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Sunday, January 20, 2019

What job experience qualifies one for higher office?

When Donald Trump was campaigning, many pointed out that he had no political experience, and was therefore unqualified for the Presidency. But he had name recognition, the advantage of being a unique candidate in a crowded primary, and he knew how to harness the widespread disgust with political correctness.

What exactly are the right qualifications for higher office? There's no set list of prerequisites one must check off before running. There seems to be a general consensus that certain types of expertise help.

Many politicians have law degrees. This makes sense, as the purpose of Congress is ostensibly to pass laws. That said, a legal background seems to be regarded as less of a necessity than it used to be. And, one need not know the intricacies of the law to know which policies one favors.

Previous political experience also helps: it's generally assumed that the best qualification for higher office is time spent in lower office, though some, like our current President, have managed to bypass that tedious process.

Military service has always inclined the electorate to regard one favorably. A willingness to put one's life on the line for one's country presupposes a certain self-sacrificing patriotism and nobility, qualities which will theoretically not desert one once in taken office. (Though the list of former military people who've been tempted to cash in -- last exemplified by Ryan Zinke -- is a long one.)

Being successful at one's previous occupations is a plus: an electorate will generally assume that such implies future success as a legislator. This generally mean more in a primary than in a general election, where most people just opt for whoever will be a reliable vote for their side. (How many people do you know who've voted for the opposing party's candidate simply because he had a more impressive resume?)

Then there's the "charisma" factor: is someone good-looking, and does he have a pleasing voice?

Finally, does the candidate have the right ethnicity for his electorate? People do like to vote for their own. (The one notable exception here is white people, some of whom see the opportunity to signal virtue even in a voting booth.)

Trump, if he lacked for legal, military, and political experience, did not lack for life experience. And even if he failed in more businesses than he succeeded at, he ended up wealthy. And the case can be made that anyone who has successfully negotiated the incredible sharp-elbowed worlds of real estate and television is ready to take on anyone.

In fact, Trump's Presidency might be characterized as that of a man who's not only willing to take on anybody, but actually wants to take on everybody. At the same time. For better or worse.

This brings us to another politician who's received an inordinate amount of press.

Spending five years waitressing and bartending generally isn't generally considered the ideal background for a legislator. Nonetheless, an ebullient young woman from the Bronx was recently elected on the strength -- or, at least, despite the weakness -- of that resume. But, she was the right ethnicity for her district, and she is comely. Those two attributes, in the eyes of Bronx voters, outweighed the obvious holes in her skimpy resume.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's lack of life experience is evident in her proposed policies. She has recently come out in favor of a Medicare for all, free college tuition, and a universal guaranteed income. She also wants open borders.

The idea that the US could afford such giveaways with people streaming across our southern border seems a bit unrealistic. If her plan were actually put into effect, our population (currently 325 million) would exceed a billion in very short order. When you propose unlimited goodies for an unlimited number of people, the numbers don't add up.

Who knows, maybe one night a few years ago she scribbled some magical formula on the back of a cocktail napkin which somehow makes those numbers work. But it seems unlikely.

Certainly, no one in the press seems in the least inclined to explore the question of her qualifications, or her numeracy. In fact, their "You go girl!" attitude implies that she will be the savior of our nation.

It's probably safe to say that no one since Trump himself has received such outsized media attention. This disproportionate attention, like her candidacy, seems to be largely a result of her looks. Though whenever I see a picture of her, I'm usually struck by the size of her mouth --

-- which seems metaphorically apt.

When she decides to run for even higher office, she won't suffer from lack of name recognition. And by then she'll be able to say she's had experience on the House Banking Committee.

Ocasio-Cortez will turn 30 in October. By then she'll have a little bit more life experience. Admittedly, "life experience" is often just another word for "old." But will AOC's experience on the Banking Committee make her more numerate?

As far as her supporters are concerned, it probably doesn't make any difference.

In the meantime, she does seem to be suffering from overexposure, which she has done her best to encourage. And it's hard not to escape the feeling that the amount of (mostly) uncritical attention she has received so far will eventually backfire.

