I saw a poll from Iowa the other day. Donald Trump and Ben Carson were tied for the lead among Republican candidates for President. Each had 32 percent.
I’m no political genius. But the strong message of that poll to me was that Republicans in Iowa are rejecting candidates with experience in political office. It’s as if they are saying, “We’ve had it with politicians, and political correctness, and lobbyists, and stalemate.”
We saw this sentiment in the recent Georgia election of a US Senator. A bunch of political office-holders wanted the job. David Perdue, who had held no political office, won. He launched his campaign with a commercial that showed all of his opponents as babies crying on the lawn in front of the US Capitol. It worked.
This is nothing new. There have always been voters who cast silly write-in votes rather than select someone on the ballot. Vince Dooley used to get votes in every Georgia election. Donald Duck has made a strong showing at times. I wonder how many write-in votes Donald Trump has received in previous elections. Now he’s leading the polls for President of the United States!
When I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia in 1978 we had elections for student government. A guy ran as “The Unknown Candidate.” He had a paper bag over his head—nobody knew who he was. His only promise was to abolish student government if elected. He won handily and we didn’t have a student government for the rest of the time I was in college.
I wonder how far back this goes. Did Howdy Doody get votes in the 1950’s? Popeye in the 1940’s? Did anybody vote for Mozart in colonial elections?
All of this is a little dangerous. The jobs we elect people to perform are important. Some are critical to our lives. And that, I think, is the point.
People have determined that politicians don’t care about them. So, they are looking for candidates that do.
This would be a wonderful time for true public servants to step forward. We need them everywhere. At all levels of government there are opportunities for the man or woman who puts others above self. We desperately need statesmen and stateswomen. We need folks with common sense. We crave leaders with insight into what is wrong and visions of something better.
But, first they have to care. If I were grooming somebody to run for Governor of Georgia, the first thing I would do is put him or her in a car and drive around the state. We would go to the shacks in south Georgia that house multiple generations. We would talk with people in the mountains that can’t afford their medicine. We would find people who are run-down from trying to pay their student loans and are wondering why they went to college in the first place since they can’t get a job. We’d meet with small business owners facing bankruptcy because the government won’t get off their backs.
After that tour, if my candidate had a broken heart—if she stayed up at night trying to figure out how to help—if he was willing to fight to the death to make a difference in the lives of people he didn’t even know—I could support that candidate. And so would millions of others.
So, where are these men and women? What needs to be done and how can you pitch in?
If all of the people who care sit on the sidelines, we’re doomed.
Democracy is only a good idea if good people run for office.
Scott Ballard is District Attorney of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.