The Problem With Politics

29 Apr

Do you know who George Allen is? Neither does 75% of America but, he’s the “insider’s choice” to be the Presidential frontrunner for the Republican Party in 2008.

The process of building name recognition is a slow and deliberate process that begins with fluff introductory pieces in magazines like The New Republic, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and newspapers profiles in the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. If you start to build a little credibility, you show up on Hardball, Fox News Sunday, and other pundit shows to let America know who you are. If that goes well, you get a spot on Meet The Press and get personal features written about you in Time and Newsweek. It takes time and it’s a carefully crafted process that can ill afford slip-ups or bad publicity along the way.

George Allen is having trouble getting out of the gate in stage one.

The Republicans like him because of his “folksy charm”, southern appeal, and that he’s the son of a famous football coach. He grew up in California but has sold himself with a subtle southern accent, tobacco chewing, a love for Travis Tritt, cowboy boots, and an “aw shucks” kind of vibe. It’s all bullshit but, it was for Dubya as well. He grew up a wealthy white kid in Southern California. There’s nothing “southern” about him.

Anyhow, the reason he is being marginalized and run out of the Presidential discussion? He wore a confederate flag lapel pin in his high school yearbook picture in 1970. Uh, ok.

Who cares? Are we seriously discounting people for office because of what they wore or might have said nearly 40 years ago? Don’t get me wrong, I think Allen is a tool and I’m not certain he’s a quality candidate for the Presidency but, my position is based on his lackluster legislative record and not the quality of his wardrobe when he was 17.

I did a lot of stupid things when I was a teenager, hell, I did many things I regret during my mid-twenties. Does this mean I’m disqualified for running for office? Does our desire to blow every small transgression out of proportion and the pursuit to scoop other reporters with a scandal dissuade other qualified candidates from running for office? What’s the cutoff for disqualifying stupidity as transgressions of youth?

At the local level, I’m sure there’s many people who would love to run for office but don’t want Len Lenihan or Joe Illuzi leaking embarassing stories of their youth to the public at large.

It’s a problem that retards growth in government and precludes a slew of qualified candidates from serving the public as citizen representatives.

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