Redeeming Our Politics

Excerpts from a post about politics by Roger L. Simon and from a few commenters:
It's blood sport performed by truly uninteresting performers—basketball without Kobe, Shaq or Jordan. People like Reid, Hastert, Pelosi are complete mediocrities who should be at much lower levels in our society. Something is fundamentally wrong on both sides of the aisle if they are the upper leadership of our Congress…

[Carl Spackler:] Life gets more complex every year. But not by accident. In my case of building private homes, I can remember when a permit was a twenty minute exercise. Now, six months to a year is normal. Same in manufacturing or even in running a middle school. So, more intellectual power is sucked up in doing the same thing. Only it seems as if the cost continues to increase and quality declines.

And who do you think gets paid the most? Take wood frame house building. It’s really very simple. Is it the framer working in the summer sun, up high on the rafters or in the winter winds and snow lifting walls up? Nope. The plumber, the electrician or the mason with the skin on his hands crevassed and like sand paper? All of whom work without sick days, paid vacations, pensions? Nope. The highest paid are the paper shufflers. The lawyers, the inspectors, the ‘environmental consultants’. So why would people do real, literally constructive work?

[ahem:] Everyone's missing the part played by yellow journalism. Many honorable people are dissuaded from participating in government because they don't want to be combed over by the idiot media.

How dearly would I love for a politician to turn around and ask Diane Sawyer about her sex life for a change. If the media dimwits had to answer the insulting questions they ask daily, they might back off…

[geekWithA.45:] If you remember reading documents and other root materials from the time of the Founding, such as the Federalist papers, you'll note that on many, many occassions they talked about how the system would bring forth the best and brightest minds, men of sterling character and integrity.

You could say that this is one of the Republic's dependencies.

You'll also note that they make repeated references to the dependency on an educated, informed electorate.

It's pretty hard to argue that these dependencies are being met.

God help the Republic.
At present, winning election to public office requires an incredible assortment of skills. One must curry favor with the party machine; one must build (or at least fund) a powerful get-out-the-vote organization. One must be reasonably photogenic; one must know the right people. One must know how to stroke the egos of news reporters to ensure favorable coverage. One must carefully balance the interests of the various segments of your electorate, to ensure that all-important 51% "Yes." And one must either have a spotless record, or else pay off the right people to ensure their silence.

Most of all, one must have a lot of money, or else one or several wealthy backers. (Since McCain-Feingold, the wealthy actually have more influence on politics than before, by design. It is the middle class and the upper-middle class who were effectively shut out of politics by that ill-made law.) You could fund a campaign with thousands of small donations, of course; but to win national office, you need a war chest of millions, sometimes tens of millions. Try getting that from your friends and family.

What you do not need is any skill in statecraft, law, or economics. True, you must be expert in the rules and procedures, the minutia of getting things done, and you have to perform well enough that your constituents are not actively disgusted with you; but the simplest way to do that is to avoid taking strong positions on anything. When power is apportioned through an elaborate popularity contest, there is no reason to suppose that your elected officials will be true statesmen.
[Section9:] Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
So what can we do? How can we spectators to this glorified mud wrestling match rescue our government from its own mediocrity?

One can imagine all sorts of necessary or desirable changes in electoral procedure; but they will have limited effect so long as we continue to act as though our leaders must come from an electoral caste, a self-styled aristocracy. It galls me every time I see a national politician run unopposed, simply because nobody—nobody!—in that district wants the hardship of running. It galls me when practically everyone thinks of voting as a choice between two evils, and then does nothing to help remedy that detestible state.

"How many libertarians does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but you have to get him to show up."

Our government will continue slogging its way through mediocrity, unless talented people from all walks of life run for office. Not because they desire power, not because they want to run their fellow citizens' lives, but precisely because they want neither. Those with a keen understanding of government's operation, history, or human nature should see it a civic duty to interrupt their real lives for a time, and dedicate their service to the good of the nation. A burden, even. Yet one that must be carried, unless we want to let our laws be written by the Hasterts and the Pelosis of the world.

Almost all of them will lose. Running will represent a huge investment of time, money, and emotional strain that candidates will never get back. But their mere presence in the ring will change the dynamic of our politics, just a bit—will force our elected officials to talk about ideas as often as about their skill at securing pork, about the real world as often as the high-school-lunchroom politicking of Washington.

And a few of these talented statesmen might win.

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