14 September 2008

The President I'd most like to drink a beer with.

Way back in 2001, I got to hear President Bush speak. It was in May, shortly after he took office, and months before September 11. He was limited, due to the circumstances, to a brief, non-partisan address, and he was, in a word, delightful. He was charming, self-effacing, and funny. During the speech, I found myself realizing how he won the election (well, not the Supreme Court part). He was a good ol' boy, and I wanted to sit down and have a beer with him.

That was one of the through-lines of his campaign in 2000. That he was the folksy candidate. The one who we'd like to drink with. The one who is most like our co-workers, our friends, ourselves. He campaigned on being an everyman, and it worked. No one can doubt that either Gore or Kerry appeared as folksy as Bush did.

So we elected him. Twice. And look how that turned out.

Now, we're in another campaign, and though President Bush isn't a candidate in this election, someone has risen to take that mantle of everyman and run with it: Sarah Palin. Frankly, it's one of the three reasons that McCain chose her as his running mate (the others being her 'maverick' styles and her double-x chromosomes). There's an article at latimes.com on Palin's event recently in Nevada. Here's a quote:

'"I love her," said Juliene Allman, who manages a dental office in Reno. "She is an all-American woman. She is like all of us."'

and another:

'"I'm 67, and she's the first person who is running for national office who is a common person," said Brandow, who is from Houston.'

So, here's the $60,000 question: do we really need an average person sitting in the vice-president's chair (or the President's chair, for that matter)? Do we need someone who is "like all of us?" Do we need someone who is a "common person?"

I suggest that we don't. I suggest that we need someone who is better than most of us: more intelligent, more generous, more savvy, more encompassing. We need someone who is UN-common. Someone who is better than us.

We used to look for greatness in our Presidents. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton. JFK, even! With George HW Bush, we took a turn towards looking for the average in our leaders. Why? Why seek out the mediocrity? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Is our President supposed to be the most idealized reflection of our own aspirations, or is our President supposed to uphold the Constitution of the USA?

I am not voting for a candidate based on how 'average' they are. I am voting for a candidate based on how well I think they would do their job. And considering the fact that the job is way more complicated than managing a dental office in Reno (or, frankly, teaching design and composition at a University), I am going to vote for someone who is uncommon. Unaverage. Presidential.

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