As I contemplate the group of people who have announced themselves to be candidates for President of the United States, I find despair creeping up on me like some wild, deranged beast. It is something I must resist. My knowledge of each candidate is somewhat limited at this early stage of the game, after all: but sooner or later the field will narrow and the choice will be upon me. We have less than a year before we know for sure who the nominees from each party will be. I want to hope that at least one of the candidates will rise to a level that I can look at him or her and imagine that perhaps, just perhaps, he or she will be competent and up to the challenges that he or she is likely to face in the job as leader of the free world.
I comfort myself with history. Both the United States and the world have faced far greater challenges in the past than those facing us today. Today isn’t perfect, but we live in paradise compared to 1942 or 1863 for instance.
And looking at the politicians of the past I realize that they were no better or worse than any of those we are forced to choose from among today. George MacDonald is quoted as saying, “It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen.” Even the best of our past politicians had significant flaws. Abraham Lincoln had trouble getting a good general to lead the Union army. Franklin Roosevelt—and a lot of other politicians of his era—thought interning some American citizens because of their ethnicity was a great idea. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. So did George Washington.
So I’m not looking for a candidate who can walk on water. If I am, I’m going to be really disappointed. But it would be nice to find a politician who at least knows how to water ski.