The conventional wisdom is that the price of political scandal can be measured in money and reputation. But Robin Sears -- an old hand at getting out the vote -- writes that the real cost of scandal is deadly:
There is an even higher price.
The damage that these scandals do to public trust. Not since the dawn of universal suffrage in the established democracies have voters been more angry at their governors. Nor have so many citizens in so many countries acted on the bumper sticker exhortation: “Don’t Vote! It Only Encourages Them!”
In fact, a cynic might conclude that it could be to a party's advantage to manufacture a scandal:
It is easier to steal an election where four out of five citizens stay home — it costs less and requires little organization. Years of research in all the old democracies demonstrate that those who consistently turn out in times of declining participation are the angry, the haters, the zealots, the “wacko birds” in John McCain’s delightful parlance, Ford Nation in ours.
Before you descend to that level of voter defection, it is the young, the newcomer, the poor and the disconnected that stay home. It is surely not partisan to observe that a community governed by leaders chosen by the old, the rich and the angry is not likely to treasure our values of tolerance and inclusion as priorities.
Trust is the coin of the realm. Destroy it, and you bring the kingdom down:
Francis Fukuyama’s majestic study of successful societies, called simply “Trust,” offers powerful proofs of the price paid for a collapse in that trust. “A low (trust) society is not only likely to have small, weak and inefficient companies; it will also suffer from pervasive corruption of its public officials and ineffective public administration. … In Italy … there is a direct relation between social atomization and corruption as one moves from North … to South.”
Whether they be Dalton McGuinty's Liberals, Stephen Harper's Conservatives, or Ford Nation, we have been -- and are -- governed by leaders who are toxic to civic health.