused sex offender Brett Kavanaugh, I didn’t feel the least bit of sympathy toward him after hearing that he was harassed in a restaurant to such an extent that he had to leave. People need to be held accountable for their actions–public figures especially so.

A huge part of politics is maintaining alliances for the sake of collective power. This means many times, politicians will take the side that wins them the most favor from their target audience rather than voicing what they really think or feel, let alone what they believe is right. What immediately comes to mind are the words of English politician John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

When any person gains too much power, they often are consumed by it and will do anything within their capabilities to keep said power. Consider the famous example of Julius Caesar: he led Rome to victory in battle a number of times, then declared himself dictator. He never stepped down, and was removed from his position of political dominion only through assassination. Power is addictive, and those who have it can do whatever they want to their subjects. While an extreme example, Caesar’s experience illustrates the culmination of what happens when a tyrant’s rule produces angry citizens and then promptly dismisses their outcries of dissatisfaction.

Political power is a unique danger because it’s essentially control over other people’s lives on a massive scale. The simple fact that men like Cruz are public figures means that even their political statements–as much as their actions–have a lot of sway on the minds of those who look up to them. When Cruz supported Kavanaugh it sent a message, one which is diametrically opposed to the mantra, “We believe survivors,” chanted by the protestors opposing Cruz at the restaurant in question. Through his support for Kavanaugh, Cruz has effectively told all of America, including his millions of supporters, that victims don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

It is vital that we hold our politicians to a high moral standard because of the amount of influence they hold. And besides, isn’t that already what we do to the people around us? Imagine the last family dinner where a relative said something offensive or politically incorrect. Ideally, one would have had the courage to speak against the offense not only for the sake of the community under attack, but for the moral health of the family member. We want the people close to us to be good at heart.

We need to apply this same standard to politicians, to an extreme. After all, consider what’s at stake: Cruz was a serious presidential candidate just this last election and now, in the face of the Donald Trump presidency, we’re seeing what happens when someone with misogynistic views gains power. It is critical that Cruz understand why his support is misplaced so he does not, in the future, support a culture of victim blaming.

Moreover, the protestors were enacting their First Amendment right to free speech by protesting at the restaurant. It would be impossible to keep them from doing so without completely dismantling the values of the United States. We as Americans value free speech because it allows us to voice our grievances with those in power and, ideally, to enact change. Be sure not to miss the opportunity to tell your leaders what you think of them if you take issue with what they have done or the character of the people they support–even if they are eating dinner peacefully with their wife. Our leaders are meant to represent us; it’s important not to let them get away with supporting someone so reprehensible as an accused sexual assailant. Consider what’s really at stake, and continue to hold the people in power accountable for their actions.

Simon Orychiwski is a fourth year Political Science major and English and Literary Journalism minor. He can be reached at sorychiw@uci.edu.