We were talking the morning after the most recent Presidential Debate and came up with this question. What would it be like if somebody ran for President who really wanted the job for the sake of the job. Just a regular folk who decided to run for office. No party affiliation, no special interest backing, no family legacy, no cultural impetus. Just somebody who wants to be President.
You’d have to go back to the Washington/Adams election of 1788 to find someone who had to be talked into running for the office. You certainly have to go back that far to find an election not controlled by political parties. And then it was only one of the candidates, one G. Washington, who did not declare allegiance with a party. That would be one out of 12 candidates. All eleven others were affiliated with a political party.
Back to our question though, what would it be like if the people who were running for President were just regular folks who decided to run for office? Even back in 1788 you could hardly have called any of the candidates “just regular folk.” Of the twelve there were 3 governors, 2 former governors, the U. S. Secretary of War, the U. S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the former Minister to Great Britain (Adams) and the former Commander in Chief of the Continental Army (Washington).
Perhaps our backyards will give us a taste of what it would be like. Although the United States is home to some of the largest cities in the world, there are many, many much smaller municipalities, all with municipal governments. Some of the smallest might have only a single elected official, a mayor or an executive. Some of the larger but still small communities have 3, 5, or 9 member boards of supervisors or commissioners. Most of these officials serve for 4 or 6 year terms and if paid at all might consider their pay handsome if it makes it into three digits. That’s for the entire year. They decided to run because a road was bad, a sewer didn’t exist, a street light was ill-placed, or a developer was going to chop down a tree. Their plights were real, their concerns legitimate, their opposition often fierce, and their recognition often absent. But week after week, after working their 40 hours at a full time job they spend another 12 or 20 hours balancing the decision to buy the new police car against bargaining the new municipal tax service contract. They have to appoint neighbors to the planning commission while explaining to other neighbors that they appointed someone else. They spend hours deciphering the language to the ordinance restricting on-street parking during the winter so the snow plow can get through sufficient to explain it in 5 words or less on a too small and still too expensive sign. They are just regular folks. Working an irregular job.
Perhaps if these men and women would ever want to run for President we might be able to elect a Chief Executive who understands taxes both from paying and spending. Perhaps we can send someone to Washington whose new salary would mean a pay raise. Instead these fine people want to stay local and help local issues. The regular folks want to stay home. With the folks. Instead we get the people whose idea of an entry level political job is a term or two in the Senate or having been appointed Secretary of Something Useless by the President from two terms ago.
In 1788 George Washington agreed to run for President but would declare no party affiliation. In fact, he hoped there would not be the formation of, or influence by political parties because it would lead to another thing to divide the people. He took an office that came with the very large for the eighteenth century salary of $25,000. Washington was already a very rich man and was going to refuse the salary. He was convinced by members of Congress to take his pay so there would not be a precedent set that only the rich could become President. It’s a shame that neither his hope that there would not be battling political parties nor that those other than the very rich could become President ever came true.
If just regular folks were to become President maybe we’d have a Leader who understands the difference between surplus food sent to countries who support violence against Americans and surplus food sent to schools for breakfast and lunch so the schools can still afford gym and music classes. Maybe they would understand that you can’t appoint your brother in law the Secretary of Everything Outdoors when somebody else really understands that preservation, conservation, and recreation are more than words that rhyme. Maybe we would have a President who isn’t afraid to tell the people when we’re in some pretty big financial trouble and all of us have to tighten our belts and include people whose work address ends in Washington, DC among the belt tighteners.
If just regular folks were to become President maybe we’d have a leader who knows you can’t be loyal to the people who voted for you and still answer to the party who picked you to be voted for. If just regular folks were to become President we’d not have to legislate term limits. They would be satisfied with the job they did after one or two rounds and would know it’s time to go back home with the other folks and get back to being just regular.
Maybe we did have a Just Regular Folk become President. It was a while ago but the more we read about George Washington the more we’d like to have dinner with him. And isn’t that the best judge of who’s just a regular Joe? We mean George.
Now, that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you?