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Humiliation before power
Posted by: McQ on Friday, June 08, 2007

Charles Krauthammer provides what I guess is the only silver lining to be found in the interminable campaign for president.
The final function of the endless campaign, and perhaps the most psychologically important, is to satisfy the American instinct for egalitarianism. We have turned the presidential campaign into a pleasingly degrading ordeal — pleasing, that is, to the electorate. The modern presidential campaign is meant to be physically exhausting and spiritually humbling almost to the point of humiliation. Candidates spend two years and more on bended knee begging for money, votes and handshakes in a diner.

Why do we inflict such cruel and unusual punishment? Because our winner is not just chief magistrate but king. True, the kingship is temporary, but its glories and perks are beyond compare — the pomp and pampering of a head of state, married to the real political power of controlling the most important state on the planet.

[...]

As a columnist whose job it is to chart every jot and tittle of these campaigns, every teapot tempest that history will remember for not one second, I curse election years. Now I have to curse the year before as well. But for all its bizarre meanderings, the endless campaign serves critical purposes.

The first two — testing the candidates' managerial and consensus-building skills — are undeniably useful. But like most Americans, I find it is the third — the gratuitous humiliation of our would-be kings — that makes it all worthwhile.
Yes, a little humbling and gratuitous humiliation is good for the soul and certainly a worthwhile function of the campaign. But I have to tell you, given that, I have to wonder about why anyone would want what has essentially become a thankless job badly enough to go through all of that. Maybe it is just me, but I'm naturally suspicious of anyone that would.
 
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Comments
The election is a year and 5 stinking months away.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
Could John F. Kennedy (with his bad back) have endured a two year campaign? How about FDR in his wheelchair? Would Ronald Reagan have been willing to do it, given his distaste for long hours?

Are we throwing away a large segment of potential leaders by making them endure such a marathon?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Are we throwing away a large segment of potential leaders by making them endure such a marathon?
With 18 candidates and more talking about possibly entering the race, I’d say no.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Oh, we’re attracting plenty of candidates. But if we’re biasing the pool against the Reagans with these long campaigns, does that lower the quality of the pool? Will we get to the point where it’s unlikely-to-impossible to get someone who will be an effective leader, because the only ones who can get through the process are glad-handling synchophants?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Well that assumes that all "Reagan types" would have an aversion to long campaigns, and I don’t think you could make a convincing case there. However, look on the bright side, long campaigns might just as easily run off some Carter types as well. ;)

One benefit of a long campaign is that we’re more likely to get a look at the warts than we are in a short campaign.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
[...] its glories and perks are beyond compare — the pomp and pampering of a head of state, married to the real political power of controlling the most important state on the planet.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure exactly what type of person that would attract. That doesn’t mean that all candidates would fit that mold, but a lot of them certainly will.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I think that the whole column is rather odd, to be honest (see here).

Beyond that, though: are these campaign really about humiliating the candidates, or is it about them going around the country being treated like rock stars (or, at least, mid-level celebs).

Sure, the campaign trail may be humiliating for the third tier types who never had a shot to begin with, but is Obama being humiliated at his public appearances? Is Rudy really being humbled by the experience of campaigning?

I think not.
 
Written By: Steven Taylor
URL: http://poliblogger.com
just One Minute is requiring a credit card number to post a comments.
 
Written By: JOM
URL: http://
I’m in Billy Hollis’s camp, but moreso: bring back the smoke-filled rooms. Make the conventions mean something besides a bunch of speeches tailored for prime-time.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Indeed, the more I think about, the worse Krauthammer’s thesis is.

I expand on the comment I left above here.
 
Written By: Steven Taylor
URL: http://poliblogger.com
"Why do we inflict such cruel and unusual punishment?"
"Are we throwing away a large segment of potential leaders by making them endure such a marathon?"
We? Who’s the ’we’ here? Is there some rule that requires a campaign to start two years out?
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
"Is there some rule that requires a campaign to start two years out?"

I think it is a conspiracy of pundits, commentators, and media people. More campaigning, more jobs. 24 hour a day ’news’ coverage needs a lot of material.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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