Why do the American people tolerate unscrupulous behavior from their elected officials?
© Greg Nash

Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) has been indicted on charges that he used his congressional campaign account like his own personal bank account; prosecutors claiming spending freely on everything from hotels to family vacations to Italy. Not only is he not stepping aside from his congressional office, he says he's running for re-election, and even vows to fight his fellow Republicans, forcing a contentious vote on whether he could serve on his committees while under indictment. Channeling the energy of Trump, he said the charges were politically motivated, despite all evidence to the contrary.

If that is not enough, New York Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for MORE consciously decided that he that he would sit on a board of a publicly traded pharmaceutical company while also sitting on a committee that regulates the pharmaceutical industry. When he got indicted on insider trading charges, he decided he would not resign immediately from Congress but rather simply forgo a re-election bid.


For generations, there was a party-before-self ethos in politics. In a scandal, one naturally steps aside. Skeletons in the closet that’s easily accessible? One doesn’t run for public office. I am not sure if it is more prevalent than in the past but with today’s 24-hour news cycle unethical behavior and corruptions gets reported more than it used to. All of this beg the questions - are there any ethically minded individuals left in politics or has everyone become completely self-serving? Parenthetically, with the recent report from a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing the scope of sexual crimes committed against more than 1,000 children by some 300 "predator priests" over seven decades the same can be asked of the church. No coincidence why people are leaving organized religion.

Ethics is central to leadership, and leaders help to establish and reinforce organizational or institutional values. Most people are guilty of some form of unethical behavior myself included, but given the current atmosphere of the country, it is not surprising that the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Studies in Culture reveals that, despite a faith in American exceptionalism, America has deeper issues than partisan political divides. Its people suffer from a lack of faith in leaders and institutions such media, business and politics.

I've generally stopped commenting on anything the current administration does. Discourse on social media has only gotten worse in the last two years. And I'm fatigued by the daily outrage over every single thing the Trump administration does or anything Trump tweets. But imagine for one moment if it had been proven in court that Presidents Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Obama goes viral after sporting black bomber jacket with '44' on sleeve at basketball game Obama attends UNC-Duke basketball game MORE or George W. Bush had directed an attorney to pay off a woman regarding an alleged affair. Is there any question that this would have been the end of their presidencies? That it would be the biggest story of the year?

Its seems that today’s political leaders can break some, if not all, principles of ethics, retain their government position or even get elected or reelected. This is counter to how ethical leadership should work. What happened to the days of if one cheats on their spouse, sexually harasses employees or breaks the public trust as so many of today’s politicians have, there should be consequences. One thing is clear: there is a high demand for ethical leadership in our society today.

This coming 2018 election perhaps will be the most consequential midterm in the lifetimes of all Americans at least under the age of 70 and, arguably, even going back farther than that. Where are the political leaders concerned with ethics and morality for all people? Will it all get worse before it gets better? How long will the American people stand for it?

Professor Quardricos Bernard Driskell, an adjunct professor of legislative affairs at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter @q_driskell4