It has happened repeatedly through out history that a politician somewhere will be discovered to be an addict. Their addiction may be to sex, or drugs, or alcohol, or something more obscure. The press coverage is extensive and vicious, often resulting in a damaged or terminated career for the politician. It seems so black and white to the public. Why in the world would a politician jeopardize the career they worked so hard for? The reasons that a politician becomes an addict are much more complicated than many people think.
Stress is the most common culprit of addiction in politicians. Politicians experience an above average level of stress in the workplace because of how much responsibility falls on their shoulders. Anyone being watched by the public is going to experience stress due to it. Anyone who makes decisions on behalf of the public is going to fall under very tight scrutiny and criticism, and is going to have some very difficult decisions to make. This can be a very heavy burden to bare, and substance abuse often happens as a result when the politician cannot create a healthier coping mechanism for themselves.
The public wants to see their politicians living a completely untarnished life. They expect their politicians to not be flawed or have moments of weakness or any kind of moral deficiencies. This is often the image that politicians project, but the truth of the matter is, they are simply normal people with urges and flaws and tastes for things that not everyone agrees with. In order to satisfy their public, politicians often repress the things they would otherwise indulge in and end up so starved for what feels natural to them that they go to the other end of the spectrum, which is addiction.
And lastly, people in positions of power have been found to naturally struggle with addiction, but not for the reasons you would think. Powerful people are high functioning and effective; a lifestyle that rewards them with a significant amount of the brain chemical dopamine. Addiction is another method of achieving dopamine. Powerful people often show tendencies of both methods of achieving dopamine.
Sobriety cannot be overlooked as an essential leadership quality. This is fairly universal common sense. It is expected that politicians will enjoy a glass of wine or beer on occasion, but the thought of our politicians having a substance abuse or addiction problem offends us to our core. Anyone who understands anything about addiction knows that it distracts a person from the life they should be living, which is why a substance abusing leader is consistently an incompetent one.
Politicians and other elected officials need to stay sober in order to have foresight. Foresight is what enables a person to intelligently predict upcoming circumstances. This is a necessary quality in a leader because it is their job to steer their constituents out of harm’s way. Foresight can only be achieved through focus, and focus cannot be achieved under the influence of a mind altering substance. Politicians who are not sober may still be able to do parts of their job well, but in their altered state, they will miss signals that indicate what is on the horizon.
It is nearly impossible for a substance abusing or addicted politician to make good decisions. Firstly, if the public knows about their problem, they are already making bad decisions because they brought their problem into the public sphere. Secondly, regardless of how much the public knows, substance abuse causes all professionals, and people in general, to make bad decisions. No one can be properly focused on their work when the substance they abuse or are addicted to is consuming their thoughts. A politician needs sobriety in order to carefully think through all the factors that inform their decisions and come to logical conclusions.
It is also very important that politicians stay sober so that they can react intelligently, not emotionally, in difficult situations. Politicians face more difficult situations than most professionals do, and how they respond to them is critical. Sobriety is more than just helpful to the career of a politician. It is mandatory, and the public will be reproachful toward politicians who do not take their sobriety seriously.
There are a number of ways that politicians can misuse their power, and through the course of history, each way has been realized at some point. There are good politicians and bad politicians, but it is the bad ones that have created a reputation for all of them. The dishonest politician is the one the public is most familiar with, and it is true that dishonesty is the cornerstone of all political corruption. Even worse than the dishonesty, however, are the acts that the lies aim to conceal.
A common lie that politicians will tell is how they are spending tax payer’s dollars. The public learns about financial decisions that reflect well upon the elected officials, but very seldom finds out about the other expenditures that come from the tax payer’s dollar, such as luxurious hotel stays during travel, expensive meals to entertain guests and lengthy long distance cell phone calls.
It is often the case that a politician will have used the tax payer’s dollars underhandedly, without their knowledge. This is another common problem with trust in the public office. Decisions are made behind closed doors that the public should be aware of, but are not. This may involve the allocation of money, agreements between jurisdictions, arrangements with private organizations, unethical waste disposal and much more.
The rigging of elections still happens much more frequently than we think. Occasionally a rigged election is exposed, but many go unnoticed. Rigged elections are not always for a particular political figure. Often they may simply be a ballot item. However, the current elected officials may feel they know better than the voting public on a certain matter and not allow power to be given to the public on the matter.
