It is hard to believe that someone who makes the laws could break them flagrantly.
But it happens. It happens more than we would like to admit.
Elected officials are arrested. They plead guilty. They are convicted. They can serve prison sentences and sometimes they come back from political death for another bite at the apple.
And it shouldn’t surprise us because the people we elect are, first and foremost, people.
Pennsylvania got a front-row seat for the latest demonstration of this when state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, was arrested on child pornography charges. Folmer subsequently resigned from the Senate.
The Patriot-News quoted one fellow lawmaker calling the revelation a “gut punch.”
It should not be a gut punch that a legislator is accused of downloading pornographic images of children.
It should be a gut punch that anyone would.
It is important that we remember that our leaders are people. They are not, despite a million jokes about lawyers and politicians, any better or worse than the rest of us. They are no more or less likely to commit a crime simply because they can give a speech, win an election or make a decision.
Pennsylvanians shouldn’t have to be reminded of this. Former Treasurer Barbara Hafer was convicted of lying to the FBI. Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane was recently released from jail after her perjury conviction. Former Treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty to extortion. That’s barely the tip of a way-too-big iceberg.
People aren’t infallible. They will make mistakes, and we have to be prepared to act accordingly when it happens to keep the government as untouched by corruption as possible.
And the reason we have to keep that in mind is that we have to keep our leaders off pedestals — for their good and our own.
For their good, they need the opportunity to defend themselves rather than just be assumed guilty. Folmer has not yet had his day in court, and he needs that. An accusation or an allegation is just that until a conviction or a guilty plea.
But for our good — our collective good — we need to keep a leader’s feet firmly on the ground, where they understand there are laws for a reason, and they still apply to the people who write or enforce them.