November may seem a long way away, but in the life of politics, the span between now and then is a very short period indeed.
Last week, and only about for a week, candidates for state and local offices had their chance to throw their hats in the ring of public approval. What they do in the next few months, what they have and haven't done in the their past, and what they would do if the voters approve them in the future, will all be under consideration.
The American public is a fickle group. Most people say they want their leaders to "have character" yet when they find out that those running are "real characters" they disown them. It's no wonder people from the rest of the world don't know what to think of us.
We idolize actors and sports figures, who make millions of dollars for doing what most of us would consider fun. We watch as they make a mess out out of their personal lives with mind and body altering drugs, relationships that last less time than a bad haircut, and involvement in often petty and seldom grand crimes. Yet let a politician make a mistake in his personal life or show a weakness of some type and he is not fit to be in office.
Often people say that the difference is that those in the sports or media have no real power over our lives, while the elected official has a hold and can make life and death decisions for all of us as a whole. But ask many people, and they can tell you the movies their favorite star played in the last five years or what their favorite baseball players total stats are, yet most of them can't name the state representative that presents their views for consideration when laws are being enacted or the mayor of their city whose actions impacts their lives every single day.
Back in the day when I was a very humongous basketball fan (I am only a medicocre one now, age makes us all mellow) a friend of mine I commuted to work with, who didn't like sports, posed to me one morning, this question.
"Who is more important in your life? The star of a basketball team or the guy who picks up your garbage every Wednesday morning?"
It made me think. Obviously, I liked my team to win, but if my garbage didn't get picked up, life was really miserable at home as we tried to pack two weeks of trash into a one week container. It's funny how one little idea like that can change your thinking.
We, as Americans, want our leaders to be perfect. We want them to have come from the perfect family, had the perfect education at the most perfect of schools, to have perfect marriages, and to behave perfectly all the time they are in office. We tend to judge them by much stricter standards than we judge ourselves.
Our society idolizes wealth and power, yet certainly that is not the answer to our woes. Imagine if the wisest man in the world were running for president, one who could solve all our problems in a short four year span, yet he couldn't get elected because he couldn't raise the money to run television ads. Look back at history, and often our truely best Presidents were not men of wealth in the early years. Some did not even have money once they reached the White House. Unfortunately, it seems today, you must be wealthy to hold the highest office in the land.
It's time all of us got to know the people we elect to make the decisions for the rest of us. Few of us would give a complete stranger, we knew nothing about, thousands of our own dollars a year to do with what they wanted. Yet when we fail to be part of the selection system for our representative government, we do just that. We pay our taxes and live out our lives, while someone else makes the decisions about where our money goes.
It all begins this week with county party caucus' and then goes on with the campaign and finally the election in November. And each citizen should be interested in all levels of government, from the presidential race to the school board seat where one or two of your neighbors are looking to be elected.
It's up to all of us to pick good leadership, and while we may not be able to agree completely on what that means, at least we can say we all had a hand in it.