French writer André Gide penned one of the most notable quotes when he wrote: “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” Gide was a depraved man, according to the standards of that day, and even as well as our own standards today. His quote was indicative of someone searching to be himself, without betraying his personal battle over his lack of ethics. It is similar today to many political endorsements.
I am always astounded at candidates that some groups choose to endorse, or groups who endorse certain political candidates. Some endorsements can be very damaging to political candidates. This leads to the question, why would the political candidate seek such an endorsement or accept money from an organization in which they do not share values? Perhaps that candidate is in a failing political campaign and needs the money for a fledgling campaign? Perhaps they are finally embracing their true values. Is it a betrayal of values to even seek such an endorsement if you do not agree with the goals and objectives of the organization? Most people probably would think so. A pro-life candidate, for example, would probably not seek an endorsement from a pro-abortion organization or vice-versa. Such a candidate would be branded a hypocrite.
The personal character of a candidate still matters. Values such as honesty, reliability, and sincerity matter in life, and they matter on the campaign trial, especially when we elect people. We need to elect politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say. Elected officials who sell out their own values create cynical and dismayed citizens, alienate voters, and undercut their own credibility. It is akin to the fruit of the poisonous tree analogy in the legal world.
Not only are many candidates willing to sell out their own values to the highest bidder, they are also likely to sell out their constituents once elected. The insider game of election funding has impacted the well-being of our government. The public policies that gets enacted if we keep electing these types of candidates, will only worsen. We have seen good legislation stymied for untold reasons and transparency is no longer an option. A vigorous competition of ideas should be welcome as it is a symbol of an effective system of government. When we fail to elect men and women of character, we get politicians committed to upholding the status quo and their own political preservation. If that is the case both the fruit and the tree are poison.
Professional Educators of Tennessee does not endorse political candidates. We work with everybody to strengthen public education. Our members will choose, who they believe is the most qualified candidate at the ballot box. They also know that we will never use dues dollars to fund the advancement of any politician, political party or agenda. While we may inform our members of candidates’ positions on educational issues, we do not tell our members how to vote or use our members’ dues dollars to pay for political campaigns. However, we do routinely monitor and inform our members of education-related legislative issues, and alert them of any legislation that has a direct impact. We testify on legislation and work with agencies, elected officials and policymakers to develop and implement comprehensive strategies that address complex legislative, legal and regulatory problems impacting education statewide on behalf of our members. We do not spend tens of thousands of dollars to push for the advancement of non-educational causes.
Our political process must be welcoming to all citizens, resulting in representative, receptive and responsible government. Politicians must be honest in who they are, and who they will be in public life. We must ask those who are seeking political office if they really are who they say they are, or is it just a mask that can be stripped away? Values still matter.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.