Alright, so the headline is a bit hyperbolic, but Kanye West’s rambling, 12-minute diatribe at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday left me grumpy about the future of our grand experiment in democracy. A few bad apples aside, Americans typically come together every four years to hire someone to run the country. It’s quite possibly the most challenging job in the country, even if it doesn’t require the skills as a brain surgeon–although Dr. Ben Carson would probably tell you otherwise.
Kanye’s bizarre remarks made a mockery of our presidential system, even if Kanye’s goal was to address the candidacy of jokers like Donald Trump. However, young people who hopped on the #Kanye2020 train immediately following his remarks are sadly growing up in a country where we belittle the concept of public service, believe all politicians are self-serving and that any person has the capacity to run the country.
A few things:
- Public service should absolutely be taken seriously
- A few bad politicians should not spoil those truly looking to make their community, state, country, or world a better place
- It requires incredible intelligence, patience, and tenor to be president.
Public servants are often criticized for relying on a government paycheck, but the fact is, a lot of people pursue careers in public service because they give a damn about their community. Remember when Mr. Spock said the good of the many outweighs the needs of the one? If we polled public servants, something tells me they would likely agree with Spock’s sentiments. Sadly, far too many look at public servants as leeches, sucking off the teats of government, rather than having a “real” private sector job, where good, hard-working Americans spend their careers. No, public servants declined higher paying jobs, to provide services ranging from taking your picture at the DMV (ok, maybe they’re not the best example), to most elected officials, who–despite popular belief–are not corrupt, self-serving schmucks.
This leads me to the few bad politicians spoiling the whole bunch.
There’s no question American politics has continued to grow more divisive and nasty, especially during election seasons. Our parents always told us never to trust politicians, but I would argue most politicians do not fit the bill. In fact, politicians use the insane political system to achieve actual policy positions, change the conversation, or serve their communities. Yes, the corrupt get the news coverage and lend some truth to the “all politicians are corrupt” angle, but think about how many politicians go unnoticed each and every day as they do their jobs as city council members, county commissioners, mayors, state representatives, members of Congress, and even presidents.
Virtuous politicians exist in nearly every town in the United States, but when we choose to highlight the good over the bad, we miss those fighting the good fight, helping average citizens make their lives a bit better.
Finally, the notion that “anyone can be president” is patently false. The wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping the United States is both maddening and terrifying, and the idea that “Joe the Plumber” or another average citizen running the country is just silly. The president is responsible for the entire executive branch of the federal government, along with handling numerous domestic and international issues on a daily basis. It requires patience, incredible intelligence, and the ability to juggle an array of complex issues at any given time. While our presidential elections may seem like a popularity contest–and in a lot of ways, it is–there are millions of voters who still judge a presidential candidate based on his or her actual abilities to run and lead the country.
While some may criticize presidents for being “elitist” because they often attended Ivy League schools, they are incredibly short-sighted. Additionally, anyone who praises a candidate for their lack of education, should realize that an education–typically beyond an undergraduate degree–is more than helpful when running the country, it should be necessary. The critical thinking skills learned in college and beyond are necessary when you’re balancing multiple crises–both domestic and international–while trying to run a very large, and significant federal government. There is no minimum education requirement to be president of the United States, but consider how many job openings nowadays that require–at the bare minimum–a bachelor’s degree. Hell, a growing number of jobs require or strongly prefer someone with a graduate degree.
Education is crucial to a president’s success. Yes, some may argue that George W. Bush has two degrees from Ivy League schools and ran the country into the ground, but they’re missing a crucial point: Bush was a “C” student who wears that as a badge of honor.
So, remember all of this the next time you think public service is for those who can’t get a real job, or all politicians are corrupt, or that anyone–even Kanye West–can be president of the United States. It’s all shenanigans brought to you by the same people who want oligarchs firmly in control of our control, while you and I struggle to pay the bills. President Kanye may be a funny thought and you may enjoy writing #kanye2020 in every tweet until the next “cool” thing hits the web, but there is nothing funny about running the country and it’s damn time we respect those that try to do it the right way.
If we continue to vilify those that look out for the “good of the many” over the “good of the one,” you have to wonder how much longer the American democracy will survive. Additionally, when we consider celebrities like Donald Trump and yes, even Kanye as presidential contenders, it’s a further sign of a nation in decline and perhaps doomed. However, it’s not too late. As we move deeper into the 2016 presidential election, you can do yourself a favor by voting for someone with the intellectual capacity to be president and a good heart to boot. Maybe that person will save the country from itself.