‘What’s really missing?’

Published 11:38 pm Thursday, December 3, 2015

That question has become prevalent in current discussions of the non-traditional candidates for the Republican nomination for president. It is usually followed by another question: “What is so appealing about two people who have never held public office and never campaigned for one?” From an analytical standpoint, the focus of those questions may be misplaced. Indeed, the poll numbers – which seem to indicate that the two leading candidates command more than 50 percent of Republican support – probably define the respondents to the poll more than the subjects of the poll. After all, we are defined by our taste in cars, hobbies, clothing, food and movies. Why not leaders?
We can draw scant conclusions about the proclivities of the thousands who “cheered” Fidel Castro, “adored” Saddam Hussein or “revered” Idi Amin. They were coerced to do so on pain of deprivation of pursuit of happiness, liberty and life – in that order. But here in the United States, we are blessedly free to support leaders based on our independent, personal choices. Of all the benchmarks that influence our preference for workers at any level, including candidates for public office, qualification is the chief index of fitness. We are consistently trained at home and in kindergarten, Little League, Girl Scouts and the military that America is a meritocracy – where you get ahead based on solid preparation and hard work, where God grants grace, but man rewards effort.
The popularity of two untrained, inexperienced and, in some instances, contextually ignorant, people for the most important and powerful job in the world indicates that a substantial portion of the American public has abandoned its presumed allegiance to merit and has willingly accepted the risk to national security that such ignorance clearly portends. There are at least three reasons why this patently un-American mindset has surfaced. Perhaps no one of them fully contaminates evaluation of prospective leaders, but in combination, they constitute a toxin that jeopardizes our constitutional democracy.
Our nation, its institutions and its people have been dumbed down. Facilitated by a decline in the efficacy of public education, the rejection of intellect, the political correctness of rewarding mediocrity and the estrangement from intellectual analysis fueled by the Internet, we have become an aggregation far more interested in outcome than in process. As long as a leader promises a desired outcome, millions of voters could care less about his or her plan for achieving it. Because they have not bothered to become intelligent about process, they do not – or cannot – even discern intellectual shortcomings. In turn, since they do not know if asserted propositions are factual, they don’t care.
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