The national political circus - already disappointing and embarrassing - has moved to South Carolina. For reasons far beyond understanding, that’s the home of the dirtiest, most lie-filled, underhanded, just plain contemptible campaigning in the entire country. Disappointment and embarrassment readings are being raised - or deeply lowered - to a whole new level. Both national parties are to blame. Neither seems able to rise above the South Carolina political garbage. Or, willing to.
But, even before entering the fray in the Palmetto State, the entire campaign has been soiled from the get-go. It’s gone on so long we’ve long-ago lost our revulsion at some of the tactics and wild claims, surrendering to the oft-repeated words, “Well, that’s just how it is.”
One of the most repeated statements swirling in this flotsam is we’re “angry.” We’re “mad” government seems unresponsive to our national needs. We’re “out-of-patience” with politicians who seem responsive only to the rich - who won’t work on our concerns like infrastructure, jobs, climate change, immigration, clean water, ending spending on useless wars and seriously addressing gun problems killing our kids. We’re nationally pissed and don’t mind shouting it at the top of our lungs.
I can accept all that - can definitely participate in such discussions with my own loud, angry voice. “Mad as Hell,” the man said. Me, too!
But what makes absolutely no sense is the accompanying demand that the next president and the next congress be people with absolutely no political backgrounds - no prior service in elective politics - no understanding of how to work the levers of government or how to make the attached machinery work the way it must - work the way we want it to. Primary election results, so far, seem to be saying just that. If any candidate is sullied with requisite experience to be effective, that person has been soundly rejected. Right, Jeb? Right, Chris? Right, Martin?
Suppose a doctor concluded your physical exam by saying, “You have a serious, life-threatening medical condition.” What would be your reaction? Tell the doctor he/she was wrong? Insist on having a plumber review the paperwork? Submit to a new physical exam conducted by a shoe salesman? Or, given the seriousness of the situation, would you seek a second opinion by a medical specialist familiar with your problem? Put me down in that last category.
Suppose you wanted to fly to the other side of the country. Would you absolutely insist the pilot be someone who’d never flown before? Would you ask a municipal worker, afraid of heights, to fly the plane? Would you select “Hope-This-Works” airline over, say, Delta? Or, would you want someone in the cockpit with a bit of grey hair and a few thousand hours as “pilot-in-command?” You know which one I’d want.
Why has the demand for lack of experience been written into political job descriptions for candidates? Why are political aspirants suddenly being subjected to tests eliminating expertise? Would these same people swap plumbers for physicians - shoe salesmen for seasoned pilots? Me thinks not.
While the fault in this loud demand for a commander-in-chief with no previous qualifications lies mostly with the ignorant voices, it also goes beyond that. To me, the blame sits squarely with the major national political parties - both of ‘em. They’ve failed to recruit, groom and put forward legitimate candidates acceptable to a wide range of voters. Especially at the presidential and congressional levels.
The dugout bench in both their ballparks seem woefully slim. There are no second, third or fourth tiers of qualified and experienced “candidates-in-waiting.” Statehouses - normally the “farm clubs” for political newcomers - apparently are not being searched for men and women effective at their jobs. State legislatures and county courthouses apparently haven’t been closely examined to find new voices closest to the people. If they have, I’m not seeing the names or hearing new, impressive voices.
After the 2008 and 2012 elections, Republican professionals paid big bucks for outside advice on how to become more relevant, more responsive to a fast-changing electorate. They paid the bucks, gave the findings some lip service and promptly seemed to have dropped the whole thing in the round file. Democrats, with less fanfare, had retreats and outside examinations for the same purpose. Again, whatever was discussed was ignored.
More than anything else, the failure of both parties to regain some sort of relevance has produced the Trumps, Cruzes, Carsons, a retreaded Clinton and a qualified but unheard of O’Malley.
Big money - big, BIG money - has replaced the roles previously occupied by national political parties. Trump’s willingness to spend whatever it takes, the Koch’s with their ALEC and hundreds of millions to spend, Adelson’s casino-backed billions funding empty suits and hollow voices - these are the driving forces of our national political affairs. Not experiencd political professionals.
Both parties need rebuilding. Both need new and better leadership at the staff and professional levels. Both need to retake control from the moneyed class and keep it.
There’s one shared reason why Reagan, Johnson, Dole, Ford, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Truman, Humphries, Hatfield, Hatfield, Church, Goldwater, Dirksen, Foley, Rockefeller and other national political icons were successful. While each came to the job with different perspectives, they all came with experience. Years and years of it.
It’s not just meaningless - and too often mindless - words pouring out of supremely unqualified candidates we need to ignore. It’s this “angry” demand for political inexperience. Look what it’s produced so far.