Now I think I have heard everything.
A senatorial candidate running an ad proclaiming that she is not a witch.
A congressional candidate running to the media to defend herself against photos she took when she was 22 years old — even though that was only 6 years ago.
An America that is more focused on what divides us than what unites us.
And — sadly — I think that all of the above are symptoms of living in the new media age. Worse still, it begs the question: is politics — and the nation’s republican form of government — a thing of the past for everyday Americans?
You have to admit: without the money to campaign past one’s past flaws (don’t we all have them) or the connections to skip political growth milestones (not many folks have those), we are left with either rich people with the independent wealth to burn in political campaigns, well-connected people with the social and political capital to spend, or perfect people who don’t have to worry about the even the smallest indiscretion (let alone larger ones) impeding their political careers.
No Americans fit into the third category. Most Americans don’t fit into the first two. Because of that, “American politics” may be a growingly oxymoronic term.
The beauty of the 2008 BOPE Campaign (Barack Obama Presidential Experience) and the Tea Party movement of the past 2 years is that they brought hope for meaningful activism back to everyday Americans, thus chasing away the apathy that led to a sleepy electorate that allowed the rich and powerful (both people and corporations) to run American government without impediments for decades.
What we are going through now, however, is a challenge to that much-needed return to populist politics and republican government. In the quest for deeper accountability from politicians on both sides of the aisle, Americans are finding that no stone will be left unturned. Unfortunately, this high level of media scrutiny is scaring off good-hearted and well-intended people from serving in politics.
Granted, there are some indiscretions that should not be overlooked. A CPA who embezzled millions from a Fortune 500 company before announcing his candidacy for state treasurer should clearly address this incident, if not outright renounce his candidacy. However, in an age when the past three presidents have admitted to major past mistakes (and one admitted to such a flaw while serving as president), the question must be raised: what qualifies as political fodder nowadays? Do we really care what Christine O’Donnell did during a wacky dating spell (pun intended) earlier in her life? Do we really need to know what a political candidate in his sixties wrote when he was in high school?
What matters most in regards to putting Americanism back into American politics is this: at some point, politics has to be about everyday Americans again, not just the rich, affluent, and perfect who can afford to take the public hits that You Tube, iPhones, and the 24-7 news cycle can provide a reality-TV driven public. I have mentioned it previously and I note this again: we need to move away from the American Idol model of leadership and back to an American Statesmen model of politics. It is possible, but it will only transpire if we are willing to allow the best and brightest among us to serve with humility and competency — regardless of an individual’s resources and past. We seem to have forgotten that true leadership — forged from a confluence of courage, talent, persistence, and grit — often comes after individuals have come through the fire of personal and professional obstacles. In forgetting this, we instead look to individuals who fit the mold of political success but cannot fulfill the requirements of political and social leadership, only for us to question why they fall short. In actuality, it is not they who have fallen short: it is us who have allowed our prerequisites for political inclusion and leadership to become wanting.
At some point, perhaps this November, we will decide: do we want everyday Americans to reclaim their government, destiny, and global greatness through embracing the best among us? If we do not become more forgiving of youthful indiscretions and focus on the need for leadership in our nation today, our politics — and our political discord — will remain radiate on paper and rancid in reality.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” on WVON 1690 AM The Talk of Chicago (www.wvon.com) He is the author of the upcoming edition of the book, “: The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010: Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .