What is the difference between an idea and an ideal?
Generally speaking, an idea is a thought, notion or concept. An ideal is a lofty goal, when used as a noun. It can be the rough equivalent of “excellent” or “perfect”.
For example, the Declaration of Independence espouses the idea of breaking with the “tyranny” of Britain, but the Declaration’s ideal proposes that all be endowed with the natural law of liberty and equality. It embodies America’s civic virtue.
Representative democracy depends on the judgments and behaviors of its citizens. Therefore, those sent to represent the people, especially if re-elected, reflect the will of the citizens they represent.
If these representatives are corrupt, the system is unable to meet the challenges posed by its lofty ideals. Corruption in this context does not simply suggest wrongdoing, although it certainly includes it, but also includes being consumed with self-interest, causing the public good to be overlooked.
This form of corruption can see America through a lens that can only see homogenization. Therefore, differences, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, creed or other factors, are considered gaps. It reflects an “idea” of the American narrative that goes against the “ideal”. It is a violation of the civic virtue of the nation.