Opinion | Hold your elected officials morally responsible

The John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe affair will go down in history as one of the greatest tall tales of the 1960s. To this day, whether or not the two truly had relations with one another is debated. While the consensus 60 years later is that they did in fact, at one point see each other behind Jackie Kennedy’s back, the reputation of being a cheater has never seemed to besmirch JFK’s too-short political legacy. And even if the affair isn’t factual, the mere allegation never tarnished JFK’s shiny, Catholic reputation.

As our elected officials, we ask our representatives to be their truest, most dutiful selves. We ask them to faithfully represent us and our desires, be outstanding citizens and create the image that the United States is a fortified and united nation — despite it being anything but. And while our representatives, elected officials and bureaucrats are just like us — human — and prone to making mistakes no different than ourselves, at what point do we peel back the patriotic veil and punish our representatives for their moral wrongdoings? At what point do their mistakes become too hefty and lethal to successfully lead a political campaign? Do we really want those so morally inept to be the faces and identities that lead this country and henceforth mar it with their detestable behavior?

Former President Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts of fraud on May 30, including 11 counts of fraudulent invoices for legal services, 11 fraudulent checks paid for legal services and 12 fraudulent ledger entries for legal expenses. All 12 jurors unanimously agreed that Trump falsified business records to conceal a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Looking beyond his politics and policy inclinations, do we, as Americans, really want to elect and be led by someone who is now a convicted felon? His charges were not some low-level possession charge or a self-defense matter. This was a man who actively knew what he was doing was crooked but did so anyway to gain power from the highest office in the country. Not only that, but Trump was said to have been gloating about his encounter with Daniels in 2006, well after he married his third and current wife Melania Trump, the former first lady of the United States. Friends of his on the golf course recounted that he specifically said “It added 20 yards to my drive today,” implying that the hookup was recent and therefore after he and Melania had been married and sometime around the time his youngest son was born.

While we can recognize that people make mistakes, Trump has made quite a few doozies, with many awaiting trial and other allegations found to be true throughout the years. He has not only emphatically boasted about assaulting women and “grabbing them by the pussies,” but was also unanimously found by a jury to have sexually abused columnist Jean Carroll in 1996. 

Polls are showing a downturn in approval for his campaign this upcoming November and a decrease in the number of those willing to vote for him. Seemingly, a majority of moderates and independents are truly holding the former president to a higher moral standard, and over half of voters believe that the conviction was fair despite many Republicans, including Trump’s own, claiming otherwise.

Our other option doesn’t fare much better. President Biden’s already imperfect and criticized administration has been tainted by his commitment to Israel, the state currently committing atrocities against the people of Palestine. While we can sit back and watch Biden’s administration and staff fight for our reproductive rights, the right for all to legally be wed and work to lessen the impact of student debt on the population, how can we be content with his policy and actions when he is complicit in a genocide? We are being asked to keep the government out of our uteruses, marginally make better the situation for people of color and keep the US from committing environmental atrocities by voting for Biden, but in doing so choosing the candidate who repeatedly fortifies Israel’s militia and therefore the slaughter of Palestinians.

Policy is important, and it is important to vote in the way we think is best. In a two-party system, it is nearly impossible to find a representative who we agree with 100% of the time or find one we can blindly trust. But we must ask ourselves how important policy is when the person you are voting for is morally abhorrent. There is a lot of give and take in politics and when it comes to voting. Most of us have to set aside some of our beliefs to make sure our more important ones are heard, and in times like this, many must set aside their morality to ensure that their other rights and freedoms are not taken away. But when is a line drawn in the sand that makes such moral deficiencies too egregious for us to be willing to vote for them? 

Perhaps we have failed this Presidential cycle to choose candidates who are morally alright, but moving forward, we must place morality at the center of who we elect. We must hold our elected officials to higher moral standards, or else we will continuously be put in positions to either vote with our conscience or in spite of it.

 Livia LaMarca is the assistant editor of the opinions desk who misses using the Oxford comma. She mostly writes about American political discourse, US pop culture and social movements. Write to her at lll60@pitt.edu to share your own opinions!


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