And then there was the young man caught interviewed on video camera by a roving reporter after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke during year five of the Clinton administration. Yes, I know that seems like the bronze age to at least half of you, faithful readers, but I’m still thinking about yesterday’s “bad man, good statesman” question.
Reporter (I'm quoting from memory): “Does the scandal affect your view of the president?”
Man: “Yeah, it makes me like him more! ‘Cause it shows he’s just like me.”
This fellow was an extreme case. The preservation of a republic does not depend on moral perfection, because up to a point, even a morally deficient person can recognize good character and prefer to be ruled by persons who are wiser and more virtuous than he is.
But as he illustrates, there is a threshold beyond which this is no longer true. The system of selecting rulers by popular vote works just so long as the average level of virtue is above it; it fails if it sinks beneath it.