Voters like you. It’s a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot throughout the remaining days of the 2008 Presidential campaign, mostly from the Republican side since the selection of Sarah Palin was made to court “blue-collar” voters who identify with her background. “The average American voter doesn’t care about the specifics of the vetting process,” spokespeople for the McCain campaign, repeating ad nauseum the talking points they’ve been given, will say. “Sarah Palin knows what American families are going through.” “Questions about Sarah Palin’s experience won’t lower the price of gas.” “Sarah Palin is just like you.”
Why then wouldn’t I vote for Sarah Palin? How about because she’s JUST LIKE ME. There’s good reason why I’m not running for President. In no way am I qualified. Electing a politician to a position in which she may inherit the highest office in the land because she’s just like me is akin to a General Manager of an NFL team selecting a QB in the first round from a liberal arts college who’s 5’10”, 155 pounds, minored in Gender Studies and runs a 12 minute mile. Who on earth would want that dude as starting Quarterback on their hometown team? Who wants a pilot that got a C- in Calculus? Who wants a surgeon that dropped General Chemistry freshman year? Can we agree that President of the United States of America is not a position that lends itself to on-the-job training? This is leader of the free world, not assistant editor at Maxim Magazine.
Sure, politics is different. It’s a representative system in which citizens select people to reflect the interests of their constituents. Having someone in office who is in touch with the needs of the community they represent would make sense…on a local level. In the highest office of the land a President represents the collective interest of a diverse, pluralist country of 300 million people, not all of whom preoccupy themselves with international affairs over the safety of their home or the price of gas over the global image of the nation. At some point larger values take hold and a collective well-being becomes the priority of the President. Is it so illogical to argue that a life spent immersed in public service would make one better suited to hold this office?
Some might point to the bureaucracies of France, in which technocrats micromanage the policies of a nation to a point of paralysis, as a dangerous example of professional politicians run amok. People educated specifically for civil service and who make it the source of their livelihood end up building the beuracracy they serve. But what’s the alternative? Ill-informed everymen who let markets collapse, cities flood and young men and women die in defense of a lie?
Sarah Palin for President, which is the primary criteria by which any VP must be evaluated, because she’s a mother? Because she hunts? Because she takes her kids to hockey practice? So my mom could be president. Your mom could be President. Diddy runs a record label, a clothing line, hosts 3 reality shows and has kids. He could be President. The women who sit on the sidewalk in front of our apartment with strollers telling their crying kids to “Shut the fuck up” could be President.
I’ve sat at a kitchen table and lamented the price of gas and food. By the standards laid forth by Republican talking points, I could be President. Except I can’t because I don’t know anything, and the last thing I want is someone whose ignorance I can identity with making the decisions that affect the entire country. Yes we can? No, we can’t. That’s why we elect politicians.