There are 7.1 billion people on this planet. There are 528 million people in the United States of America.
The US is still regarded as the leading superpower, the leading economic nation (China notwithstanding), the great Defender of the Faith and the icon of democracy. They have produced more millionaires and billionaires over the century than any other nation. We listen to their music, watch their movies and, it would appear, lap up their reality stars. Third-world nations pine for their lifestyle and wealth and it is the dream of many to become a US citizen.
Is it just me who fails to comprehend how, with all this, they cannot produce two acceptable presidential candidates to run for the top spot and ‘Leader of the Free World’? Here we have the unedifying spectacle of a first-rate huckster with all the principles of a mutilated corpse versus, allegedly, a bought-and-paid-for evader of the truth, married to a former president, whose private life puts the hucksters to shame.
As if that were not quite enough, they then put them on prime-time television across the world, going at each other like a pair of very unpleasant playground bullies with the moral compass of Genghis Khan. The world is watching and the world is amazed at how far so-called ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of speech’ have declined. Politics have become reality television – even down to having one candidate from an actual reality show.
Is it beyond the wit of man to locate two stable, untarnished, principled men or women of character to run? Are there so few of them left or are the terrible and shocking consequences of such a role too horrifying for most to contemplate? The press have such a field day, mightily sponsored and encouraged by the other party, digging into every last vestige of one’s life, that there can be few amongst us who would bear such scrutiny – or accept it.
Are the standards to which we hold our politicians too high for a mere mortal to aspire to? If so, this is indeed a sad day for mankind, as what is left is surely just a dictatorship. Take Putin or Xi Jinping of China. Both head up totalitarian regimes where the state holds ultimate power. Dissent is crushed, the people are provided for, more or less, and there is relative calm. Okay, in the 21st Century they are both creatively stunted, produce little of aesthetic value and often engage in bloodthirsty, demonic power grabs with little regard for life. That obviously is not the way to go, but what else is there?
Removing government entirely would never work as there would be bedlam.
I am loathe to say it, but the problem is the freedom of the press. Not necessarily the facts that are uncovered, but the inevitable, and always unpleasant, spin that is always attached by one side or another. We cannot under any circumstances do away with free speech, but how about muzzling it from time to time.
I would suggest appointing a panel of the country’s most respected citizens modelled on the jury trial system that has served democracy well since time immemorial. This panel would fully investigate the candidates, with no holds barred, and forensically interrogate them, and their lives, in private and under the full authority of the Official Secrets Act. Nothing leaves the room. The panel then approve a candidate for each party, and the press, from that day forth, is legally barred from reporting on the background of any candidate. Should the panel have missed something in their forensic review, then it is the panel that are responsible and answerable to a court of law.
This would leave the road clear for each party to elect three candidates to put before the panel, with the candidates secure in the knowledge that if they had an affair 20 years earlier, smoked a joint in college or admitted they listened to Michael Buble, this would not be made public and would not hold them back. Anything not germane to running for office would not be held against them and would not be revealed to the press.
We need the brightest and the best to run this world, and we will never find them as long as we demand they be saints. US political science Professors Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox asked more than 4,000 high school and college students if they would be interested in running for political office in America someday: 89% of them said “no.”
That finding is the crux of a new book based on their original research, Running From Office. In it, the authors argue that the dysfunction of Washington has turned the next generation off politics in historic fashion. Unless behaviours change, Lawless says, the country’s brightest stars are going to pursue just about anything but one of the 500,000 elected offices America needs filled each year. “We’re not necessarily blaming young people. It’s that they live in an environment where they’re not particularly interested in politics, because they find it argumentative and dysfunctional. And their parents agree. And their teachers agree. And the news media agree. So they get these constant reinforcing messages that this is not something that is fun or interesting or important or noble… The other set of players are the politicians themselves. They behave increasingly in unappealing ways and in ways that suggest that they’re not effective at their jobs.”
If the best don’t rise to the top, we will have people running our public offices who are not there to bring about a better society but to shape it in their own image.
God help us the day that this happens. Alas, that day is around the corner.