In the early hours of the morning on Oct. 22, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party took the victory in this year’s election, despite losing the popular vote by a margin of over 200,000 votes, or about 1.3 percent. The Liberals lost their previous majority and will go on to form a minority government, winning just 157 seats of the 338 seats in the Parliament. This dampened victory is the product of a campaign fraught with scandal, from intervention in a court case to a shocking brownface photo from an “Arabian Nights” themed gala. Still, despite these blemishes on Trudeau’s record, he and the Liberals retain power.
This Canadian election is just one episode in an age-long series of scandals where politicians are given passes for actions that would sink any regular members of society. In fact, this phenomenon is not limited to our neighbors to the north. In a particularly extreme example, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines claimed he killed a man when he was 16, but in May, his party swept the midterm elections. The success of both of these politicians exemplifies an unfortunate truth — since the dawn of democracy, characters of suspicious repute have had far too much influence in the world.
America also presents a number of good examples as proof of this problem. We deal with President Donald Trump’s incessant incompetence on the daily, from idiotic gaffes and copyright strikes by Nickelback to alleged impeachable offenses. Americans seem to be almost totally desensitized to all but the worst conduct of our elected leaders.
In Virginia we’re guilty of the same. We have largely let Attorney General Mark Herring escape unscathed after admitting that he attended a party in blackface during his time as a student here at the University. We still don’t know whether Gov.Ralph Northam was dressed in blackface or as a Klansman in his infamous Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photo. In response, state and national politicians and organizations, including The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board, called for Northam’s resignation. Despite overwhelming media and public outcry, Northam remains in office, as if nothing had ever happened. On Oct. 22, Northam was even a keynote speaker for an event at the Darden School of Business.
Most shockingly, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault and rape, yet has not been the subject of even a single hearing by the General Assembly. Virginia Democrats have blocked all requests for bipartisan hearings, a condition both alleged victims have established before they will be willing to testify before the General Assembly. Fairfax has even filed a $400 million lawsuit against CBS for reporting the accusations against him and interviewing his alleged victims. He’s gone as far as to even accuse Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of smearing him by supporting investigation into the allegations against him. Virginia, sadly, has more than its own fair share of morally suspect politicians.
There is only one way to bring about some semblance of decency to our government. The soul of our democracy can be saved only by voters, who must repeatedly and vigorously cast out powerful figures who engage in unsavory activities. Virginia legislative elections will be held this Nov. 6, and voters should remember whether their delegates and senators have done their part to defend justice and serve the Commonwealth. Virginians must not forget the failure of House Democrats to begin hearings on Fairfax’s alleged misconduct. Come executive elections in 2021, voters must address the irresponsible and contemptible behavior of Northam and Herring. The particularly distasteful level of hypocrisy in the Democratic Party — which continues to endorse liberal and inclusive values — in not confronting the acute moral failure of top Virginia Democrats leaves me concerned for the future of the country.
This issue exists at far too many levels of government, with several unscrupulous candidates running for president, threatening to continue the failure of government that began in 2016. During the 2020 election, Americans across the country must do their part to elect candidates who are not only capable executives and legislators, but also good people. Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden, despite his supposed congenial charm, has a long history of uncomfortable contact with women. Senator Bernie Sanders has problems with nepotism. Trump, of course, also has his own laundry list of scandals that would require more than a few issues of The Cavalier Daily to explore. Voters should take care to ensure the candidates they support not only agree with them politically but also engage in conduct appropriate to the offices they wish to occupy.
From the northern reaches of the Yukon, to the Phillipine Islands and everywhere in between, democracies are plagued by immoral and dishonest leaders. So please, don’t forgive a candidate for misconduct just because the alternatives are “worse.” Support politicians who represent your values, in their own lives and in their official capacities. Vote your conscience, not your party.
Bilge Batsukh is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.