It’s a safe bet that most people—whatever their political affiliation—would admit that the talent level, let alone considerations of sincerity and integrity, of our current crop of “leaders” and wannabees pales when compared to the nation’s founders. While several Ph.D. theses could be written on this subject, let’s examine a few reasons behind this intolerable situation:
Aristocracy vs. Meritocracy
Most of our founders came from wealth, although some such as Alexander Hamilton were a generation or two removed from its direct benefits. Still, there seemed to be an overriding sense of duty imbued in these men. They were quite aware that their status was purely an accident of birth, and were drawn to acts of public service and charity.
This is not to imply that everything these men did was altruistic nor that they were secular saints. The point here is that they were extremely talented, and took their responsibilities seriously. Perhaps, as Hebrew National says, they answered to a higher authority.
As we go through the list of presidents, the first non-aristocrat was Andrew Jackson. However, Jackson distinguished himself with his military and government service in much the same manner as did his predecessors. After Jackson, there were many presidents who came from humble backgrounds. In most cases, it certainly helped to have favorable military experience.
This precept was finally broken by Bill Clinton, who not only lacked military experience, but he was public about “loathing the military.” As such, his qualifications for belonging to the meritocracy were different: They were far more tied into academic achievement and his brief non-governmental career, and seemed to completely disregard the many negative aspects of his personality and resume.
Furthermore, it must be said, many of his negatives were embraced as positives by his fawning group of baby boomer supporters. This trend would continue with his wife, as well as most of the candidates who followed him—from either party. The meritocracy would be defined by standards having nothing to do with leadership ability, integrity, or ideas, but would focus on pure tribalism, the membership criteria being defined by the parties or the media.
While there was always vociferous news media in our country, the phenomenon whereby all news media became entertainment is relatively recent. With the advent of 24/7 news channels, it was necessary to fill the time with content. However, all content is not of equal value, even if it is presented in a formal and flashy manner.
Moreover, the phenomenon of a viciously partisan and dominant Leftist news media is also relatively recent, but it is surely aided and abetted by academia.
A scant 50 or 60 years ago, there would have been elite media in support of candidates on both sides. And if the Internet is reaching millions of people, it still does not have the cachet of the mainstream media.
The net result is that political figures have become a new sort of celebrity, with the expected consequence of fame and fortune being awarded based on dubious or superficial achievement. As if this were not bad enough, these very instant celebs are usually given a free pass by the adoring news/entertainment media, especially if they conform to the PC belief system.
Voter Apathy or Voter Disgust?
Since news must also be entertainment, there is simply no place for intelligent analysis of issues, when a two-minute sound bite is expected. Thus, if an aspiring politico’s public persona is defined by news media appearances, what point is there to go beyond the sound bite? That is why no candidate can ever offer anything more than stupid platitudes, no matter what the issue.
Worse, under these rubrics, elected officials will confuse superficial platitudes with genuine action, thereby spawning such nonsense as our current Kabuki theater airport security, or law enforcement so gelded that a video store clerk is our “thin blue line” against terrorism.
We are lectured by our “betters” about how important it is to vote, but given the assortment of motley characters thrust upon us, little wonder there is so much apathy—if not utter disgust.