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It seems like this election cycle lasted even longer than any other we’ve seen. Certainly it was the most divisive in a lot of years, with what seems to be the meanest commercials ever. Even as we get back to normal, I wonder what the ultimate ramifications are. It would seem only logical that with the plethora of brilliant people in our nation, that our leaders would ultimately be the best and brightest at each level of government. Logically, each would be not just unquestionably brilliant, but also of such high moral fiber that nobody could find anything negative to say about them. Why then have our last three Speaker’s of the House in Boston been indicted or resigned under disgrace. Why do we have one congressman after another resigning after facts come to light about corruption or patronage.
Perhaps it’s because our system of government is such that it’s not the best and brightest that are willing to put themselves through the torture of campaigning for office. Perhaps our system of government is such that we place insurmountable hurdles in the pathway, such that too few of these brilliant political minds are willing to go through the process. When one looks at the results of the election this year, I can’t help but wonder whether what we saw yesterday was a true referendum on who the values espoused by one particular political party or another, or just a lack of candidates and choices.
It seemed to me, at least, that the prime reason why so many so-so candidates were returned to office this year, is not that the plurality of voters believing in the acts and policies of the incumbent, but rather the fact that the candidates put forth to challenge them was a really weak bunch. What I’m not sure about though is how that happens? Not to pick on any particular people, but take Jeff Perry, for example running for US Congress in the 10th district, against Bill Keating. During the campaign, it comes out that in his previous life as a police officer, he was involved tangentially with the illegal strip search of a 14 year old girl etc., etc. Now, I’m not saying he did or didn’t do anything. I have no insight about him, his character, or anything else he’s involved in. All I wonder is if he is really the “best and brightest” that the Republican Party could proffer to run in an election for national office.
We had the same thing here in our district, with Holliston Attorney Marty Lamb, running against incumbent James McGovern. There were several decent candidates running in the primary, but Lamb made it through largely due to support of the Tea Party group, most of whom are an awesome bunch of dedicated people with a truly libertarian belief that government has gotten out of control. Some of them are a little bit radical for me though, and I fear that they may have backed the wrong horse in this race. The day after he won the primary, it came out that Lamb had filed a massive $300,000 personal bankruptcy. Add to that that although he was a nice enough guy, he was a bit of a nebish, and you wonder whether there was any hope from the start that he was going to unseat a 13 year incumbent with a campaign that included sending barf bags to his opponent.
Somehow, I feel as though what we need to do is to to get this other group of potential candidates on board instead. The ones who graduated from the Kennedy School of Government, or who studied Political Science at Dartmouth, who worked their way up with a pure desire to serve our nation, rather than stuff money into their bra in a downtown delicatessen. The real question, I suppose, is why those people would get involved. Certainly they could make far more money in the private sector, with less stress, and not be under a microscope day and night. Perhaps that’s a curse we’ve placed on our own system of government. It’s rare to find people wealthy enough, and brilliant enough, that they are able or willing to take a public sector job. I suppose the few examples out there where such things have happened, have worked out well, but those are incredibly rare. Take, for example, Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of NY. A brilliant entrepreneur, worth billions of dollars of his own self-made money, he’s managed to be an effective leader, with no real “ulterior motive.” He’s doing the job because it’s what he enjoys and he’s trying to contribute, not for the money or glory, all of which he already had. I suppose to some extend the same was true for Ted Kennedy. Not that he was ever the most brilliant person, nor did I agree with some of his politics, but I do have to hand it to him for stepping up, donating his salary year after year to charity, and paying his staff out of his own pocket. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked well for him.
The question we need to come to as a society is what will work best for us. I’m in no way proposing a wholesale change in our nations governmental systems. Rather I just want to think about how if we have 1000 men and women working on our aircraft carrier we can have the absolute smartest one driving the boat.