The Importance of Keeping a Moral Compass in Politics

Over the span of a lifetime, there will be a plethora of complex moral issues that will be experienced. Family, various life mentors, friends, and society among other things will largely contribute to the types of morals that one becomes inculcated with. These are important, but it is even more important to develop, change, or improve one’s moral values by means of immersion into the philosophical world in the study of ethics: the foundation of such values and ideas.

Besides just reading the works of philosophers who have the same point of view as you do, it is most important to study the ones that offer opposing viewpoints not only to better understand your own views on morality, but to also gain a new perspective that would be otherwise unknown. Hence, it is acceptable for individuals to change their views over time if they truly begin to disagree with the moral ideology they originally adopted as a guiding principle in their life. This long transitory phase of moral revisionism should not, however, be confused with inconsistency. Inconsistencies more or less come about when an individual flips on issues they set out to fix, especially in a shorter span of time.

As the decision is made to enter into the political sphere, it then becomes ever more challenging to address moral issues; although, how do you know the means of handling the issue if you do not have a moral compass, or position on the issue in the absence of such a foundation? Although I support our president, I take issue with the fact that it is not overly apparent that he comports himself with the guiding hand of a moral compass. It doesn’t exactly seem as if he has a stable set of core values that go into his decision making, but rather appears as if his decisions are heavily influenced or swayed by those around him. According to the New York City Board of Elections, Trump has changed his party affiliation five times since registering as a Republican in Manhattan in 1987. A form that year notes he had previously been registered in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens, where he grew up, but his prior affiliation was not identified. Political party affiliation is a general reflection of personal ideology and that is the basis of this example. This issue though is far from exclusive to a political party or our president. In 2012, President Barack Obama promised to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan by 2014 as a re-election promise on the campaign trail. It’s safe to say the promise was not delivered, and involvement in Afghanistan continues to this day under the name of “operation freedom’s sentinel”.

I contrast these two presidents to another politician who is very intellectually consistent in his moral ideology: Rand Paul, a libertarian-republican senator from Kentucky. A great example of his consistency would be his stance on the war on drugs. I will present how the very principles he campaigned on still holds center to his moral compass. The first example was written by David Saltonstall in 2010: “How conservative is he? The 47-year-old Paul wants to abolish the federal departments of education, commerce and energy, as well as the income tax. Like Palin, with whom Paul now stands atop the Tea Party cake, he is opposed to all government bailouts and earmarks, and President Obama’s “socialist” health care law. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. But in a libertarian twist, he also favors legalizing medical marijuana.” Now, compare that written statement to a very recent video posted by Young Americans for Liberty on Twitter of Rand Paul talking via satellite calling to end the drug war: “so I want to end the war on drugs because it is wrong for everybody.”  This sort of intellectual consistency is what continues to grow his fan base and the liberty movement, but moreover contributes greatly to his continual election to the U.S. Senate.  

By analyzing the above examples, it then becomes clear that without a solid moral foundation on which to formulate your ideology, your credibility will diminish, especially from the perspective of those on the other side of the aisle. When actively engaging in the political arena, one will be put under the magnifying glass and the positive, moral (according to said compass) individual will weigh much less than the negative, immoral (according to said compass) individual. There will always be the age old philosophical debates of say Kant’s, “ The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” against Mill’s “Utilitarianism,” but moral intellectual consistency will forever be the key to success in politics among other things.


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