“Political Experience” Shouldn’t Be So Readily Shunned

“Political Experience” Shouldn’t Be So Readily Shunned

Trump's gaffes, failures, and Constitutional crises demonstrate that a "career politician" can sometimes be a good thing.

Constitutional crises and embarrassing gaffes made by President Donald Trump since his inauguration ceremony in January have made it impossible to predict what the next three years will look like, let alone what the next three weeks might entail. And while no one can predict what any presidency will look like from its start to finish, with Trump there’s an added sense of unpredictability that is creating a panic among his constituents.

How did we end up here? In one sense, it’s actually because of Trump’s incompetence that we have him sitting in the highest seat in American governance. Trump appealed to many of his base voters because he was viewed as an outsider — having never held political office in his life prior, he was the “anti-politician” that millions of Americans longed for.

Over the past few decades, Americans (and especially conservatives) have placed a high value on outsider candidates “taking back” our country from “career politicians.” Both parties have attempted to capitalize on this, but Republicans in general have done their best to promote it — think of officeholders like Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and most recently Trump. Even someone like Kid Rock is getting consideration from the GOP as a possible candidate for office.  

But there’s a problem with this line of thinking: career politicians are needed, no matter how much we’d like to believe otherwise. A politician who repeatedly gets sent back to Washington is, in many ways, doing their job right, earning the respect of their constituents in most cases, and being deemed worthy of returning term-after-term.

They also help with keeping Washington working. They help newer members of Congress learn how the process works, understand what they can and cannot accomplish, and set the groundwork for new politicians to keep things moving forward in the years to come.

There are instances where career politicians don’t do good, and to suggest that a person should remain in office simply because they’ve been there forever is not what I’m trying to say. Fresher perspectives have value as well, and constituents must weigh the good with the bad of either keeping or replacing their representatives every two years.

But having someone with zero experience enter an office of great importance can have serious consequences. In no other occupation would we accept this sort of thinking, that an inexperienced person should take control of a business or occupation. We wouldn’t trust an inexperienced plumber in the early days of his apprenticeship to take the lead in restoring the pipes in our homes; nor would we accept an inexperienced pilot to fly solo on a New York to Los Angeles flight across the country.

It should be the same with our political leaders, a notion that one of our nation’s founders promoted as well. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (and who served as treasurer of the U.S. Mint from 1797 to 1813) rejected the idea of term limits in the original Articles of Confederation, believing that it was necessary to have individuals who were dedicated to a lifetime of public service remain in office. “Government is a science; and can never be perfect in America, until we encourage men to devote not only three years, but their whole lives to it,” he wrote.

Rush went even further, suggesting that a “federal university,” dedicated toward studying “everything connected with government,” be established by the new Constitutional government.

That line of thinking would be dismissed by many Americans today, especially those on the right. Yet it is imperative that we go back to believing experience trumps ineptitude (pun intended).

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Our current president is proving that he’s incapable of serving the people he’s meant to represent. His brash response to reasonable criticisms, and his executive actions that demonstrate his preference to reward those who align with him politically, are clear indicators that he’s unfit to serve as a local dogcatcher, let alone president of the United States.

In the future, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss political experience as a qualifier for president. In Trump’s case, it probably would have made a world of difference.

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