DUNLEVY: Political beliefs must align with morality


Column: Tempus Fugit

​Mainstream political consciousness and the discourse it has begotten is deeply concerned with issues not of efficiency, but of morality.  

While it would be wholly inaccurate to say that this is a trait unique to the present, or even to say that it is particularly unusual throughout the history of liberal democracy, there is nonetheless a general and public awareness of politics that concerns themselves with philosophical issues to an extent that is foreign to the bulk of the present-day United States.  

What I mean by this is best illustrated by the change in the focus of political discussions from the 1990s to present — discussions much less frequently revolve around a particular goal and how a situation can be optimized, but rather concern themselves with the nature of what is a just, righteous and proper system.  

A discussion in the present political atmosphere is much more likely to concern itself with what constitutes a fair distribution of wealth and how this can be achieved – previously issues that were primarily relegated to the fringes of political discussion – rather than discussing how, for example, national gross domestic product (GDP) can be optimized best.  

No longer is the concern over how to best achieve a given goal, but rather what the given goal should be. Many such issues – abortion laws, as an example – have long been debated, but a national growing political divide has made these particular issues more and more prominent. 

Thus, voting becomes much less the process by which one provides one's input on the way a system can best be organized to function a certain way – to sustain business, to improve education, to practically manage laws – and instead becomes a de facto endorsement of a particular set of beliefs, as exemplified by the chosen candidate.  

​This dynamic becomes problematic once political realities begin to grind against political ideals, and beyond any discussion of political compromise, disregarding even overt cases in which politicians behave as self-serving entities. It becomes very difficult to morally reconcile what must and can only be considered a wholehearted endorsement – it is not possible after all, particularly in America, to cast half a vote – with very real and objectionable consequences.  

Allow me to explain. Passive support and even compliance is, in effect, acceptance of a thing. Just as a getaway driver is an accomplice to a crime, a conscious voter must consider themselves complicit (within reasonable expectation) in the agenda of a politician they have chosen to support.  

While it certainly may be argued that political awareness is in and of itself a privilege, the point is, in this case, moot. I do not make this argument on the grounds of societal obligation in democracy, but rather on the grounds of personal obligation to one's own moral inclinations. 

If one is to consider oneself to be a moral individual by one's own measures (whatever one may be), then this must be reflected by a ballot. This is of course, a very difficult thing to do – voting for the “lesser evil” so to speak, while perhaps preferable, still very likely means acquiescing to some unfavorable policy or another (a particularly potent example would be individual foreign policies and the possibility for violence and injustice to be perpetrated on such grounds). 

This is not an issue when discussing matters of policy – in such cases, compromise is a healthy and fine thing – but morality is much more absolute and to compromise is, in many cases, a betrayal of the idea itself. Not all politics are black and white, but an individual's morality very often is.

​The question remains, then, how can these two conflicting factors be reconciled?  Ultimately, though an arduous task, an individual owes it to themselves to properly research candidates in political arenas of all levels. A candidate must be evaluated based upon one's own carefully considered morals and values.  

This is difficult because it is necessary that an individual not only familiarize themselves with a candidate's stated objectives, but also the likely (even far-flung) consequences of their policy.  

Furthermore, this requires a great deal of societal awareness and reading comprehension. It is much more difficult to discern and interpret pieces of rhetoric mixed with intent, and more difficult still to internally reflect and compare this analysis to one's own personally held values.  

But ultimately, supposing an individual has any moral belief whatsoever that they hold even the least bit dearly (which I suspect nearly everyone does), it is necessary to evaluate one's own actions and endorsements in the political sphere to ensure that they are not undoing themselves. 

However daunting a task this may be, it is necessary as not to delegitimize and betray one's own personal beliefs, whatever they may be.

Ash C. Dunlevy is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in plant science as well as agriculture and food systems. His column, "Tempus Fugit," runs on alternate Mondays.

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