Honest, trustworthy, not a "flip-flopper" — they're all qualities we think we prize in a candidate. But what if a little dose of hypocrisy actually makes a candidate stronger? This piece in the Boston Globe yesterday floats a new campaign slogan, "Vote Hypocrite!" Here's why:
"Hypocrites, in constructing an electable persona for themselves, are clearly demonstrating that they understand their personal limitations. They recognize the need to adapt what they happen to believe to what is politically prudent. So it's possible to see hypocrisy as evidence of politicians who will do what they say once in office because they set no special premium by their private preferences."
The original hypocrites, ancient Greeks wearing masks on stage, meant someone who was hiding their true identity. In modern politics, we think of the mask as the barrier between a politician's public pronouncements and how he or she conducts their private affairs. We then prize a lack of hypocrisy because it reassures us that once a candidate is elected he'll do what he promised. Here's how it might be foolish to court an Honest Abe,
If a candidate maintains strict accounting between his public and private life, we run the risk of either a candidate whose public beliefs ebb and flow with those behind the scenes making them appear weak. Or the contrary — a leader whose private ideals are so uncomplicated that he misses subtlety and nuance. Does this notion make bring any leaders to your mind?
"If we don't want our politicians to change their minds, we have to ensure that their minds are uncluttered by anything that might force them to rethink."
The piece is worth a read. What do you think? Do you want an absolutely honest leader, or are shades of gray a useful addition to the process?