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Why We Should Vote for the “Insider”

December 14th, 2015 by

One of the main arguments used to endorse a political candidate these days is that he or she is an outsider. Outside Washington, and usually, outside politics. For what ever reason, we are in the era of the ethos of the amateur politician (I don’t know if Donald Trump reminded anyone, even for a moment, of Ross Perot).

Many have been the successful candidates in recent years who have staked their claim to being elected on the grounds that they are are not one of the bums currently in office, and they will surely clean up the system and make things right again. I know there is a reference in this to western movies like Shane, but Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both used this appeal, and it got them elected. After that, though, it didn’t work particularly well for them. Clinton, it could be argued, became a better president once he was on the inside and learning how to do things and influence others.

Still, the power of the outsider ethos seems as strong as ever. I leave it to the real experts to determine how this appeal is directly proportional to the collective feeling of disgust with current office holders. But at this time, we have a genuine outsider. Though he seems to be slipping in the Iowa Caucus, he was leading the Republican field after being a successful reality show host and an entrepreneur. And he is showing that he is an outsider every time he gives a speech.

The Insider Gets the Work Done
I have been thinking about this notion and why it continues to appeal even when there isn’t evidence for it, and even when it really hasn’t ever worked very well. I live in California, a state that has experienced a great deal of economic turmoil, but recently we’ve had a budget surplus and money going to education. Our governor is also working for climate change. He’s getting a great deal more done than the governor before him, who incidentally came from the outside and was a Hollywood actor.

The point, though, is this. Jerry Brown, our current governor who is doing way more than the actor-outsider did and sometimes offending people from both parties, has come in after having had previous experience as a governor in the 1970s, a time when he made a lot of mistakes. Now, in his 70s, he has come in as a seasoned veteran, and it has worked.

I realize that I am not even mentioning the ideological concerns that weigh on people. But this isn’t really meant to push a liberal or a conservative agenda. I am not saying that one or the other is what we need. (Maybe I feel nostalgia for a moderate.) Rather, I am arguing that we should try to vote for a candidate who, once in office, will get government stuff like schools and services working and represent what the majority wants. To judge from Brown’s success, we need more insiders, not outsiders. We need more people who know how the job works and what to avoid.

So what this does mean is that I think holding a political office is a lot like other jobs. Experience helps.

Can We Set Aside Ideologly?
My reasoning leads to one inescapable, naive conclusion, and I am not saying we should consider it. Or maybe we should. It leads to Hillary Clinton, the candidate who has been a senator and a Secretary of State.

She has a lot of experience. For some, she represents an ideological perspective they don’t like, but she also can move toward a moderate position.

I do think that this is possible, that we can hold down whatever ideological manifestos someone like Clinton would be tempted to act on by having a reasonable presence of opposition ideologies. But in the meantime, she, or someone like her, will get things done.

This is not an endorsement for a particular candidate. But some things need to be said. In our state, our governor has brought money back to hiring new teachers and rebuilding arts and music programs where they had been torn down. The governor before him, the outsider, couldn’t come up with a way to do that.

There doesn’t seem to be much evidence for this appeal of the outsider that many people find appealing, especially if they are fed up with politics as usual.

Here’s my vote for the candidate who can prove that he or she is the most inside.

Posted in Uncategorized| 2 Comments


Comment by Tim Riter on December 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Tom, I understand your position, and even some of your reasoning. The concern I have, as a semi-reconstructed hippie, is that Jerry Brown is an anomaly, and the analogy fails for that. I see too many “insiders” who get co-opted by lobbyists and personal power and partisanship, and who lose their effectiveness. To use a variant of a line by Shakespeare, “a pox on both their houses.” Honestly, I fear Hillary fits into this category.

I would love to see a wise, winsome outsider, who listens to all, who gathers a group of people who know the hows of getting the things done that he sets the pace on. If he were courageous, he could pledge to serve just one term to avoid decisions made to enhance his chances for reelection. Obviously, this eliminates the current Republican leader in most polls, Trump.

Comment by Tom on December 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Tim, I think that you are probably right. I think Brown works because he isn’t looking at becoming president. He isn’t looking to any political future or any other ambitions than just doing a good job. I do think that you are right. I would love, though, to see a wise, winsome insider, who listens to all, as you say, who gathers a group of people who know how to get things done, and is courageous.

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