We should vote on issues, not superficiality

One of the primary criticisms of this generation is that it is not involved in public — or political — service. Why is it that more people choose to work in business than to work in elected office? I believe many people want to work in government, but the problem is so few want to be a candidate for an office, a phenomenon I’ve personally dubbed “The Caroline Problem.”

It is named after Caroline Kennedy, who briefly sought appointment to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat during December 2008 and January 2009. As you may know, in many states, including New York, the governor names the successor to a vacant Senate seat. Kennedy lobbied the governor, David Paterson, after encouragement from her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy and her close friend President Barack Obama. Kennedy had never served in elected office before, and her attempt to gain the appointment was met with a severe media backlash. She was dubbed “Princess Caroline” by cartoonists, usurping an office she hadn’t earned. I do not think, however, that this was because the media was vetting someone who hadn’t faced the voters; I think it was because she had yet to face the media.

It should be clear to everyone, no matter your political persuasion, that despite what you think of any single media source, as a whole they are a fickle bunch. Quite simply, their problem with Kennedy was that she had refused to do their talk shows, to participate in their short-attention span infotainment world. She seemed to act as if she was better than them, and she was, and they wanted to take her down a peg. In an interview during her time lobbying for the Senate seat, Kennedy’s 30-minute New York One television interview was criticized for her overuse of the phrase “you-know.” This whole campaign was defended under the guise that voters would not choose her and she would be thrust upon them. But this is the way it’s always been with Senate appointments and the voters would’ve had the chance to vote for or against her next year.

I use this recent example because it shows why America’s best people don’t run for office and the gap between officials and candidates that has developed. Our Founding Fathers originally envisioned a government run by the best people possible in service and representation of their country. In the late 18th century, however, the most accomplished citizens were well-known, wealthy and connected, thus they could easily win office. The Founders did not seek, in fact they sought to avoid, the adoption of political parties and campaigns. This leaves us today with an inconsistency in our government, for the best candidates for office are often not the best officials, and vice versa.

Today’s campaigns are 24-hour media circuses. Any and every instance in a candidate’s past is brought into the open. Does it now become clear why accomplished people don’t run for public office? Would you want people digging into every facet of your life? Asking about your preacher, or how much your clothes cost, or what you said or did ten, twenty, thirty or even forty years ago? The problem is that political campaigns have become a real life reality show. The only way we can fix this problem and improve our government is to begin to elect the best people for the job and not the best candidates for election and re-election. They should vote on issues, not the horse race.

Nick Field is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at edpage@theeagleonline.com.

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