As a Puritan, Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale holds an aversion to the concept of attaining salvation through works alone; God as an entirely sovereign supreme being would not leave such things as salvation up to chance. The way to make it into heaven is not through doing good things on earth, it is through being chosen. When Hester dares to suggest that good works have meaning, Dimmesdale’s reply is thunderous: “There is no substance in it! It is cold and dead and can do nothing for me!” (231). If salvation is predetermined and Dimmesdale has committed sin, he is not God’s chosen since to be God’s chosen is to suggest an inherent inability to commit the sin of adultery. Therein lies the crux of Dimmesdale’s battle within his soul, but it is telling that he conducts his penance privately rather than having the strength of character to admit his failings. Despite the repeated flagellation and the carving of the A upon his own flesh, Dimmesdale remains not just a hypocrite, but unfulfilled.
Who is better suited to recognize the hypocrisy of others than one who is himself a masterful hypocrite? Hawthorne writes that “More than once, Mr. Dimmesdale had gone to the pulpit, with a purpose never to come down its steps until he should have spoken” the truth before his parishioners (173). The key personality traits of Rev. Dimmesdale is his recognition of hypocrisy and his inability to confront it openly. It must be therefore be suggested that Rev. Dimmesdale would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy that was a hallmark of the McCain/Palin campaign.
Of course, all politicians carry the taint of hypocrisy, but what leads to the idea that Dimmesdale would be more offended by the obvious hypocrisy of John McCain and Sarah Palin than by any hypocrisy on Barack Obama’s side. Rev. Dimmesdale is, after all, the man who questions “Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say, of murder, prefer to keep the dead corpse buried in his own heart, rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of it?” (130.) It is surely no great leap to believe that Rev. Dimmesdale would ask why John McCain would boldly declare himself day after day a person renowned for reaching across the aisle and finding common ground while his running mate assailed Barack Obama for being friends with terrorists. One must imagine Rev. Dimmesdale being pained to the soul by the hypocrisy of a campaign that began with a commercial vilifying Barack Obama as a celebrity who palled around with celebrities and engaged in the tired conservative refrain of blaming liberal entertainers for the woes of the country only to turn right around and send Sarah Palin to dance on Saturday Night Live.
Although the evidence heartily suggests that Rev. Dimmesdale would be so tremendously undone by the hypocritical message and thrust of the McCain/Palin campaign, hypocrisy begins at home along with charity. Doubtlessly, Dimmesdale would himself be hypocritical enough to write sermons in honor of the finer qualities of John McCain while overlooking the astounding failures of intellect of Sarah Palin. Just as he conducted his penance away from prying eyes, however, so must one imagine that within the private confines of the voting booth, Rev. Dimmesdale would mark his ballot not for the conservative Christian but for the promise of hope. Even inside the voting booth, Rev. Dimmesdale would remain true to his own brand of hypocrisy while denouncing, in his own way, the hypocrisy of others.