When people talk about who they vote for they often lament their choice as the lesser of two evils. If the politicians we elect hold the coercive power of government, should we not demand better? Should not our choices be between the greater of two goods?
Our founders noted that politics appeals to the two greatest sins of man: avarice and ambition – love of money and love of power. This certainly encapsulates the poison of modern politics. So how do we encourage better politicians versus the career politician? How do we appeal to individuals who have been successful in America? Not the career politician who, far too often, cares not about the good of the nation but rather the self-interest of re-election.
Arrogance and ideology are an anathema to good governance and doing the public good. The good politician is there to serve – not to be served. The good politician has been successful to achieve the American dream outside of government, while the career politician seeks to make his fortune from government. The good politician understands that good politics is constitutional and filled with compromise. And the good voter realizes that no politician can be expected to represent 100% of their views – we should accept a candidate that we agree with 50% of the time.
The Constitution itself is the greatest political achievement and required great compromise. James Madison and George Washington were deeply opposed to giving the smaller states equal suffrage in the new government, but they also realized that compromise on this belief was necessary for the good of forming the nation. They were willing to come away with the best government they could achieve rather than walk away with an ideology. However, today, politicians feign concern and walk away from compromise. They ignore the founding documents and are driven by selfish beliefs that re-election is the goal of government.
So the question is how do we attract better people to seek office? It starts by demanding better. For example, the reaction to the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates should be to send them back and ask for better. Same with the Democrats. These are all politicians who will pander to a base and are amply captured by the observation Benjamin Franklin made that if one wants to become a doctor one studies medicine, and if one wants to become a lawyer then one studies law, but if one wants to be a politician one need only study his own self-interest.
Let us reject the politician who wants to care for us, as we can do that ourselves. Reject the politician who wants to fight for us, as it is not a fight we are looking for. Reject the politician who declares he will work hard for us, as we do that already. Let us ask for the individual who has proved successful in life and realizes that life comes with many faults. Let us embrace the person who will speak candidly – and we will know because he will offend us 50% of the time.