“To crucify a rising politician for adultery is like applauding a lion on the savanna for hunting the wildebeest and the antelope, but then being outraged when it kills a gazelle,” is a thing Williston Daily Herald Matt Hickman has written about the scandal surrounding Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley’s extramarital affair.
I actually laughed out loud when I read that. I can’t tell if Hickman is serious, or just writing something outrageous for the sake of drawing eyeballs to his revamped publication which is trying to raise its profile in the state’s media.
I understand, though don’t necessarily agree with, the argument that extramarital affairs are a private matter and shouldn’t be a factor in the careers of our political leaders. But comparing an affair, a betrayal of trust with one’s spouse and family, to the circle of life on the veld in Africa is more than a little ridiculous.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]It’s fashionable, in a shallow and cynical sort of way, to simply expect this sort of dishonest and uncouth behavior from politicians.[/mks_pullquote]
We are human beings. We are not animals. We can, and do, aspire to something better. I hope that, should Mr. Hickman ever be faced with this sort of personal betrayal, that nobody tells him to suck it up because lions gotta hunt, or something. And can we pause for a moment to appreciate how unseemly it is to compare a politician looking for extramarital sex to a predator hunting for meat?
It’s fashionable, in a shallow and cynical sort of way, to simply expect this sort of dishonest and uncouth behavior from politicians. People like Hickman no doubt believe that adopting this view makes them seem worldly, as opposed to we backward provincials who think that putting your wife and family through an emotional wringer for the sake of illicit sex is a stain upon a person’s character and a commentary on their ability to conduct themselves with dignity and honor.
By the way, when you run for public office part of the sacrifice you’re making is a degree of personal privacy. Politicians who cheat do so with the knowledge that the revelation of the affair will make headlines and exacerbate the pain for wife and family. That’s worth keeping in mind.
I say that not as some self-righteous, bible-thumping social conservative who demands strict fealty to my social mores but rather as a libertarian-minded atheist who nonetheless has a hard time being cavalier about a political leader breaking one of the most intimate and solemn vows a person can make.
It would be one thing if the Wrigleys had an open marriage where outside relations were condoned. That might turn off some, but I’d be more than willing to put that into the “personal and none of my business” category if it was a choice they made for themselves. But that’s not the case. “I was unfaithful,” Wrigley told me when I was the first to interview him about the affair. He described the result of his confession of the affair to his wife as “a very painful crucible.”
Unless Wrigley was lying and secretly his wife was on board with the affair, what is that if not an admission to a lack of integrity? And what is integrity if not something voters look for in a political leader? Can a man who cannot maintain fidelity to his wife maintain fidelity to his campaign promises?
I’m not saying there is no redemption for a politician like Wrigley after a mistake like this. He’s a human being. Human beings make mistakes. Wrigley still has a long political career in front of him. There is even still a chance for him in 2016 though he would, if he runs, have to explain to voters how he can be putting his family first by placing them in the bright spotlight of a campaign for the most consequential office in the state shortly after news of his betrayal was made public.
Maybe he can do that successfully. Or maybe he’d be better off forgoing a 2016 campaign and focusing on healing his family.
But make no mistake; the affair matters. And there’s nothing wrong with voters taking it into account when deciding Wrigley’s electoral fate in the future.