Running (in place) for political office

March 19, 2012

The juggernaut known as the Republican presidential primaries has been with us since the Iowa Caucuses in early January. The front page of most newspapers reports daily on the major issues, as well as the insignificant details regarding the candidates and their policies, philosophies and private lives. At this point in the campaign we all probably know more than we want to about the respective candidates.

We know, for example, that Rick Santorum has a special needs child and a $2 million second home in Virginia. We know that Ron Paul, M.D. has delivered over 5,000 babies. We know that Newt Gingrich has converted to Catholicism and has publically and privately asked for forgiveness for his past personal indiscretions. We know that Mrs. Romney drives a Cadillac. And, we know exactly how much Mitt Romney gave to various charities and the Mormon Church last year, as well as how often he gets his Hollywood-perfect haircut.

Even though we’re not anywhere near the real elections, I’m already weary of the whole process. Thanks to cable TV and 24/7 news coverage, I’m tired of constantly seeing these now all-too-familiar faces. I’m tired of the political double talk, the catchy sound bites, the continuous political posturing that is now part and parcel of the election cycle. Why can’t elections be more like the ones run by our friends in the UK? Ninety days of campaigning, start to finish!

Having said that I’m bored with the process, I can’t even imagine how the candidates must feel. Oh, I know, they’re all big boys and they knew what they were getting into. But, it has got to get to them sooner or later. How do they put up with the physical pace of things: constantly having to deal with new groups of people, constantly being forced to smile, to be courteous, to be pleasant? How do they stay sane when they are daily forced to somehow give a new twist of an answer to the same old set of questions? How do they put up with the bad food, the travel, the unfamiliar hotel rooms and uncomfortable beds? How do they stay sane, focused and committed to the task at hand?

Sure, there’s also a little ego and raw ambition involved. But I also want to believe that their commitment to the process is being driven by a sense of duty, a willingness to serve and a basic belief in the values and ideals of this society.

Full disclosure requires me to inform you that I’m not a Republican and that I don’t like any of the candidates involved in the primary. However, I do want to thank each and every one of them for being involved. Even if I disagree with their politics, I want to honor them for their commitment to the system.  

As Benjamin Franklin suggested: Democracy is a sloppy business, but it is the only form of government that has a chance of truly reflecting the wants, needs and desires of its citizenry.

Al Gini is a professor of business ethics and chair of the department of management at Loyola University Chicago. He is also the co-founder and associate editor of Business Ethics Quarterly,and the author of several books, including My Job, My Self and Seeking the Truth of Things: Confessions of a (catholic) Philosopher.

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