Does Integrity Even Matter in Politics?

Does Integrity Even Matter in Politics?

When my run for Congress ended last month, we immediately send out announcements. People so, so kindly responded with words of encouragement, such as:

“You were (and are) focused on integrity, responsibility, respect, and rationality.”

“Quentin leads the right way with such integrity.”

“You would have brought real integrity and servant leadership to Washington.”

“His integrity and values led his campaign.”

“The campaign you ran was, in my humble opinion, incredibly informative, transparent, rational, and filled with integrity.”

“I admire your courage to try something new, your integrity in staying true to your values…”

In the four months of the campaign itself, I said many times to family and friends, “I would much rather have my integrity than a seat in Congress.” And that’s exactly what happened. I lost the endorsement race. Decisively.

This makes me ask myself (and you, dear readers) whether integrity is something voters value in a politician any more – if they ever did.

Losing with Integrity

During the ugly 2020 Covid politics and that year’s uglier presidential election, when I began thinking long and hard about the need for Principle Based Politics, one of the first three leadership principles I deemed essential was integrity. (The other two were honesty and respect.) My original blog post on integrity in April of 2021 spelled out my philosophy about the concept.

Since then, we all have witnessed three more years of Joe Biden’s political malleability and arrogance, Donald Trump’s cynicism and lies, and shameless grandstanding by members of Congress. Hypocrisy, which I found to be the closest antonym to integrity, remains common in politics. Another converse of the integrity principle – selfishness – defines many of our national “leaders.”

Perhaps one passage from my April 2021 blog post was prophetic regarding my own then-unplanned political run. “Doing the right thing, and thereby demonstrating integrity, includes doing something that may cost the politician some votes in the next election,” I wrote three years before I ran for Congress. “Conversely, it includes not doing something that will win votes but is unethical.”

In my race, as many of you know, I refused to endorse my own party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Trump. I also refused to voice anger about or take extreme positions on the social issues that rile up many Republicans. I avoided name calling and personal attacks against other candidates, be they the likely Democratic nominee or the other Republicans seeking the same endorsement I did. I rejected all advice to feign a move to the right to get the GOP endorsement, then move back to the center in the general election.

Integrity notwithstanding, I placed third out of four candidates at our convention.

Not Everyone Who Disagrees Lacks Integrity

One naturally could conclude, then, that only unsuccessful politicians manifest integrity. “Integrity is for losers,” as at least one guy might say.

I don’t see it that way. First, my conclusion regarding the convention delegates in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District is that they, too, saw themselves as showing their principles, including integrity. To my electability argument referencing the general election, some flat out told me this: “I would rather lose in November than support a congressional candidate who is disloyal to our party’s leader.” Or, “I would rather lose than back a candidate who doesn’t stand up for a policy as strongly as I do.” Loyalty and voting with disregard of the electoral consequences indeed are forms of integrity. Certainly, these delegates’ statements were principled. Only if disingenuous or hypocritical is such a decision lacking in integrity.

Regarding Republican candidates who do endorse the Trump campaign, that is not necessarily unprincipled, either. If they truly believe Mr. Trump is the better of two binary options, or, as many sadly put it, “the lesser of two evils,” that is their prerogative.

I am going to continue pondering integrity, and I invite my readers to do the same. I do think integrity still matters, even in politics. I don’t think it is for losers. It is for leaders.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Principle Based Politics does not endorse or support any particular political candidate or party.

1 Comment
  • Paul
    Posted at 23:35h, 27 May Reply

    I just read your latest pondering “
    Does integrity matter?
    and as usual very good. I am glad you were a candidate, for a while at least. I think everything or almost everything you stand for is good and definitely needed. I watched the video of the Osseo (maybe) Town hall meeting. Something up in the northern end. I did not understand why you were so hard on Donald Trump. Why did you even bring him up? You made it clear you were not supporting him. He wasn’t your opponent, the 3 opponents were at the table with you. I am not a fan of Donald Trump. Lesser of two evils you say that they have said? If not the Lesser, then what is he? Again I am not a fan.

    If a republican wins the seat you were going for but we do not flip the senate or the white house, how much is integrity going to do with the lackluster (both sides of the aisle) congress we have now? Again we need INTEGRITY big time. I will vote for Donald Trump. Is he going to fix America’s and the world’s ills, NO. We both know that there is not a man or politician that can really fix this. I am glad you and I both have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and we know that is the only fix this world needs.

    Having said (or typed) all that, I will hold my nose and vote for Trump, not because I like him, but I have seen what we were and I see what we are now. He will bring us more good than Joe Biden ever will. We see that very clearly now.

    Next time you run, I hope you do run, Take on your competition, and leave the white house alone.
    Integrity says: You will do the best you can do with what you have to work with, no matter who is in the White House.

    Thanks, Paul

Post A Comment