"I had rather be right than president."
These famous words spoken by the renowned Kentucky statesman Henry Clay 176 years ago paint the image of a man who, despite his desires and ambitions to assume the highest public office, refused to compromise his principles in the name of politics.
With a plethora of candidates in the election of 2016 — ranging from quasi-socialist Bernie Sanders to multi-billionaire Donald Trump — the race for the White House appears to be poised for high drama and lively debate. Still, one does stop and wonder whether the candidates will heed Clay's advice.
Too often we see politicians radically amend their views as they move on from their respective primaries to the general election in an effort to appeal to moderates.
While this strategy sometimes works, the masses still question which candidate they really elected to the White House. Is it the diehard conservative who champions guns, is staunchly pro-life, and believes in a laissez-faire economy? Or, is it the more moderate candidate who is pro-life about 50 percent of the time, believes there needs to be extreme reform on the firearms front, and sees government intervention in the economy as beneficial?
If you were unaware, both of these candidates are the same person.
One set of views is utilized in the primary while the other one comes to light during the national election. Once again, this makes one wonder: Which candidate did I just vote for?
Our political system appears to be devoid of principled politicians who stand by their tenets through thick and thin. Actor Jimmy Stewart provides a perfect example of this in the 1939 motion picture Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In one of the most iconic scenes, Stewart's character, Sen. Jefferson Smith, collapses after filibustering for an absurd amount of time. He does this, however, because he feels the values he holds so dear are being assaulted.
Regardless of how he is being viewed by the rest of the Senate, he stands his ground and suffers because of it only to be vindicated at the very end. A man who when challenged by adversity fought it head-on and won.
As a constituent, I would much rather see my congressman keep his feet firmly planted when his principles are challenged than to concede defeat and retreat like a dog with his tail between his legs. If you truly believe in something, then you should be willing to put your principles ahead of your political ambitions. It's that simple.
I implore these candidates to truly examine what they believe in and realize that every time they say something contrary to what they have previously stated, the public raises an eyebrow wondering what they really think?