She has already started to receive criticism from those in her own party, and she hasn't been at all reluctant to lash back.

She's actually not unlike Trump in her brashness, outspokenness, willingness to pick fights, and complete confidence in her own righteousness.

The difference is that before he came to office, Trump dealt with movers and shakers in real estate, television, the garment industry, airlines, banking, and sports. He's negotiated with labor unions, foreign governments, politicians, and probably even the Mafia (he was in the New York real estate business). So he has a pretty good sense of how to deal with politicians.

AOC, by contrast, is really only qualified to fetch them drinks.


Anonymous said...

She reminds me (looks wise) of Frida Kahlo, the artist. She's not the brightest bulb in the pack, so she'll fit right in with the Democrats, being a useful idiot to them, pushing their insane far left, liberal agenda.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
You're right, she does look a little like Frida Kahlo. She doesn't quite have that unibrow, but there's a resemblance.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post! I voted for Trump, but have been less than impressed by his pettiness and lack of constancy and gravitas. He's great as a disruptor, but needs to focus on a few meaningful goals, craft well-supported policy positions and convince the public to support him (as he'll get zero help from the Establishment and its lapdog media). I hope Trump continues to concentrate on border security, perhaps not with a wall but instead with much greater law-enforcement presence. Those drug (and likely human smuggling) tunnels are highly ominous and all of them must be found and destroyed. Regarding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I view her as inexperienced and her policy positions inadvisable and highly dangerous. She is (admittedly very attractive) window dressing for the elites' plans to wildly expand governmental spending, which will increase the government's control while simultaneously robbing ordinary citizens of money they could be using to chart their own courses and pay for their futures.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you....I voted for him too, but I never expected gravitas or magnanimity; I thought his thin-skinned narcissism and ADHD were apparent from the start. I agree he's great as a disruptor, and he expresses the anger of his constituency with few inhibitions. The intransigence of the Democrats on border security is infuriating (Schumer voted FOR 350 miles of border fencing 7 years ago, now won't vote for 235 miles of fencing, merely to stymie Trump; they want to be able to hold it against him in 2020 that he didn't deliver on that campaign promise, even though they were the ones who prevented him from doing so).

Yes, the Dems do seem set on expanding government control; it's enough make you paranoid.

AOC is the gift that never stops giving; yesterday she said that the world will end in 12 years if we don't stop global warming.

John amson said...

What qualifies someone for higher office is ideology. Experience is meaningless because I don’t want someone who is experienced at implementing an ideology I abhor. I rather have someone with no experience but the perfect ideology. Most of the stuff is intuitive. It doesn’t take much to figure out how to navigate the current framework.

From a practical position experience is useless because what works on a smaller level doesn’t carry over to big picture. They are two different worlds. Both republicans (rhinos mostly but still) and democrats get elected governors in states that heavily favor the other party on a national level. City, county and State politics focuses on different issues (with some tie over) than national politics.

I voted for Trump as well. His big mistake was not carrying out what he said he would from day one and focusing on the wrong things. People voted for him on one issue: stopping illegal immigration. From day one he should have declared martial law on the border and sent in 50,000 troops to secure it. He should have ordered all federal law enforcement agencies to focus their efforts on apprehending and deporting illegals. He should have cut off foreign aid to Central America. He should have also shut down the government when the first opportunity arose when the republicans controlled the house and the senate could get rid of the filibuster. Trump instead of following the Bannon path that got him elected decided to play standard politics which didn’t elected him, which the republican establishment didn’t and doesn’t support and won’t yield any success aside from tax cuts which were good. He complained about the swamp but didn’t fire management in the fbi and intelligence agencies which conspire against him. He should have fired them from day one.

Trump instead of focusing on the wall and illegal immigration focused on trade with China. Yes long term hopefully it will help but he squandered the political capital and disrupted the great market wave which could have won us the house. Tariffs were a big mistake on China because of the market. He could have fulfilled his campaign promises by doing what he did to renegotiate NAFTA and making a deal with China without the tariffs.

