We polled political observers across the country, scouring our nation for that one thing that public opinion seems to be sure was lost: a good man politician.
Perhaps we should just elect women and be done with it. After all, when was the last time a woman ruined her political career over hookers? Or erected and protected a trillion-dollar Ponzi scheme based on toxic mortgages that took down most of the economy with it? Or committing troops based on non-existent WMDs or ran off to South America for a lover while her staff continued to cover for her? Or ranting against the evils of homosexuality while having sex with girls? But we're not talking about women; our magazine, The Good Men Project, is about men, so we are stuck with the fellas and an inquiry into their potential goodness.
Here's the thing. The country has been blinded by the rhetoric from both sides, pounding away at our humanity. We found good guy politicians, and not just one. From state senators to U.S. senators; from mayors to governors; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; from the Deep South to the Midwest and from coast to coast, all is not lost. Our list is far from perfect. But from Democratic Mayor of Newark Cory Booker to Republican Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, and from Al Franken to Richard Lugar, we found guys honestly trying to get it right.
(To see the full list, click here.)
Let's not sugarcoat it: America is in a heap of trouble. From a stalled economy, to global warming, to continued involvement in two separate wars, to exploding prison populations, a failed education system, and 20 million kids growing up without a father at home, our political system is paralyzed. Our differences as a people have always been our greatest strength but at the moment they are our greatest weakness.
I contend that if we want to change anything, and begin to deal with our problems, "goodness" -- defined as honesty and willingness to work cooperatively -- should be how we as Americans choose our candidates. Rather than a revolving door of yet more partisan politicians being voted in (Tea Party on right and labor-backed liberals on left) we need to focus on politicians who put the venom aside.
Yes, we have been here before, but it seems to me this historic moment is a particularly deep hole of political despair, the kind that in other countries gave rise to real evil. (Think Hitler.) In the end, whenever one group of people starts blaming another as the problem, as our two-party system has, trouble is right behind. And we are all responsible.
This is a democracy, so we can't walk away from the responsibility for voting in good, bad and ugly. We could go to a benevolent dictator but I would suggest focusing on who is truly good first. It's up to us to get out of the intractable political situation that is America in 2010. At current course and speed this ship is headed for an iceberg that will take us down.
Our bipartisan list of 10 good men politicians is an attempt to move the debate in that direction, toward politicians who set aside personal interest and name calling for the common good. Don't believe the attack ads. Don't listen to the groundswell that says that every politician is, by definition, evil. There are good men, and women, in our political system; no doubt we need more of them, as the stakes couldn't be any higher. But if all we do is continue to broaden the cavern between blue and red states, we are sure to fail as a republic. We will never be able to solve the complex and serious problems that face our nation.
Just for the record, I am a bleeding-heart-liberal-Massachusetts-Democrat, raised with a houseful of lesbians and arrested at age eight for protesting the Vietnam War with my dad. But I'm voting Republican for governor. Charlie Baker is the best man for the job.
Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist and founder of www.goodmenproject.org