Does Integrity Even Matter Anymore?

For as long as there have been “intelligent” humans, there has been corruption, bribery and blackmail in all levels of society. But no more prominent has it been than in the areas of organized crime and politics, which, if I didn’t know any better, seems to have become one and the same. Politicians, much like a mob boss, have made a business out of using such tactics to get things done. The difference is, most mob bosses, to a certain degree, hold a high level of integrity, whereas the majority of politicians have none whatsoever. And yet we continue to support them, even though it completely undermines and sours the meaning of compromise, negotiation and debate, the true cornerstones of any free republic.

Integrity, as it is defined, is the quality of being honest with a high regard for ethical and moral principles. There have always been politicians who didn’t have an ounce of integrity, but over the last decade, it seems the number of politicians who have abandoned their integrity in favor of allowing their inner Sirens to reign over them in their desire to retain power and line their pockets with financial pleasures have expanded exponentially and has infiltrated all levels, from governors to judges to the top man on the totem pole.

Take the recent news in regards to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Since the debate over the debt ceiling began, Senator McConnell has fought to reign in spending, much like the majority of the Republican party. However, in passing the “bi-partisan” bill to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling (for four months, a band-aid if their ever was one), Senator McConnell has proven that integrity is not something he holds dear.

Reports surfacing today have shown a bright light on why Senator McConnell may have agreed to sign the bill, which offers no concessions for anything the Republicans had been negotiating for. A section of the bill offers Senator McConnell’s state of Kentucky a three billion dollar pork roast for a dam reconstruction project (one, I might add, that’s basically a failed project as it stands). So, after fighting so long and hard to curtail funding and stop the rising debt, Senator McConnell sold out his integrity (if he ever had any to begin with) for a bribe that he probably hopes will help him in his re-election campaign.

I guarantee you that this isn’t the only pork project that found it’s way into the bill, either. The idea that you can sell one’s vote for the chance to sustain one’s power has become the norm in Washington. If it wasn’t for bribes and shady deal-making, the Affordable Care Act would probably never have passed in the first place. This type of ploy is not negotiating; it’s unethical bullying by one person (or party) to secure their reign of power over another. And it reeks of deceit and corruption. It’s unethical and demands a change. But how can we change something that we don’t even seem to care about?

The politicians we vote into office are supposed to be looking out for our best interests. Politicians work for us, not the other way around, but a lot of Americans seem to have lost sight of this fact by letting this go on for so long. As we remain complacent, accepting every word the politicians utter (and to an equal extent, the talking heads in the media and talk radio) as gospel, the politicians have slowly built a power structure that is becoming more secure and unbreakable with each passing day. They have slowly, but effectively, made us believe that the government knows best and that we would all be so much better off if we just give them control over all aspects of our lives. I’ve got news for you: that is not acting in our best interest. It’s manipulating us into giving them more of what we have, including our freedom.

I can’t respect or support any politician that would sell his vote. But there are plenty of people that do, which is why we are where we are. Politicians like Senator McConnell are praised for working out a deal (even though the deal is exactly what the majority wanted in the first place, with no changes or concessions whatsoever), while Senators like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are vilified for actually standing up for what they believe to be the best course of action for the people.

The Democrats once believed that the Patriot Act was the mark of the devil, a way for the government to take away our freedoms, and that it should be repealed. That was under President Bush. Once President Obama took office, all of a sudden, it was the greatest bill in the world and they urged the President to sign it back into law because it was the best way for the government to protect the people. So, what happened? The bill didn’t change, so why all of a sudden did the opinions of the politicians? Because the Patriot Act, on it’s face, is power, and when the Democrats felt they didn’t have it, they attacked, only to turn around and accept it when it was they who could abuse it. This is a clear example of someone looking out for themselves, not those who they are sworn to protect.

The Republicans tried (and ultimately failed) to attach the defunding, postponing, and forcing of government to abide by the Affordable Care Act to the debt ceiling because they believed that the ACA will, in the end, hurt the American people, whether that be right away (as in rising deductibles and premiums), or somewhere down the line (as in when the law implodes under its own weight). Was it the right move? I’m not sure it was; only time will tell. But once the Republicans made the choice to do it, standing by that decision, no matter the consequences, was the only right thing to do.

Those politicians who did stick to their guns (both Republican and Democrat) and didn’t give in are the men and women that I can respect, regardless of whether or not it was the right choice. The politicians that held firm on their no vote last night are the champions I want in my government. They are the ones that say, “I don’t care if I’m voted out of office at the next election, because this is what I believe is right for the American people.” They are the ones that honor the oath of the United States, that convey a high level of integrity going against the majority to fight for what they believe to be the right thing for the betterment of the people, not because it gives them a chance to line their pockets or suck up more power.

In a perfect world, any politician caught taking or offering a bribe (or any deal, for that matter) in exchange for a vote, or offers governmental financial support to anyone who donated money to a politicians campaign coffers, should be forced to resign his post and face up to ten years in prison. But this isn’t a perfect world (and in all honesty, who would even want that? What fun would that be?), so the only way to bring integrity back to the mass majority of both politicians and the people themselves, is to honor it and respect it, and force everyone to abide by it. And there’s only one way to do that.

More of us need to stand up for and support politicians and lawmakers who mean what they say and keep their promises over those who would sell their soul for a doughnut if it meant it would somehow keep them in office. We need to punish and turn our backs on those those like Senator McConnell and Senator McCain (and from what I can tell, the majority of Democrats, including Representative Pelosi and Senator Reid) who continually announce that they are for sale to the highest bidder. This is the only way to force a change in Washington and at least try to bring integrity back to our nation, because if we’re not careful, this lack of personal and professional integrity will eventually turn us all into slaves of the ruling political elite (which, by all accounts, anyone who votes simply because they live off the government and don’t want to lose their special subsidies and “freebies” already is), a change that is happening, whether you want to believe it or not.

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