Why Integrity Really Really Matters

Integrity and authenticity are qualities that really matter to me and to millions of other people who have just re-elected our president Barack Obama for a second term.

For the first time in the last few months, I am reassured that the changing face of America has a powerful voice that made itself heard over the out-of-touch and dismissive ideology of the extreme right. Above and beyond our opinions on specific issues, many of us were alarmed by the obvious lack of sincerity and straightforwardness on the part of Governor Romney. He is probably a very nice man with a big heart towards his family and his community, however, his message never connected with the heart and soul of the American people. I don't think he truly connected with people in his own party either.

I must admit that, at the onset, I was baffled and deeply disturbed by the amount of the American electorate who seemed to have very little problem with candidate Romney's total lack of integrity. A friend of mine remarked: "Since when do we expect anything else from our politicians?" He has a point, but, since 2008, I grew accustomed to candidate, and then President Obama, who rose above political misrepresentation. His message matched his ideology and his true nature. You can see it and you can feel it, whether you agree with him or not. It was candidate Obama's ability to stand in his integrity while delivering his message that incited the contagious passion and inspiration that swept the entire country in 2008 and again in 2012.

It's a far different story as far as Gov. Romney was concerned. There's no denying that Gov. Romney was having great difficulty finding a thread of uprightness to hold on to. I don't blame him, after all, he was a business man running a political campaign to become CEO of our country. To that extent, he felt he needed to be all things to all people, and that included making sure that the shareholders (us, little citizens) heard what they most want to hear, making sure that the media gets the perfect sound bites that they wants to hear, and that the spinning on issues matches the expectations of the crowd he was addressing at a particular moment. This "I am your guy, no matter what I believe or what you believe in" is not easy to pull off! Of course, good political maneuvering must include strategic shifts of position. In this case, it was expected that after Romney's deep genuflecting at the altar of the neo-cons and far right-wingers of his party, he would need to walk back to the center line and embrace the more reasonable masses. He did so in his signature style, abruptly, undiplomatically, and with remarkable composure and lack of contrition. I have a problem with that. For me, it goes to character and substance. If integrity is not a value you can count on in a candidate for the highest office in the land, how does he expect people to trust him and to trust his message?

This profound disconnect is familiar to all of us. We intrinsically know the value of aligning our intentions and aspirations with who we really are at the core, and to honestly take responsibility for our words and actions. We immediately sense when we step out of that alignment because it feel as though we are on quick sand. That doesn't mean we don't do it once in a while, but we know the minute we step out of our truth, and we recognize when others do the same. It's on the gut feeling level. It makes us uncomfortable because we are compromising our values and conceding to lower standards.

And this is exactly how I felt when I witnessed the shifting positions of a man who was running for president of our country. It didn't elicit confidence in him and his ability to lead us. His message didn't resonate as genuine and it became impossible to decipher what Mr. Romney's own views were.

What saddened me the most though, was to witness amongst my Republican friends the same lowering of the bar in their own attempt to justify their candidate's ever shifting positions and to hold on to ideology over integrity and truth. I am respectful of their political views and of their desire to see their candidate win, less so of their willingness to be right at all cost. Maybe I am a hopeless idealistic lover of genuineness. I am glad to see that I am in very good company.

Toni Emerson is an author, a certified holistic coach, and a spiritual activist. For more information, visit her website at www.ToniEmerson.com.