Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Elitist" Needed

Americans are funny. Maybe we're just like people everywhere. We extoll accomplishment in a general way but seem to resent it in a specific way. We like the idea of doing things well and succeeding, but we seldom hold those who have been very successful in high regard. They're "too rich", "too smug", "too distant", "out of touch with average people", "too elitist", or any number of other phrases that we use to describe people who, by way of their own accomplishment, enjoy fame, riches, social status, or opportunities that we can't even imagine.

In this election, all the candidates are playing down their own success. They're defending themselves from their own accomplishments for fear the electorate will feel distanced from them. Obama stresses his upbringing in a poor single-parent family rather than telling us about the $4 million income he reported last year. McCain talks about his POW days rather than his life as the son and grandson of Navy admirals who lived very well, and he never talks about his wife's $100 million fortune. Biden tells of his humble upbringing in Scranton, and Palin trumpets her marriage to a member of the USW. Running away from success! How interesting.

I don't like this behavior. In a conversation with a very successful lawyer friend this morning after church, he mentioned that he wished the president to be a person who he felt "inferior to" in every way. I replied that I knew, personally, at least ten people who were more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin, but that none of them were really qualified for the job. We both felt that our leaders should be very intelligent, very broadly educated and well-traveled, good communicators, morally and ethically straight, and courageous. That is, they should be the most impressive people that America can produce. Unfortunately, such persons could never get nominated or elected. Too "elite", I suppose. Also, too incorruptible.

Although we may never get the very best citizens to be our leaders, we should nevertheless restrain ourselves about judging those who have accomplished much. The fact is that achievers, like Obama, are those who are most likely to achieve in the future. George Bush, conversely, is a great example of a non-achiever who continued to non-achieve in office. Even Sarah Palin, while unqualified for national office, has done well considering her background. Rather than focusing on her "hockey-mom" credentials and her caribou-shooting ability, however, we should be asking about the qualities that make her superior to us in many ways. When it comes to leading the richest and most powerful nation in the world, an "elitist" is just what we need.


Sonja's Mom said...

Those citizens that are very intelligent, very broadly educated and well-traveled, good communicators, morally and ethically straight, and courageous, don't want to be President. They know what a "no win" kind of job it is.

Ron Davison said...

Now you are eavesdropping on my thoughts. Just this weekend I was thinking agagin about how odd it is that you would never want an ordinary brain surgeon but we seem to think that experts and elites in politics is somehow a bad thing. Well, I guess we don't have to look far to see where that gets us. Sigh.

Woozie said...

Who should be Mr. Gates' VP nominee for 2012? Wouldn't Steve Jobs be a kicker?