Frank Underwood is the Problem, not the Solution
Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote this about two men who could be leaders, but who hesitate in stepping further into the limelight. And she's exactly right, when she points out the truth that many of us try not to admit: "Too many good people don’t want to be in politics anymore."
I have been fighting this truth for a long time. Over and over I've worked for candidates who would be fantastic public servants. Some win. Some don't. But more often than not, I don't get to find out. Because I'll suggest that someone run, and they'll laugh. And refuse to even try.
And that's our fault.
Seriously though, why would we ask someone we respect to run for office?
Low pay. High public scrutiny. Time away from your family. Constantly having to ask for votes and money. (The obscene amount of money it takes to run for office is a topic we'll talk about another time.) Personal attacks.
Don Ness, the wildly popular mayor of Duluth, has been publicly vocal about being happy to get away from politics for a while. Colin Powell could have been the first African-American President all the way back in 1996, but he passed on the opportunity.
But the thing is, we desperately need these people, and other good people like them, to step up and run for office. Because if they don't, our field of choices is narrowed -- and we're no longer choosing from the best among us. Then we get to chose from the sneakiest among us. The most opportunistic. The ones who are most comfortable with lies and nepotism and hard lines in the sand. The ones who treat House of Cards as a blueprint, not as the guilty pleasure it should be.
So knowing all of that, why do I ask people I respect to run for office?
To have the ability to influence policy they care about. To set an example and provide opportunities for their children. To better understand our civic structure and have a part in shaping government. To further develop leadership skills. To make a difference for their community.
We, as responsible citizens, are to blame for the too-few candidate problem. Through Definitely Someday I'm still working to create a pipeline of up and coming leaders. Personally, I'll try to create a more civil playing field through my own actions and rhetoric. (Like here.) But in the meantime, I pose the question to all of you: what can we do to fix this problem? Have you ever considered running for office? What inspired or stopped you?