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Political Success in Relation to Morals

October 5, 2010

Michael Walzer writes an article regarding the problem of morals in politics, and the question left is can one follow their morals completely and still be successful in politics? The answer to this is no. In fact, in Walzer’s article he states, “Politicians often argue that they have no right to keep their hands clean…” pg. 165. If one were to truly hold to their morals and what they felt was right in the world, certain actions in politics would be nearly impossible. I will prove this point threw a very simple example from world history.

In 1945, the United States of America ended WWII when they dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One justification that I have been told for this action is that although the bomb was catastrophic, it saved more lives than if the American forces would have fought by land. The question that has rested in my mind after hearing this, what lives? American losses were cut considerably because of these bombs, however, is that moral? Of course it was “right” at that time to save more American lives than the enemy, but was it moral? Did only enemy soldiers die in the attack? The simple answer is no, many innocent people died as well. Were the means justified by this destructive end? Had Truman truly followed his morals, which I am more than sure included the saving of innocent lives, would those bombs have been dropped? Had those bombs not been dropped, and had the war drug out even longer, what kind of success would Truman have seen?

In a slightly less serious example, how about all of the negative campaign ads that are ran during election time. Sometimes these things may be true, but at other times these accusations are merely rumors. However, negative campaign ads are crucial to running a successful campaign. Is this morally correct? Maybe to some, and to others possibly not, but they would still do it. Therefore, if those whose morals this action went against followed their morals over their motives, would they be successful? Much less than if they disregarded these morals.

On the other side, even if one did act in accordance with their morals, those morals would infringe upon other’s views of morals. Maybe politicians don’t have a right to keep their hands clean, maybe it is just impossible and that is something that has to be understood by other individuals under the politician. Yet, seeing as how approval rates for leaders have not looked good in years, maybe it is harder to realize this than one would expect.

In conclusion, regardless of whether or not one has any moral issues with either of these examples, they will eventually encounter a situation in which they have a moral issue. If they were to follow their morals, it may very well hinder their success, and ultimately prove that one cannot truly follow their morals and be successful in politics.


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