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COLUMN

The Coarse-Tooth Candidate Comb

Philip Burrowes

It’s official -- the kids have spoken and they want another child to lead them: George W. Bush. As you may already know, nobody who has ever won Nickelodeon’s Kids Pick the President has ever lost the popular vote. So, if the voting public remains disturbingly correlated with middle-to upper-class juveniles, we will have another Bush in office. More disturbing, however, is the thought that the kids’ choice is less a reflection of their parents’ opinion than it is reflective of their parents’ selection process: an uneducated and unpremeditated one. It’s a wonder America’s presidents have had any credibility at all.

Well, no, it’s not a wonder. Under the present party convention systems, to be nominated requires the support of a substantial portion of the political elite. No party wants to put an idiot out there to represent them, and there are a host of legitimate candidates. People train their entire lives to understand the political system, and even those thrust into it by quirks of fate can’t survive without decent job experience. Then there are dozens who can combine the two qualities.

If it’s not a wonder that there have been effective presidents, then what’s the problem? The public has been misguided by too high a belief in the American political system. It believes it is choosing between viable candidates, for the most part. As far as the average voter is concerned, Gore and Bush differ only vaguely from the legions of ambassadors, governors, generals, Congressmen, justices, Freemasons, and Ivy Leaguers who have preceded them. Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar; Bush was head of the CIA; Reagan was governor of California and an actor (if not in that order of importance), and although credentials get fuzzy pre-Carter, they all must’ve been politically reputable or they wouldn’t have been president. The choice then comes down to who just strikes you as better. It’s as if the electorate was some sort of aimless, myopic, amnesiac.

Why aren’t candidates held up to greater scrutiny by the public? How can it trust the same institutions it reviles to evaluate for them? Well, I trust neither the voters nor those voted for, but there are enough actually legitimate politicians that I’m not scared. I can only be slightly peeved with our nation’s children.