According to court documents, Rep. Ilhan Omar allegedly had an affair with a married DC consultant. The wife of Omar’s alleged lover made the claims in divorce filings, insisting that her marriage was ultimately destroyed by the tryst between the congresswoman and her husband. Previous reports claimed that Omar “dumped” her own husband earlier in the summer.
Conventional modern wisdom would tell us that the only newsworthy and relevant aspect of this salacious story is the possible abuse of campaign funds, as reported by the Washington Examiner:
Omar’s alleged paramour, Tim Mynett, has been a fundraising consultant for Omar’s 2018 and 2020 campaigns…
…Of the $145,406 reported earnings by the E Street Group during the 2018 campaign cycle, $62,674 came from Omar’s campaign. Not counting payroll taxes and transfers to Minnesota’s Democratic Party, E Street Group was Omar’s second-largest vendor, according to FEC data. From Labor Day through the end of the year, E Street Group ate up more than 10% of her campaign’s spending (not counting transfers to other campaigns).
It would certainly be a significant scandal, and probably a criminal offense, if Omar was funneling money to her married boyfriend. But I disagree with the increasingly popular notion that these sorts of things are only a public concern when they involve actual crimes. It may not be illegal for a woman to be a lying, backstabbing home wrecker (allegedly!), but that doesn’t make the matter wholly irrelevant to the public. While Omar’s constituents have no reason to feel personally betrayed by their representative’s supposed marital indiscretions, they do have cause for worry.
We elect politicians based on the promises they make to us. They tell us they are going to do certain things — enact certain policies, support certain initiatives, etc. — and we vote for them because we want those things to be accomplished and we believe they might accomplish them. Unless we are very naive, we know that they are probably bluffing to some extent. But if they earn our vote, it’s because we are relatively confident in their follow through, which means we are relatively confident in their trustworthiness. Why shouldn’t an affair factor into that calculation?
Adultery is not a matter of mere sexual immorality. It shows that the adulterer is willing to break the most important promise they made to the most important person in their life. If they are willing to break that promise made to that person, why would they hesitate to break less important promises to less important people? A man doesn’t necessarily beat his dog just because he beats his children, but would you hire him as a dog-sitter?
An adulterer is, by definition, a cheater and a liar. I do not see how cheating and lying can been regarded as immaterial concerns. A cheater and liar may still be a capable leader — history provides many such examples — but their capable leadership will be in spite of the cheating and lying. A raging alcoholic may also be a fine leader, yet that vice must be taken into consideration before assigning the person to a position of significant leadership.
Character matters in our leaders. It must, because we elect them based on it, even if we claim otherwise. In the end, we cast our vote for a person if we are confident that we can trust them. A propensity for telling very big lies and breaking very important promises would seem to put a dent in that confidence. Of course, this principle must apply across the board. If adultery is a relevant factor for Democrats, it must be for Republicans and vice versa. No matter the letter next to a politician’s name, if they are willing to betray their own families, it is no great leap to betray the faceless voter.