New Orleans In what still seems the political “age of Trump,” probably the wrong question to ask, is “what are they thinking?” With misinformation, boundless conspiracies, and many feeling free to talk about scuttling elections and civil war, I’m probably out of line even wondering. Nonetheless, even acknowledging that the American political lists are totally wild and off the chain, I can’t get some of the simple craziness and impunity out of my mind.
Do political parties even bother, especially our friends on the Republican-side of the aisle, to take a stab at vetting potential candidates? The days when a candidate’s religion, youthful pot smoking, and marital status could disqualify a candidate for support seem so old-fashioned as to seem quaint now. Certainly, we are inundated with information and news stories about the vetting of candidates for the Supreme Court, as recently as the mess around the man who we now called Justice Kavanagh, but such a process seems an outlier now.
For sure, anyone who wants to do so can present themselves as a candidate for office if they tik off the required boxes of age, citizenship, residence, and signatures or filing fees or whatever might be required in a political jurisdiction. Ambition and interest drives such candidacies, but still when it comes to the blessing of party and other office holders, surely there must be some level of vetting, right?
Maybe not, because how can we explain the mess in Georgia around Hershel Walker? Former President Trump quickly anointed him as a favored candidate for Senate to oppose the incumbent, and although we know he’s never been a big one for vetting, that shouldn’t excuse the Republican Party either in Georgia or nationally. Other than winning the Heisman Trophy in college in Georgia as a running back, he seems to have no other qualifications, and, really, football is not exactly a qualification for being a US Senator. When both the conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan and the liberal columnist for the New York Times Maureen Dowd within hours of each other write about how disqualified Walker is for the Senate, you know this is out of control. Of course, when evangelicals continue to support him, even though his position on abortion seems to be that he’s opposed, except when it comes to him, maybe it’s really a question of what is anyone is really thinking out there, if thinking at all.
Impunity seems to be a qualifying characteristic for some in public office as well. The Mayor of New Orleans has been caught in a contretemps over one thing or another recently with some circulating a quixotic recall petition. Her biggest snafu involved $30,000 in upgrades she billed to the city for trivial foreign travel. She refused to pay the money back for weeks until finally, when her own appointees as city attorney and chief administrative officer told her that the rules were clear that all city employees including her honor had to pay for upgrades, she folded and said she would pay. A week later it turns out she’s on her way to Amsterdam for some conference, claiming that since it’s a holiday weekend, no one should care, although the number of people with Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’day off is miniscule in this area. She’s no Hershel Walker, but I still can’t stop myself from wondering, “What is she thinking?”
What will it take to get politics and politicians to agree on minimum standards these days in public service?