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Jess Coleman Headshot

Longing for Failures

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The Supreme Court made headlines Monday, striking down most of Arizona's contentious immigration law, while the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, steered clear of the debate. In an attempt to win over much-needed Hispanic voters, Romney refused to give his opinion of the law, stating only that "President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration." Later on, a Romney spokesman declined to give a direct answer when asked about the former Governor's position.

The evasive reaction by Mr. Romney is by no means a new phenomenon -- for him or for the nation's politics. Romney has often been characterized as a flip-flopper, willing to support any view that will get him elected. It comes as no surprise, then, that even as Romney rides a wave of criticism of President Obama's policies, just 31 percent of voters find Romney "likable," while twice as many like the President.

The reality is striking, but has its roots throughout history. President Roosevelt's New Deal, Lincoln's pursuit to end slavery, and Johnson's Civil Rights Act were some of the most contested policies in American history. Still, history judges those leaders with high regard -- not because they got things done swiftly and without opposition, but because they did what they believe in.

That is what is missing from our politics today. It is no surprise that Congressional approval ratings are at historical lows at a time when it seems almost impossible to find someone fighting for ground-breaking legislation. There seems to be an absence of Lincoln's and Roosevelt's who, even in the midst of criticism, stuck to their core values.

For decades, Americans have chosen leaders with a lengthier criteria than just campaign promises and agendas. Our last six presidents have little in common -- their political parties, backgrounds and even skin color differ. But they do have one thing in common: At some point in their political career, they lost an election.

That seems strange in a political climate that seems so obsessed with micromanagement and numbers -- politicians these days answer more to polls than they do their own conscience. It seems strange that Americans would reward failure so often, even as our own elected officials are so afraid to do anything other than what is "politically correct."

The founders envisioned a country in which any ordinary American could lead, and there is a certain power in that principle. Americans are no strangers to failure: It makes us who we are, and we don't believe for a second that even those with power can evade that reality. Even Romney, who sometimes resembles a robot more than a human, lost a bid for the Senate in 1994.

Come November, the voters will look beyond economic policies and campaign promises -- they will also look for a certain human element. Our leaders today are hated not necessarily because they disagree with our beliefs, but because they are so unwilling to fail.

It wouldn't hurt for everyone in Washington to look back at history. If we've learned one thing, it's that you can prance around like a robot and brush aside every question, but that will disqualify you from making your mark on history. Americans don't just want results -- they want a leader who isn't afraid to be who they are, and just be let down every once in a while.