So here we are.
Another campaign season is over, and now a new batch of people head to Washington, ripe for the tearing down. No matter what the final tallies are, it’s clear Americans aren’t happy with the results they are getting from their government. But if this past campaign season is any indication, we are in for more of the same.
The real fun will be to see who does what. Who is this year’s Rod Blagojevich? Who’s the next governor to disappear abroad with a mistress or senator to bring a “wide stance” to an airport? It is going to happen.
In fact, I would say that America is more likely to see another governor removed from office amidst a sex scandal before we see a legitimate immigration policy. Pick your policy area; there’s a legitimate argument that something sleazy will happen before the issue is ever addressed. I guarantee that another major Illinois politician will be in jail before this country develops an energy policy. Balancing the budget? Reducing the deficit? Please. But the misappropriation of congressional funds to pay for the housing of an illegitimate child conceived on a burning American flag during a drug-induced orgy after a Foreigner concert? Yes. That will probably happen.
Eve Conant wrote an interesting piece in Newsweek in which she examines the psychological composition of a politician. The psychiatrists in Conant’s report point out the uninspiring and unsurprising characteristic of our politicians: extroversion bordering on narcissism. I don’t doubt this finding, but I do think it is focusing on the symptom instead of the cause.
Running for office means your life will be scrutinized. Your personal life will cease to be personal. Your family’s personal lives will be examined. The same is true for your friends.
Have you ever made a mistake? Posted something dumb on Facebook? Got fired from a job? Had an affair? Stolen from your family to pay for the housing of an illegitimate child conceived on a burning American flag during a drug-induced orgy after a Foreigner concert? If you answered yes to any or all of these positions, I bet you chose not to run for office.
You won’t run because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth hurting your reputation or your family’s reputation and it’s not worth complicating the lives of everyone you’ve ever known. You might as well work in the private sector; make more money than you ever would as a senator or governor or representative and deal with your personal flaws personally. Then you can sit back, relax and judge our leaders by a standard higher than the ones we set for ourselves while their behavior falls short of any standard anyone would ever set.
We can watch it all. We love to see others torn apart, especially our politicians. We have to Google them, Facebook them and read blogs about unsubstantiated rumors of intimate encounters in which someone is dressed as a ladybug. It pushes Web traffic, inflates ratings, shows up on Google Trends and ends up as a discussion topic at the few dinner tables where families still eat every day.
We may not be strong enough to ignore this stuff, but most are smart enough to stay out of it— except the narcissists. They are perfect for a political process that weeds out flawed but generally okay people who live in this country. They slip through the screen that catches the normal folks who might actually be able to improve the country, and poison the country with entertaining, sometimes extreme behavior.
The entertaining side effect of this is that these folks get in the darndest situations, and each time one of their egregious mistakes comes to light, it reminds anyone with a minor flaw that fixing the country isn’t worth their time.
That’s where we are. That’s where the campaign season has been and where the government will be. It’s why whoever wins elections and no matter what party falls from power, fixing the country will be a struggle.
At least we can enjoy the show.