When Principled Leaders Ignore Principles, America Suffers

Republican presidential candidates John Kasich (L) and Donald Trump (R) look on as Jeb Bush (2nd-L) confers with Ted Cruz (2n
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich (L) and Donald Trump (R) look on as Jeb Bush (2nd-L) confers with Ted Cruz (2nd-R) during the CBS News Republican Presidential Debate in Greenville, South Carolina, February 13, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The biblical commandment, "Do not follow the majority to do evil" is meant, in part, to instruct principled leaders not to give in to the whims of a club or community to do something wrong. Rather, the leader who follows principles is meant to buck the wrong and restore the right. In the annals of history - in our country and the world -- there are lots of examples of the majority doing wrong while leaders went along or did nothing.

We are at this kind of moral crossroads in American politics. Jeb Bush and other major Republican candidates have said that they will support the Republican nominee, no matter what. No matter how many insults Donald Trump hurls; no matter how many "carpet bombs" Ted Cruz drops, Republican leaders and candidates -- save The National Review, which declared in a cover editorial that they would not support Donald Trump -- have either hedged or openly declared support for the possible nominees.

The message is that they are Republicans first, protecting the party's back whether or not they agree with the GOP or whether the nominee is good for America.

Republican leaders are not the only ones to ignore their principles. On the other side of the political spectrum, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared prior to Hillary Clinton's defeat in New Hampshire that, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't support each other." Women should support women -- no matter what. Breaking the glass ceiling is more important than what's best for our country.

Using this same logic, Democratic women should have supported Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. If South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had waived the Confederate flag after the Charleston church shooting, all women would still be obligated to support her.

In an amazing display of courage and conscience, Governor Haley did pull down the Confederate flag in favor of decency and needed social change. She had to persuade the majority, a true sign of leadership. For her, principles rose above party or politics.

While Hillary Clinton, presumably pushing back against Madeleine Albright, cautioned supporters not to support her just because she's a woman, she admonished Bernie Sanders for criticizing some of President Obama's policies. The warning: don't ever break ranks. Support the power within the party. If you don't, you're a traitor!

"I would have expected that from the Republicans, not from you," Clinton declared in the last Democratic debate, to which Sanders replied, "Last I heard, we live in a democratic society. Last I heard, a United States Senator can disagree with the President of the United States." He delivered a powerful rebuttal that principled politicians should heed.

However, the message that I take away from many Republican and Democratic leaders is that their party loyalty matters more than loyalty to the values, principles and priorities of America. They would never admit this, but their words and actions indicate otherwise.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Jeb Bush said: "I have been a loyal Republican and if past is prologue, I'm confident that I'll be supporting a Republican nominee."

John Kasich, appearing on ABC This Week declared: "I made a pledge [to the party] and I have been listening to him [Donald Trump] lately, and you notice he's toned down the rhetoric. I hope going forward he'll been a unifier."

That hasn't happened. The most recent Republican/South Carolina debate was possibly the most raucous, vulgar and divisive to date. Still, Republican leaders have continued their silence, showing loyalty to the party cause and anyone who is the party nominee.

Several years ago, I facilitated a workshop for a public school and asked the teachers to define their core values. The school's union rep got up and said that his overriding core value was that, "I am a union man through and through and I protect my union brothers and sisters, no matter what!" Several of his fellow teachers found his position offensive because, they said, he was putting the union over teaching or influencing kids.

The same can be said for both political parties, or for all African-Americans, all Jewish-Americans, all Christian-Americans, all gay-Americans, and so on. Business leaders who only support their business perspective over all other moral considerations make the same mistake as the stilted union rep or party-centered political leader.

It seems to me that what ought to be guiding our country and leaders today are their values, one of which ought to be loyalty to the greater good of our country, not just to their party or self-interest. If party leaders are wrong, others ought to call them on the carpet. If a union leader is wrong, we ought to say so. If a community or businesses leader is wrong, other leaders ought to push for righting the wrong.

When police are wrong, police should not routinely close ranks to support the wrong or look the other way. That's what created problems in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland and elsewhere, justifying injustice in the name of justice.

When leaders over time have backed their companies, parties, communities, religions or clubs despite moral breaches, the results have been McCarthyism, Enron, priest pedophiles, slavery, and discrimination. The list goes on. Blind loyalty is never good.

Whenever a friend of mine -- an entrepreneur who built a company that became the industry standard -- hired a new employee, he would ask them where their loyalties would be while on the job. Invariably, each new hire pledged their loyalty to the company and the boss. He would reply that he didn't expect their blanket loyalty. He only expected loyalty to their values -- that if they were loyal to their values, they would do the right thing for the company, co-workers, communities, families and customers.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, a gay-American, recently wrote: "We're all complicated people voting for complicated people. We're not census subgroups falling in line. I'll go to the barricades for that imagined gay candidate if he or she has talents I trust, positions I respect and a character I admire. If not, I'll probably go elsewhere...."

Blindly supporting myopic interests and affinity groups that only align with our interests will not solve problems or bridge our differences in America. Loyalty to our shared principles will, and ultimately that is the attitude that will bring us together.

Muszynski is Founder of Purple America, a national initiative of Values-in-Action Foundation to re-focus the American conversation to a civil, productive and respectful dialogue around our shared values. To see America's shared values and get involved, go to www.PurpleAmerica.us. Project Love is a school-based character-development program of Values-in-Action Foundation. To see information about Project Love school programming, go to www.projectlove.org