A politician falls from grace because of a sexual scandal; it’s an often repeated story that happens all too regularly. When a politicians public face, fails to carry over into his private life the public pounces on the politician and their political career is over. Even those who survive only do because of exceptional circumstances, and only remain as shadow of their former political selves. Bill Clinton’s semi-successful stint in the white house is overlooked for a poorly timed blow job that almost got him impeached. But it is the tabloid fascination with sex and drama that distracts from issues far more relevant to a politician’s ability to do his job. The fascination with sex scandals has everything to do with our soundbite political climate, sex scandals are not actually concerned with morality but are one of the medias successful ways of turning political theatre into the central element of politics. It is this rather sick fascination what goes on in the bedrooms of our politicians that dilutes any reasonable conversation.
What separates a politician from us? Clearly we hold them up to different standards. I think it’s fair to say that politicians are expected to be better versed on current issues and have a passion for whatever their dealing with. Politicians are usually also very charismatic although this is not an ironclad rule, but there is a kind of politician, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, people with infectious personalities that you remember. Of course you always end up with candidates of convenience that have very little charisma, but they usually make up for it in intellect or political savvy. They also happen to driven by different things, they are attracted to power, it’s important in the current political situation that no one show this kind of ambition but among the public it’s kind of taken as a rule of thumb that most politicians are out for power, we seem to be satisfied though if they take the courtesy not to show it.
More confusingly there’s a double standard of morality for politicians. This double standard seems to focus more on their personal lives and less on their public ones. Almost all prominent politicians have a scandal or two that is in the sphere of general knowledge but very few scandals are enough to end the politician’s career so long as what they do is not clearly illegal. In some cases even an illegal action is not enough to bring the politician down. But this standard seems to be less lax for a politicians bedroom habits, no one will give up with the opportunity to report on a sex scandal. Eliot Spitzer was a promising candidate until it got out that had an affair, there were no allegations of any other wrongdoings, but his political career was effectively over because he had not been monogamous. Yet it seems that the actions of monogamous evil men aren’t nearly as bad, so long as it doesn’t get completely out of hand and a scandal isn’t bad enough they can have political careers spanning decades. Corruption is illegal, affairs are not, but if affairs are to be treated on at least the same level as corruption, I suggest we make affairs illegal and punishable by prison.
Sex sells and politics doesn’t, there is very little ratings wise to talk about policy minutiae. It’s also a great opportunity for the opposition to unambiguously deride the fallen opponent without any chance of an effective counterattack. People interested in very small scopes of things will find sex scandals immediately relatable, unlike most things in politics it is a unhealthy nonpartisan show of hypocritical shaming. Yet a politicians commitment to monogamy has very little to say about the ability to do their job, it has less to say about their commitment to a cause or their ability to manage. Does any of this really matter to anyone, if they are not getting into a relationship with that person? The standards of a politicians conduct by the public is strikingly high in regards some things and striking low in regards to others.