Speaking plainly, why is it that a large swath of the American electorate has become enamored with the notion that entrusting the levers of power of the free world to someone ought to be contingent upon whether or not that person would be fun to have a beer with? As one who considers himself to be sufficiently well-versed in the activity of imbibing alcohol, having lived long enough to carry the mantle of experience deemed necessary to make one an expert in this particular activity, I am dumbfounded that such criteria even ranks in the top ten, let alone seemingly occupies top billing in people's minds with respect to selecting our next leader.
Now don't get me wrong, I certainly don't hold this qualification against a candidate, it's just that it seems to me to be incidental to the job at hand. In my foggiest of memories, it seems to me that once upon a time serious and right-minded individuals cherished the thought that it might actually be prudent to elect individuals who know more than you do about their jobs, since by the very nature of them running for office they have more time and information to make responsible decisions affecting the greater society and hence the greater good.
Logically, this makes sense. Tragically, however, we as a society seem to have abandoned logic. We have become a wistful electorate, intoxicated by the elixir of irresponsibility that I can only guess traces back to the gee-whiz, by golly folksiness of Gerry Ford. True, even in our post-Watergate, post-Vietnam induced trauma could we bring ourselves to actually vote him into the White House, but it was close. You know the rest of the story.
This is not meant to be an indictment of either political party, rather a depressing observation of the political system we the people seem to be most comfortable with. We value personality over experience, style over substance, conventionality over change, regardless of how insistent if insincere claims about change might actually be. We are far too easily swayed by sound bytes, commercials and bumper stickers, and almost contemptuous of facts.
After nearly eight years of universally accepted policy failures and incompetence bordering on criminality, the ability of political strategists to use fear and complacency as tools upon which to construct a structure worthy of a Hollywood studio set, all show, no functionality, is quite simply astonishing.
I sincerely hope that rationality and logic prevail in the upcoming election. But in order for that to happen, we must first demolish this myth, perpetrated by those whose only goal is to prevail, for better or worse, that we need to identify with the individual(s) who are most like us. Speaking for myself, I prefer to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard. I want them to think in a way that I cannot. I want them to act in a way I might not see immediately is in our best interest, but actually is. I want them to be intelligent: no, America, that is not a dirty word. I actually respect people more intelligent than myself and can bring myself to admit it when someone knows more than I do. I also respect someone who can do things I cannot, whether it be in the world of athletics or politics.
Lest I sound apocalyptic, two terms of the Bush Idiotocracy should disabuse us of the notion that the world will end. But, and this is important, the accumulation and continuation of missed opportunities will truly portend disastrous consequences for someone, whether or not it is our generation or those that follow. No, the world will not stop turning, but a more practical question is whether or not it will be a better place. That, after all, is what we can truly ask of our leaders, to make this world a better place.
So, as you weigh your choices this Fall, do not allow yourself to be fooled by the false choice as to whether or not this or that individual is more like yourself. In fact, just the opposite, you should be looking for someone who is most unlike yourself, but willing to place greater interests above self interest. If you use this as your barometer, I am convinced that the outcome will make this world a better place. And that is the best I believe we can do.