What are we willing to absolve politicians of? What are we willing to forgive them for doing, and what are we not willing to forgive them for doing? This is a question I ask in my newspaper column out today.
I look at it this way: As a voter, I'm willing to forgive most things (within the law) that a candidate did not promise to be during the election campaign. If a lawmaker has personal problems (womanizing, etc.), that's their problem - unless they've made campaign promises to me, the average voter, that relates to that (like, say, they campaign on being a moral role model). If a politician has money problems in their family (like, say, they go bankrupt), I won't judge them on it - again, unless they've made campaign promises, say, on their personal financial management skills.
But if they deliberately break policy promises, that's when they cannot be forgiven - by me, by you, and by our country. Because campaign promises in a republican democracy are sacred. They are the only ways we can judge candidates during elections. To break them deliberately and without substantive reason for the public good is to insult democracy.
As my column shows, this is what happened this week on health care - and it was ugly. Really ugly. We saw the president break a promise and go out of his way to stop legislation so as to protect the drug industry's profiteering price cartel. And, as more details come out, we may yet find that in doing this, his administration politicized one of the science-based regulators that's supposed to be immune from such tampering.
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