This is why it’s so difficult to get good people to run for political office

January 13, 2011 | By | 11 Replies More

Help Wanted:

Now Hiring U.S. Senators and Representatives

We are in desperate need for honest and intelligent citizens of the United States to apply for the jobs of Senators and Representatives as specified in Article I of the United States Constitution.

Job Duty: To do anything necessary to keep getting re-elected.

Job Requirements:

You must be willing to raise $1,000,000 every two years ($10,000/week for a Representative) or $6,000,000 every six years (about $20,000/week for Senator). To raise one million dollars, you can either convince 10,000 citizens to give you $100 each or you can make secret promises to a few hundred large corporations. It’s your choice.

– You must be willing to vote to pass 2,000-page hyper-technical and incoherent bills that were drafted by corporate lobbyists.

– You must spend most of your time on the job secretly promising favors to large companies and asking them for money, while simultaneously denying to your constituents that you’ve made secret promises.

– You must be willing to expose yourself, your family and your friends to the constant risk of being shot by incoherent disgruntled people.

– You must be willing to find a way to avoid spending time with lower-class and middle-class Americans.

– You must be willing to expose yourself to constant ridicule and false charges trumped up by the media to sell advertisements. Everything embarrassing you’ve ever done will appear in national publications, especially if it is irrelevant to the issues facing this country.

– Once you start campaigning for the very first time, you must agree to stop talking candidly about anything.

– You must support America’s war-machine or else you will be called a traitor and run out of office.

– You must be willing to expose your family and your closest friends to massive invasions of their privacy.

– You must pretend to explain and solve complex social issues using only 8-second sound bites.

– You must be willing to expose yourself to scandalous and false Swift-Boating attacks.

– Your door must always be open to lobbyists for banks, insurance companies and telecoms.

– To win re-election, you must get down in the dirt and personally hurl false charges against your opponent, because the ends will justify the means.

– You must constantly speak of our duty to our children while simultaneously crushing the next generation with federal debt, and providing the nation’s children with terrible educations.


Tags: ,

Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (11)

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  1. Michael says:

    Sounds like a natural job for any sociopath. There should be lots of takers.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    Aww, shucks! Erich Vieth for Congress!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tim: I would not even consider running for public office. First of all, as I've often admitted, I'm an introvert. Next, I wouldn't be willing to do any of the tasks on this list as a matter of principle, which would make me unelectable. No party would consider supporting me financially. I am not independently wealthy like Ross Perot. I'm not willing to subject my family to the massive invasions of privacy and attacks. I don't attend a church. I've written hundreds of posts at this site that would be twisted by opponents as meaning that I'm "unpatriotic," even though I believe that they demonstrate a high degree of patriotism. Other than my introversion, I'm a lot like many earnest, decent, kind-hearted, reasonably well-informed people I know, not one of which would consider running for national office. The people who should consider running for office are not running for office.

      Who IS running for office? A lot of overly-confident and overly-ambitious, ostentatious, people mightily afflicted Dunning-Kruger bias and subject to agnotology, who want to rub elbows with the rich and famous and send the American military to the four corners to "solve" complex social problems.

  3. Gloriasb says:

    Your post and your subsequent comment are right on target [oops, can't say that anymore]. Perhaps you noticed [the media certainly didn't] the recent candidacy of Arthur Lieber, a progressive Dem who ran against Todd Akin for MO's 2nd Congressional District. He ran a campaign on a shoestring, refused to hobnob and pander for donations [didn't take any at all!], and stuck to the issues–the progressive issues. He was almost completely ignored by the media, because he didn't put up the money numbers that make one a "contender." He had great ideas, but nobody heard them, because they weren't paying attention. So, even if you run a campaign that's about issues and not money, and even if you're one of the people that "should" run office, it's a very thankless task.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Gloriasb: You've touched on something that frustrates me to no end. The media steps in really early and declares who is a "serious" candidate based on . . . . who can raise money. Here is where the media could make a real difference by letting their audiences know how the candidates differ, yet their horserace mentality quickly strips out all the candidates who are not monied, regardless of their ideas. Are the candidates with the best ideas really always Republicans and Democrats? Unlikely, but here's the sad truth: In political campaigns, without money there is no speech.

      I'm not, by the way agreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court that money IS speech. Money is power. Money has the power to enhance or corrupt a discussion. Money is a megaphone.

  4. Jim Razinha says:

    A young and idealistic me (age 20-21) wanted to do this. Life took over and then when I got older, I realized that touch-partially-in-cheek as this list is, there's more truth than sarcasm. I like to do things, meaning that if that was my job, I'd want to legislate. The system prevents that for all but the few who have made it a career and don't (didn't? Boehner was one of the few that were part of the bureaucracy that managed to make it look like he wasn't) have to work to get re-elected.

    It's not an easy job. “Anyone who wants to be President [Senator, Representative, Governor] should automatica­lly be disqualifi­ed for wanting the job in the first place.” Not sure who said it – attributed to Hunter Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, even Harry Truman. But there's truth to it.

    And Erich, right on target about subjecting the family. I'd like to think that leaders are selfless, but to do this work requires a really selfish s.o.b. (or d.o.b.)

  5. Mike M. says:

    In the US we have two "choices"* – Republican or Democrat. Any other party such as Libertarian, Green, Independent, etc is intentionally marginalized by both the media and the two main Power Parties. Why? Obviously the R&D cabal wants to keep their vice grip on political power and maintain the status quo. I suspect politics really all boils down to control of power and money – how to get it (win an election) and how to hold on to it (resist all change). Any political aspirants with truly progressive, pro-human, idealistic agendas are quickly dismissed as "the lunatic fringe", ridiculed or ignored, and shuffled off the stage. We are typically led by the least among us – the least noble, the least visionary, the least courageous.

    *no choice at all.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's another reason good people don't run for office: criminally abusive media organizations. The Nation reports:

    "And the treatment meted out to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who had his voicemail hacked by Mulcaire, his bank accounts viewed by the Sunday Times and his infant son’s medical records stolen by the Sun, illustrates why so few politicians have been willing to challenge Murdoch. Guardian reporter Nick Davies’s account of how Rebekah Brooks, at the time the Sun’s editor, told the Browns the paper was about to publish a story revealing their 4-month-old son, Fraser, had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis is a chilling study in the abuse of press power. Brown wasn’t a sworn foe—the Browns had even invited a Sun columnist to their wedding!"

    The next logical step to this behavior, in the world of FOX, would seem to be blackmail. We'll be watching this story carefully.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Michelle Cottle, from the Daily Beast:

    "It takes a raging fire in the belly to survive the White House trail. Candidates need to be driven by ideological zeal, near messianic levels of ego and ambition or, at the very least, an all-consuming personal grievance."

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