Politicians may also lie to the public about their sexual exploits, or their misuse of drugs and alcohol. Voters consider an elected official’s moral character to be their business, so naturally, politicians do their best not to let on about their questionable morals.
Political sex scandals always seem to end up being newsworthy, although there is some debate over how newsworthy they should be. Probably no political sex scandal was more widely covered than the President Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinski White House affair, or the President John F. Kennedy / Marilyn Monroe affair. However, there have been many prior to these cases and many that followed. For whatever reason, the public becomes fascinated with sex scandals, particularly the ones that occur within public office, but how public should these scandals even be? The question is a matter of privacy and ethics.
Many people did not support the impeachment of President Bill Clinton on the grounds that a sex scandal should not be a determining factor in a presidency. Others pointed to the lies he told in the investigation as a representation of the charges he faced: perjury and obstruction of justice. Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings on the matter, Bill Clinton’s sex scandal made it clear to the world that a political career can be tarnished if a sex scandal is discovered. In fact, this instance was historical for that reason.
The ethical question over sex scandals in public office is whether or not they should involve the public at all. Many have argued that a politician’s private life should not involve voters, and only matters that effect voters or their tax dollars should be made known to them. This is contested by those who argue that the public votes an elected official into office based on more than their political resume, but on their personal character as well, making their private matters public. It is also debated that Bill Clinton was impeached on irrelevant charges. It is true that he lied under oath, but it is possible that the line of questioning was unethical in the first place. The lesson public officials can take from the example of Clinton is that a sex scandal can be positively incriminating!
What is it about public office that makes politicians so corrupt and out of control? One only has to follow Rob Ford’s shenanigan’s to know that someone can be elected to public office and not behave the way a politician should. Is it that pressure of always having to keep a spotless public persona that makes politicians go off the deep end? Or is it simply that high functioning people such as politicians are more prone to a wild side? There are a number of ways that one can observe politicians behaving badly.
Sex scandals are one of the more common public office debacles to grace the headlines. Local and national government offices are frequently adulterated by a politician having sex with another politician, an intern, a government employee, a celebrity, a prostitute or an otherwise common citizen. There have been many notable sex scandals in government offices, even dating back to the presidency of George Washington.
Substance abuse scandals are another common character flaw found in politicians, modern and historic. In past decades and even centuries, alcohol was a widely abused substance among politicians, even long before alcoholism was defined under the terms it is today. Presently, many politicians have been discovered to possess illegal drugs, particular marijuana, cocaine and opiates. Rob Ford has become the modern face of political drug abuse due to his crack-cocaine problem, and has recently entered rehab for drug abuse.
It is also very common for politicians to misuse their power and not disclose their decisions to the public. Often, they are exposed by political investigators or journalists for their wrong-doings, but there seems to be an air of exhilaration in squandering control from the voting public. Politicians are frequently discovered to be lying about the allocation of funds, the filing of necessary papers, the treatment of employees and so on. No one wins when a politician is unethical, however, this does not keep many from trying to get away with criminal actions.
Voters would hope that the officials they elect into office would not have a substance abuse problem, but there is no guarantee of this. Substance abuse has been found to affect every level of society, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or social class. The public is only becoming aware of this now through the mass media, but it has likely been going on for centuries. The most recent media story on politicians and substance abuse is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Even more surprising to learn is that influential individuals, such as politicians, CEOs and executives, can actually be some of the most likely to run into problems with addiction. This is because the thrill-seeking, risk-taking behavior found in high profile individuals is the same behavior associated with seeking chemical highs, and whether it is a matter of choice or a matter of genetics, successful people and addiction frequently go together.
A misconception about the trend with public officials and substance abuse is that the substance abuse did not begin until the individual was elected to public office. Typically, an individual has already experimented with substances by the time they arrive in a position of power. The stress of the position, however, can push a person to use to such excess that the public catches takes notice.
Whether or not a politician should remain in office once their substance abuse is discovered is highly controversial. Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was re-elected to a second term even after the public became aware of his crack cocaine problem. Ford attempted to campaign for re-election despite the controversy surrounding him, but ended up dropping out of the mayoral race due to health concerns and the need for rehabilitation. All that can be known for certain is that substance abuse is ultimately detrimental and requires professional treatment in order to be eliminated.