This election cycle vividly illustrates what is wrong with this country’s dysfunctional political system. We are seeing a daily stink fest of TV ads, mailers and robocalls from candidates accusing their opponents of being swamp dwellers.
“I’m not a politician,” they sneer, as if the word is something to be ashamed of. Once your name appears on a ballot, you are a politician.
And it’s not a slur, although that is regrettably what the word politician has become in popular culture. And by the way, that post going around on social media purporting to be a quote from Mark Twain about changing politicians and baby diapers for “the same reason” is wildly false.
Twain never said it, so stop sharing it.
It’s particularly disturbing to hear a candidate, who has previously held an elected office, deny being a politician. How does serving a single term on the local school board make you more desirable of a candidate than the incumbent who has been elected to two terms in the state General Assembly?
It’s nothing more than meaningless blather. Campaign jabberwocky.
There is nothing wrong with being called a politician. It is a title that denotes someone is skilled in the art of politics. In any other job, experience is coveted and even required of those applying for a vital position.
Why shouldn’t we expect the same of someone who is vying to represent us in government? You wouldn’t hire someone to repair your broken toilet based on the claim: “I’m not a plumber, but I know how to use a mop.”
We also hear a lot about the need for term limits during these dog days on the campaign trail. Term limits are no guarantee that an elected official won’t become a loyal part of the partisan establishment.
And term limits won’t ensure that an elected official will do a better job of governing.
Voters already have the power to send ineffective politicians packing. All they need to do is go to the polls on Election Day.
Which brings me to the next broken cog of our political system — the voters themselves. Few Americans exercise their essential right to vote in this country. Most who do only show up in presidential election years.
Even more troubling, voters are often uniformed, misinformed or just plain indifferent when it comes to knowing the candidates and the issues. They can’t identify the legislative districts they live in, and few can name their elected officials at the local and state or federal levels.
In short, the voters are not living up to their sacred duties as citizens. True patriots care about protecting the entire Constitution.
This is not the way our representative government is supposed to work, but that’s what happens when you let partisan zealotry and big money hijack the process. Dark money flows in and out of campaigns on a regular basis, often doing the dirty work for candidates who profess to take the high road.
It is a problem for Republicans and Democrats alike.
While many Americans think that getting poorly performing politicians out of office is our biggest problem, I think getting good candidates to run is a much more vexing problem. We Americans expect a lot from our elected officials. We want them to be as brave as David, as wise as Solomon and as strong as Samson.
We demand that our politicians tell us the truth, only to punish them at the polls when they do. Easy answers only exist in campaign talking points. The problems of this nation are much too complicated to be solved in 40-second sound bites.
That’s why voters must share the blame for the low caliber of candidates we too often find on the ballot. My fellow Americans, it was we — the voters — who created the swamp. And we are still filling it with our poor decisions.