“One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace; good people don’t go into government”. – Donald Trump
Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day in America. Today is a day to reflect on our country, the principles on which it was founded, and all the brave men and women who have led us throughout our history to be the greatest nation in the world.
“Come forward, then, and give us the aid of your talents and the weight of your character towards the new establishment of republicanism.” –Thomas Jefferson
As I watched the news last night, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness as Gov. Palin announced that she would not seek another term as governor of Alaska and would end her current term early, because, even though she wanted to continue, she felt it to be in the best interest of her state.
The cynical among us will say it is because she wants to run for President in 2012; others will say it proves she is not ready for higher office. However, I believe her when she says she’s doing it because the political environment in Alaska has changed. Her national status has made it very difficult to be effective due to the continued attacks from the media and political enemies she made while cleaning up Alaska’s ethical issues early in her term as Governor. She’s become a polarizing figure, and multiple ethics complaints have been filed against her with the state personnel board. Her enemies have attacked her using the very ethics rules she set in place. As she pointed out, it cost nothing to make false accusations and keep her busy defending herself rather than working on the state’s business.
The 15 complaints have been dismissed with no findings of wrongdoing, although one complaint led to Palin’s agreement to reimburse the state about $8,100 for costs associated with trips taken with her children. The state says it has spent nearly $300,000 to investigate the complaints. Palin says she has racked up more than $500,000 in legal fees fighting them, and it has wasted over $2 million in state funds when you count the time lost by Palin and her staff to answer all the charges. To her credit, Gov. Palin says she is stepping down because she doesn’t need the title of Governor to serve her state. She also said she will not be party to allowing state resources to be wasted just so she can sit in the governor’s chair. I guess she fooled a lot of her detractors. She was willing to give up something important to her for the greater good. This is a concept to few political leaders are familar with these days.
This is easy to believe when you consider the success she has had as governor. Sarah Palin has reformed the code of ethics for Alaska state politicians. She has struck landmark deals with the gas and oil companies operating in Alaska to return a portion of their profits to the state and its citizens, resulting in extremely low tax rates. She even threw out all kinds of unnecessary government perks, including the governor’s private jet. Like her or not, Sarah Palin is a woman of substance, which is why yesterday should be a sad day for all Americans who value the character of their leaders.
“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty.” – Thomas Jefferson
Whether you agree with Sarah Palin’s political point of view or not, any fair-minded American should be appalled at the way the Alaskan governor has been treated by the media since being announced as John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate last August. You can attack her policy positions, criticize her experience (although if you supported Obama, you are a hypocrite), say she’s too folksy, and argue about why you don’t think she is ready to be Vice President. All of this is fair game. However, the relentless personal attacks on her intellect, her mannerisms, her sex appeal, her family, her way of life, and her religious beliefs are over the top. Never has an American political candidate received such embarrassingly vicious treatment from the media.
I have written two blogs on leadership and principles in the past two months. A large portion of those blogs apply to Gov. Palin’s situation. So I’m going to pull in a few excerpts for reference.
“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, rottenness begins in his conduct.” – Thomas Jefferson
It seems that politics today is more about winning the election than it is about a commitment to principles and values. Ideally, candidates in a political contest would debate clearly articulated points of differentiation, providing the voters a choice between approaches to problem solving and philosophies of governing.
However, the political strategists of the day seem content with and adept at blurring those lines. Combine that with a little help from the media and often you don’t know who you’re really electing until the election is over and the candidate is in office. This, by the way, is not a shot at any single elected official but a comment on the sad state of the mass media and our political system. Both parties are guilty!
After the 2008 election, the pundits started to debate what the Republicans needed to do to regain control of the White House and Congress: They discussed strategies to recruit younger, better-looking, energetic candidates. They suggested a need for candidates who had a better TV presence and were more gifted speakers. One of the esteemed panelists even went as far as to say that the content of the message doesn’t matter as much as how it’s delivered. The debate was about style over substance and whether the party should move more to the center or more to the right. I couldn’t help but think that political parties are supposed to represent an ideology that is based on a system of values.
I am not sure what horrifies me more; the fact that the pundits might be right or that we’ve become a nation of media junkies. It seems we’re no longer capable of telling the difference between a commercial and the program. Are we being told what to think by our televisions?
Webster offers a couple of variations on the definition of a “politician,” but the one that seems most fitting these days is “one who seeks partisan or personal gain often by crafty or dishonest means.”
In recent years it seems we’ve had a difficult time attracting anyone other than “politicians” to take leadership roles in our government; real leaders want less and less to do with elected office. This is most likely due to the harsh light cast on those in public life. The level of personal scrutiny that an individual must endure to embark on the path to public service is enough to scare off most sane people.
Successful, intelligent, and ethical individuals who have lived a “normal” life and made common mistakes shy away from throwing their hat in the ring. The personal sacrifices that they and their families must make are often too steep a price to pay for the privilege of serving ones’ country, state, or community.
Ironically, character is often what is most lacking in today’s political leaders. Yet the very mistakes, trials, and tribulations that become the subject of scrutiny are often the life -changing experiences that build character and moral fiber.
Today’s politicians have become largely a collection of actors playing the part of leaders. They have self-serving agendas that are equally split between their personal goals and repaying debts to those who supported their candidacy. Most are career politicians who have made a job out of “public service.”
How do we change this trend? How do we encourage real leaders and statesmen to get involved in government again? Let’s start electing real people with character, ethics, morals, and flaws, who were forged in the real world under fire.
- principled men and women who are willing to represent the values of their constituents and do what’s best for their country, their state, or community;
- true leaders that will not mortgage our future for short-term victories or sell their values to the highest bidder in exchange for support on an item they want; and
- leaders who have common sense, love their country, and believe in the American dream.
The candidates aren’t the only ones who need to have values and principles. As voters, our responsibilities are the same as the candidate’s. We need to invest enough time in the process that we have well thought-out and defined positions on the issues. We also have a responsibility to understand, at least conceptually, how the candidate will solve a problem or address an issue, if elected.
This reminds me of a lyric from an old country song that goes right to the heart of the matter: it goes, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” Unfortunately, far too many of us don’t make the time to study the issues. Instead we get our news in soundbites. We vote for what sounds “good” without ever knowing if it is good. In the end, the only people who can hold the candidates accountable are the voters. This accountability should start on the campaign trail, not once they are in office. There should be no surprises once elected. If we understand the issues and set expectations of our elected officials, we won’t have to worry about “falling for anything.”
So in the end the pundits got it all wrong! It is not about if the Republicans should move right, center, or left. It’s not about whether they should be more moderate or more conservative. It is about candidates from both parties deciding what they stand for and sticking to it. Both parties need to use the election process to honestly sell their views and let the voters decide.
I hope this is not the last hurrah for Sarah Palin. We need more down-to-earth, regular folks with common sense to seek office and help lead this country back to greatness. We need leaders that don’t sell out their principles to get in office and then rediscover them once elected. That is corrupt, and corruption will destroy trust in the government. When the government loses the trust of the people, our country will cease to be great.
I’ll close with the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson:
“Public offices were not made for private convenience.” – Thomas Jefferson
“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson