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Incompetence, weirdness are the new qualifications for U.S. leaders

December 11th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Ben Zaritsky

Reason is not working.

There was a time when a politician with a scandal or in politics meant that the politician involved was in serious trouble.

Watergate was, obviously, the downfall of Richard Nixon.

Bill Clinton’s “Lewinskygate” led to his impeachment and, potentially, could have lost him his seat as president.

Eliot Spitzer had to resign as New York governor because of his own sex scandal.

While more recent politicians have endured mockery and some seriously negative press, more recent scandals (especially in this last election) have had no apparent ill effect for politicians.

There once was a time when phrases like, “I dabbled in witchcraft,” or “When is it appropriate to tie up a woman and make her worship a false god which you called Aqua-Buddha,” could ruin a political career. In this election, however, things didn’t necessarily go that way.

While Christine O’Donnell, the one time witch, did not win Delaware’s Senate seat, she was able to capture more than 40 percent of the vote.

Rand Paul, the former worshiper of “Aqua-Buddha,” did win his Senate campaign and is now a senator-in-waiting from Kentucky.

From strange religious practices to violent head-smashing to false military claims, it seems that in this election cycle, a politician’s ratings weren’t hurt by possible scandals. Well, at least most of them weren’t.

And it is not just scandal that is being forgiven. No knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, law and policy-making is apparently forgivable in U.S. politics today.

At least four hopeful senators, and more people running for the House of Representatives, during this last election believed that the idea of “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution. A few even went so far as to say that it was Hitler who developed the idea. Some of these people lost by a little, some by a lot, and some won.

Others could not name Supreme Court cases they disagreed with, amendments to the constitution they like or dislike, or many other things involving the constitution or current law.

But none of this had significant effect on votes.

Nixon is forgotten, Spitzer co-hosts of his own CNN show, and the once-mocked Clinton has stopped debating the definition of “is” and is now one of the most admired senior leaders of the Democratic Party.

The reason?

“I’m you,” a Christine O’Donnell television ad claims.

While O’Donnell is in no way me, or representative of me or any others I can think of, the idea she is promoting is the idea Americans want to hear.

Americans no longer want fat-cats in Washington. Having experience on the Hill is, in this current political turmoil, a bad thing. Even someone like Utah senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, now in his sixth term, needs to be careful if he is going to keep his job because of the mere fact that he have been in Washington for too long. The fact that he has been a loyal and respected Republican leader is irrelevant. He has experience. That is, for some reason, bad enough.

Instead of people with expertise, America is looking for elected representatives we can relate to personally. This is why scandal and a lack of knowledge aren’t important. If we want someone like ourselves, the bar is set much lower.

College students understand. Who among us hasn’t messed up?

How many out there don’t have financial troubles? Who can truly say that they can name all of the amendments to the constitution, or which Supreme Court decisions they would disagree with?

If we can’t do it, and we want someone like us in office, why should they be able to do it?

And, in all honesty, who hasn’t tied up the random girl and made her worship a strange liquid god?

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch—I just don’t understand how Rand Paul benefited from his past missteps.

The age of “American Exceptionalism” has passed. No only are we no longer stronger than many other nations, but our ideals have now dictated that we elect people that have no experience, or expertise. If you don’t agree with that, you are labeled a socialist, Nazi, bigot, communist or a Stalin-lover who hates America.

Yes, reason is not working.

If it were, we would want leaders to have expertise. I, for one, do not want my tonsils removed by someone that has no medical knowledge. Nor do I want someone fixing my car unless they have been trained. Expertise is not bad. Knowledge and experience can be good.

Instead of ousting people who are good representatives just because they know what they’re doing, why not simply hold them more accountable by becoming more involved ourselves? We must take accountability and learn the issues for ourselves. That way, if we do decide we want candidates who are “just like us,” the people we will choose will be much more apt for the task.


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