This morning the Capital Times was nice enough to publish (online) a small part of my retort to Paul Fanlund’s column last week regarding experience and politics. Fanlund argues against term limits, using the analogy that when you need an electrician, you want an experienced electrician, and that voters should not turn against “career politicians” simply because they’ve been in office long enough to have mastered the system.
I heartily disagree.
For one thing, we require substantial classroom and on-the-job training before anyone can become even an apprentice electrician. We require that they spend many months as a journeyman, working with a master electrician, thoroughly learning every aspect of the job, and, if they’ve demonstrated their skill to a number of master electricians, they get to be a full-fledged electrician.
Same with other occupations in which we place our trust. Airline pilots, doctors, lawyers, accountants, just to name a few. Anyone who wants a career in these professions must do years of classroom work and serve an apprenticeship or internship or residency before they can be licensed to handle our business on their own. Even then, doctors, lawyers, electricians, pilots, accountants, and similar professionals must demonstrably stay current with their profession, through mandatory continuing education classes or “check-rides” with a senior pilot.
Anybody who’s rich enough or can raise enough money can be a Member of Congress, and once they’re in, the office is essentially theirs to hold – election cycle after election cycle – unless they do something so monumentally stupid or criminal that they get tossed out. And even then (drunks like Jeff Wood in our own state legislature, hypocrites like US Senator Larry Craig, tax cheats like Congressman Charles Rangel, etc.etc.etc.) they’re often allowed to stay in office until they decide to bow out.
At no point do any of them have to demonstrate they are prepared for the job they’re asking for and at no point do they have to pass a competency evaluation. If they can afford to run the ads (or get them paid for, like our newest state Supreme Court Justices, Madame Gut-Check and Herr Goebelmann), they’re in. Twits like Sarah Palin can tweet or post a comment on Facebook or give a stump speech, but that’s a far cry from sitting down in front of an honest-to-God reporter and explaining a position with some give-and-take.
What I’m saying is, Fanlund’s analogy does not hold. When I hire an electrician or architect or contractor or have an operation or get on an airplane, I’m in the hands of somebody who has successfully demonstrated that they’ve mastered their profession, and can produce a license that says other people who have mastered their profession will attest to it. Even civil service requires demonstrating a track record of learning and successful experience. Not so with politicians.
While I’m at it – I don’t want somebody (Mark Neumann or Ron Johnson or whoever) telling me they’re going to run the government like a business. Government is NOT business. I don’t expect my fire department, police department, the FBI or CIA or Medicare or Medicaid to turn a profit or outsource jobs. The principles of good business and good government may not be mutually exclusive at all levels, but the argument “I’m a successful business person” doesn’t move me one bit.
That said – get your butt to the polls today and vote.