Opinion Graphic

In modern American politics, there is no moral high ground. Earlier this month, it was confirmed by Senate candidate Cal Cunningham that he had an extramarital affair that included sexually suggestive texts with a business partner. This came to light with less than six weeks until the general election in one of the tightest U.S. Senate races in 2020. While we may not be surprised, it is still disappointing.

In America, it has become the norm that high-profile politicians and candidates are continually accused of sexual and moral misconduct. With candidates on either side of the aisle at fault, there is no monopoly on virtue. While the candidates on the right have been spewing bigoted rhetoric and more, the candidates on the left are no better. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim to have more honor than the other. 

If the North Carolina Democratic Party continues to support Cal Cunningham despite his blatant transgressions, it cannot continue to sling mud at the president without becoming somewhat hypocritical. Despite this lack of morals on either side, this is not an argument that all of American politics is morally corrupt therefore there are no obvious candidates and policies to support. Rather, we must look at candidates' records and see if they stay true to their principles.

Historically, leaders that have done the most to progress society have also been racist, xenophobic and more. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a flagrant racist, yet he still progressed the civil rights movement more than any candidate on the ballot in 2020. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most important figures in American history, yet he allegedly had affairs with up to 40 women. Although we find these acts to be reprehensible, Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson are both still viewed favorably for their role in the progression of American society.

As voting starts this month, we must learn to understand the difference between candidates’ professional and private lives. As long as politicians do not violate the law, their personal lives remain civil issues. Domestic disputes in politicians’ lives are irrelevant unless they commit criminal acts or these issues prevent them from being able to fulfill the duties of their office. Research candidates on the ballot and do your due diligence as a citizen. You can go to the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ voter search tool and find your sample ballot.

In 2020, when we vote, we cannot simply use ethics as the determining factor because our emotions can be misguided. This is not to say that ethics should not be a guiding principle, but it shouldn’t be our only one. All politicians are human and are prone to mistakes; this does not mean that they aren’t able to do good in the world. Ask yourself, “Does this candidate I am voting for have a history of supporting the policies I believe in?” If the answer is yes and they have not committed egregious criminal acts then why would you not vote for them?