Politics and Hypocrisy

Did you catch the apparent hypocrisy of President Obama asking for a vote on Syria from the same group he relentlessly called “do-nothing congress”? And then we have some politicians who are willing to arm rebels of another nation while trying to disarm Americans? Does it strike you as somewhat odd to hear John Kerry arguing for war? Perhaps this is just politics as usual but the hypocrisy is hard to ignore.

And the test of hypocrisy appears to be driving large numbers from politics. Why are Americans increasingly indifferent to politics and distrusting of politicians? Ask folks at a local restaurant what they think about government and politicians, and you’ll hear common lines of disgust.

“They’re all a bunch of crooks!” “Every politician is a liar!” “They tell you what you want to hear until they get elected, then they do whatever they want until another election rolls around.” “They don’t really care about the people.” “They’re too busy fighting with each other to get anything done.”
Each election season the public is exposed to political hypocrisy on steroids. Who really trusts the content of campaign ads? Yet, ironically, the ads still work because each side pays an unconscionable amount of money for advertisements designed to destroy the trustworthiness of opponents. And the public seems to have an appetite for honesty because the most effective ads are the ones exposing hypocrisy in an opponent. 

It takes courage to be an honest politician who serves the Country with honor when most people consider “honest politician” an oxymoron. Unfortunately, public servants of this kind are increasingly hard to find. And with a public default mode of cynicism, I don’t blame qualified people who refuse to run for office. Who wants to be an object of skepticism, scrutiny and slander? If an opposing side can’t find a misdeed from a candidate’s past, they’ll gladly invent one and then use their media servants to spread it. 

And the partisan polarization of news media only inflames the problem. ABC, CBS and NBC have long been extensions of liberal politics. Foxnews is the only cable network with programs that at least try to be fair and balanced. CNN is runner up but MSNBC is simply an arm of radical leftwing politics. All of this has become predictably boring and a huge turn-off to many people. 

We shouldn’t be too surprised by voter apathy when most people feel the only choice for a leader is one hypocrite over another. So perhaps the sanest option is to abandon all hope of politics without hypocrisy. Should we settle for what we can get? Do competing interests in a pluralistic society make it impossible to run for public office without a degree of hypocrisy?

In Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond, David Runciman suggests that it’s worse to pretend that we could have politics without hypocrisy. He states that, “The most dangerous form of political hypocrisy is to claim to have a politics without hypocrisy.” While he’s not saying we should fully endorse hypocrisy, Runciman strongly discourages the ideal of pursuing authentic politicians and commends a distinction between harmless and harmful hypocrisies.

On this way of thinking, the question voters must decide is what kind of hypocrite they want for a leader. But the stomach for hypocrisy (especially in others) is still weak. Since no one likes being lied to or taken as a fool, many would rather bail out of politics than embrace a stage actor. Yet, even if it feels justified, in a representative form of democracy voter apathy is both irresponsible and potentially dangerous. 

Perhaps the only way to avoid the cynicism that politics encourages is to be more realistic about human leadership. I don’t say this to encourage gullibility or indifference to substantive issues, but to discourage false expectations. 

We hurt ourselves when we accept hypocrisy over truth. Jesus Christ, (the most influential leader of human history), reserved his strongest words of rebuke for hypocritical leaders. The Scripture also warns against persons “who serve their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (Romans 16:18).

Young people today are less likely to offer blind loyalty to a party, but I am concerned about the growing cynicism toward politics that appears to feed on misguided expectations. We need to hold the bar of leadership high without naïvely wishing for utopian political idealism from human leaders.

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Democracy, Democrats, Government, Leadership, Liberal, Partisanship, Political Correctness, Politics, Republican, Wisdom, Worldview. Bookmark the permalink.

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