Herman Cain may be the latest fatality on the national political scene after announcing he would suspend his presidential campaign on Saturday. Yet the question remains – how much does the public have a right to know about a candidate’s personal and family life and how should voters weigh this information when deciding whom to vote for?
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women of America, weighed in on the issue with an opinion piece and in a conversation with The Christian Post, saying that yes, “character does and should matter.”
“I think the public does have a right to know about a candidate’s personal background,” Nance told The Christian Post. “How a person conducts themselves says a lot about how they are going to lead and govern – not to mention how they think.”
“The question before citizens is, ‘Do we have a right to hold elected officials to a high moral standard?’” Nance wrote in her column. While Cain may be the latest public figure to succumb to media revelations, recent history has produced numerous examples on both sides of the aisle.
Cain faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year affair in recent months while running for the Republican presidential nomination. He rejected the accusations as false but decided to end his campaign on Saturday over what he saw as distractions.
Former President Bill Clinton initially denied having sex with an intern in the Oval Office and later survived an impeachment hearing and the public scrutiny that comes with such a high-profile revelation.
Even after it became apparent that President Clinton had committed adultery while in office, liberal feminist groups came to his defense by saying his behavior was no one’s business by trying to distinguish between a candidate’s private and public life.
“If you want your life to be private, then I would recommend you stay out of the public arena,” Nance pointed out. “Besides, having an inappropriate sexual encounter in the White House is not a private incident.”
Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is still dealing with the fallout from an exposed extramarital affair that produced an illegitimate child and Republicans such as Louisiana Senator David Vitter and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford endured their own repercussions after their extramarital affairs were publicly disclosed.
Even GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich has had to constantly deal with questions of the affair he had with his current wife while still married to his second wife when he was Speaker of the House in the late 1990s.
Nevertheless, an important question remains.
Assuming a candidate has fallen short and sinned in their life, can they be forgiven and still wage a successful political career?
“Yes,” said Nance. “As a Christian, I know we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. People who really know me could certainly give you examples of moments when I wasn’t gracious or loving, but acted ugly and thoughtlessly.”
“To use a Christian phrase, it’s all about ‘grace and redemption,’” Nance added. “As believers, God’s endless goodness and mercy offer freedom from the destruction caused by our immoral choices. Whether they’re made in private or in the open. God doesn’t discriminate between our pubic lives and our private lives, because He looks at the whole person. And admittedly, we can’t see someone’s heart.”
But Nance was careful to say that the ultimate decision of being able to accept a candidate’s apology that they are indeed repentant of their past actions will be up to the individual voter.
“While I do believe someone whose sins have been publicly revealed can once again serve in public office again, I also believe people want to see evidence that someone was truly changed – that they are indeed repentant for their sins and more importantly, have changed their behavior for the better. Often, that doesn’t [happen] overnight and takes some time.”