Now he is doing the right thing by sending troops to the border, changing asylum policy and shutting down the government over the wall. I am actually very proud of him that he held his ground and didn’t cave in. Border security is useless without a wall because the next administration can just reduce and remove the troops and agents while a wall is a defensible position that makes it harder to get over and allows easier apprehension. He should be ordering federal law enforcing agencies to prioritize deporting all illegals. Playing nice with them will never get him votes. Non white latinos will always heavily vote for welfare, anti white racism and bigger government. Playing nice with them like Romney and McCain did when the ran doesn’t win over white voters who were union workers (which the democrats don’t care about anymore because they are white). Trump was 2 years late and had the wrong people around him.

John Craig said...

John Amson --
Ideology is more important for me as well (and for most voters, as I mentioned in the post). But I do think some practical experiences negotiating are good preparation. We have yet to see whether the brinksmanship-style tactics Trump is currently implying with China, North Korea, NATO, and the Democrats in Congress will pay off. But I think if he hadn't spent a lifetime trying to get the best deal possible for himself in real estate etc. he wouldn't have been quite as willing to stand his ground with these various opponents.

I agree that the "make nice" style style of McCain and Romney is ineffective.

You gave an excellent summation of Trump's prioritizing mistakes thus far. It would have been better if he'd made illegal immigration his focus from the start. You're right, that was the issue that got him elected, as he was the only Republican willing to even bring it up at first, and that's why he won pluralities in some of the early primaries.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't Trump stand his ground on the wall while he had a Republican House?

Did they fear the Republicans would get slaughtered in the mid-terms?

Or was this not well thought out?

I could believe either ( it was a calculated decision, or Trump / his team are flying by the seat of their pants).

On the one hand it seems that political plays are deeply considered, with polling, strategy etc.

On the other hand, the Republicans railed against Obamacare for 7 years, and when their time came stepped forward with exactly zero ideas - making themselves look like a bunch of horses' asses. Which, by and large, they are.

But back to the point - I would say that at this point Trump builds a wall (either through state of emergency or some deal with the house that doesn't include amnesty), or he is a failed President.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Didn't Trump get his budget past the House before the last session expired? I thought it was the Senate where he couldn't get it through. (I could be wrong, but that was my impression.)

I agree that immigration control was at the heart of Trump's campaign, and that he will look bad if he doesn't get some portion of The Wall built. The Democrats know this and therefore are doing their best to stymie him. Remember, Chuck Schemer voted back in 2013 for funding for 350 miles of wall, and now he's refusing to fund 235 miles of wall. Think he might be playing politics there?

Also, I have a hard time blaming Trump for this. Some, like Ann Coulter, are coming down hard on him for allowing that temporary budget bill to pass, but it's easy to snipe from the sidelines, and Trump's White House advisors were telling him that he was losing the publicity battle as far as blame for the government shutdown. Trump HAS tried to get it built; it's the Democrats who should be blamed for our lack of security down there, not Trump.

I agree that a lot of White House decisions these days come across as if they're flying by the seat of their pants, and Trump does seem to change his mind on a fair number of things.

Anonymous said...

Just looked it up, yes the lame duck house passed $5B just before the end of December 2018, and it failed the Senate. But, wouldn't it have made more sense to have the bloody battle long before the Dem's took the House, when there would have been more time for negotiation with both houses Republican?

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Yes, that would have been better tactically, but he may have wanted to wait until after the election so there wouldn't be any cost to Republicans.

It seems more and more likely that Trump will use that emergency provision to fund the Wall, and then it will get challenged legally, and probably end tied up i legal limbo for a long time. Not an encouraging prospect.

Anonymous said...

At this point I see Trump in a position similar to Bush #1's no new taxes pledge. Trump has so much invested in the wall - that if he doesn't get it, it will be a failure as great as Bush 1's cave on the 'no new tax' pledge. Trump is a one term president if he doesn't get this done.

- Ed