I had a conversation with a Democratic friend of mine recently about the upcoming election. It was the day after the Republican debate, and he was pretending to be interested in some of the candidates. He’s a clever one, this friend; he pretends to be objective, so at times he must also pretend he is interested in candidates of the opposing party.

But he slipped up and told the truth.

“Who do you think you’ll vote for in this election cycle?” I asked.

“Whichever one promises me the most money,” he replied.

This friend is usually too clever to admit such a thing, so I was a little surprised. To see whether he was serious, I dug deeper.

“That’s a high moral standard,” I said.

“What other reason is there?” 

I was taken aback, for this same friend often laments the moral decay of our elected leaders. Now, he was showing his hand as it were, alerting me to his true motivations.

“Just why do you think our leaders have no morals, when you yourself are telling me the only thing that matters is who’s giving you the most money?” I wanted to ask. “Do you really think you’re going to elect Augustinian moralists when you’re admitting that all you really care about is shallow materialism?”

But I didn’t say this. I decided to write about it instead.  

I can’t help but believe that many voters on both sides of the aisle are like my friend. They want better leaders, but instead of voting for this, they’re happy to be bought off by those they think will give them something. Whereas John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” these voters, could their inaudible desire be heard, would sound something like, “Me, me, me, me.”

There is a bottom-up, causal relationship in all this. When writing about the Carlee Russell “kidnapping” case, I argued that morality has a top-down effect and that a lack of moral virtue by our leaders will eventually filter down to our populace. I might well have said that such a phenomenon, by also moving from the bottom up, is circular in nature, for in a democracy like ours it is inevitable that the leaders we elect from among us end up being like us.

Is it any wonder then that the current president and his family seem to be of the same mindset as my friend? Although the Justice Department is doing its best to stall and at times thwart the investigation, enough has emerged for us to know that no money-making scheme like this has ever happened in our executive branch.

In a recent interview on Fox News, Newt Gingrich said that Joe Biden has learned from his predecessors. “He’s learned from Obama that it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re a liberal Democrat you will not be prosecuted. He learned from Hillary that a person in high public office can get millions and millions of dollars.”

Money belongs to the area of materialism and is therefore a particular; however, how it’s handled is moral, and therefore a universal. If we want leaders who aren’t corrupt, then we must vote, not according to the particulars of who is going to give us the most money, but by the broader, more universal reason of who has the moral standing to govern us.

For if we continue with this narrow, selfish focus, we will only get more of the same. Clean water doesn’t come from a dirty well.       

Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at allen@kellerlumber.net.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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