Our nation’s founders celebrated leaders who were careerists
In one of his latest political ads, current Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is returning to a familiar theme: attacking his opponent, Russ Feingold, for being a “career politician.”
In Congress today, Johnson contends, “there are 54 lawyers, one manufacturer -- that’d be me -- still way too many career politicians, and now Senator Feingold wants to add another one. Himself.”
It’s a trope that many are familiar with in this bewildering election season, where the rules and mores of yesteryear have been tossed out completely. A sizable number of Americans are supporting billionaire Donald Trump, for example, because of his “outsider” status in the political world.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina sums up what many people see in Trump: “It’s going to take an outsider to clean up Washington,” he said in July.
We’re witnessing this language in some of Wisconsin’s local races also. In the 8th Congressional District, for example, when asked why people should vote for him, Republican candidate for Congress Mike Gallagher took a subtle dig at his Democratic opponent Tom Nelson.
“I’m not a career politician,” Gallagher told FOX 11 News in Green Bay recently, adding that “I intend to treat my time in Congress not as a career.”
(It is odd that Wisconsin Republicans like Johnson and Gallagher don’t bring these criticisms up about current Gov. Scott Walker, who has been a career politician since the early 1990s.)
Some tend to agree with statements like these, and many base their votes on trying to select the most “un-political” candidate that they can choose. But is that really the best way to go about basing your vote? Does our democracy benefit from having amateurs in office?
Some conservatives believe that term limits are what the founders intended for our nation. Yet none of the positions in the Constitution were originally made with such limits (the 22nd amendment limiting presidents to two terms in office was passed in the 1950s). And many of the founders were themselves career politicians -- such as John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and many others, who served in political positions at the federal as well as state levels.
|Benjamin Rush (public domain)|
Imagine a person today suggesting politicians should dedicate their whole lives to serving people in government. But that’s precisely what our nation’s founders prescribed in crafting the Constitution itself.
If a person has been in office for too long, and if that person no longer serves the needs of the people, then by all means they should be removed from their post electorally. But that should be a decision of the constituents. If voters also prefer to select the same person to serve them term-after-term-after-term, they should be free to do that too -- and that choice should not be derided by others simply because they are a popular option in that district.
A good politician should be preferred by the people more than an incompetent amateur who can’t serve the needs of the people he or she is meant to represent. In short, an office holder isn't a “bad” person for wishing to make his or her political profession a career. If they serve their constituents well, they should be considered noble for doing so.