It’s an all too frequent sound, this and every election, people (including myself) moaning “I don’t understand why we keep getting such sorry choices for candidates!” We wonder where our inspiring leaders went, and why we seem to scrape the bottom of the barrel for nominees. After many years of soul searching, and reading Jeff Jacoby’s column that is beyond pitch perfect, I have discovered the cause of our dilemma. It seems that originally, after our nations founding, we promoted, supported and elected men of grand vision, larger than life, and greater than the average man. They were all fundamentally flawed, some remarkably so, yet the led us, inspired us, and appealed to our better angels.”Great” men (and women) arise because we demand them, and accept nothing less.
It was 40 years after Geo. Washington first assumed office, despite a desire for retirement, that we first elected a man of less vision. Andrew Jackson was a populist when necessary, and an opportunist always. He was the first president to become rich while in office, and he used, and abused his office, and anyone who got in his way, for that purpose. Since then we have become ever more accepting of a low quality leader.
We no longer demand “Great” leaders, but now are happy being pandered to, rather than inspired. We would rather be made angry, than made to think. At our founding, voting was limited, but, those who could vote were, excited, and indeed, honored to be involved in choosing the best of the best for our leaders. Now, we just want someone to make all the decisions for us. As the leaders we accept have become ever “smaller”, our interest in civics has continued to shrink. As we become less involved, we have a lower standard for our leaders. We are outsourcing the worst possible thing we can, our civic duties. George Washington now seems very prescient when he said
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
This seems particularly appropriate during this election, regardless of who you support. It seems the Libertarians had their best opportunity ever to gain a national foothold this election, and they nominated someone sure to blow it. The irony is they nominated him, because they though a guy like him is the type we wanted. Yet again, we got no better than we demanded.
So if we get the leaders we demand, how did we get our two major party nominees? Simple, we (as a nation) walked into the mall, walked past the high quality clothes, past the jeans, and t-shirts, and chose the two loudest plaid suits in the state. Now, we are ticked off we have to choose between two plaid suits, and spend much of our time saying things like “At least OUR plaid doesn’t include neon yellow!” Perhaps after the Sturm und Drang of this election is over, we can start refusing to accept less than true leaders to fill these important roles. I know I’m tired of settling “Boxers, or briefs” instead of sending a man to the moon.