It’s a dirty job.
But somebody’s gotta do it.
No, not the good, clean, fun job of writing this column.
The dirty job cited above is the grimy assignment of serving in elective office.
And to do that duty, you first have to do the lowdown work of getting elected — unless you’re appointed to finish somebody else’s term.
Just don’t be too tough on the candidates who put themselves on the ballot lines. That includes the hardy souls subjecting themselves to the electorate’s fickle, notoriously misinformed verdicts in today’s municipal elections in these parts.
After all, the candidates are rough enough on each other in a public spectacle that challenges their qualifications, intelligence and, in some cases, even integrity.
Unsigned correspondence sent my way last week condemned several Mount Pleasant Town Council candidates. Among the headlines over those poison-pen letters: “Can One Benefit Financially From Holding Public Office?” and “Let’s Not Be Fooled Again!!!”
Whoa there on the exclamation points!
And woe be unto naive candidates who imagine that mortifying political, professional and even personal truths won’t be used against them. They often also must endure vicious lies.
Still, as a member of this paper’s editorial board, I’m consistently impressed by the commitment of local candidates who come to see us, seeking our endorsements.
The perils of power
Win the governorship and you get to travel the world selling South Carolina and decide the final fate of death-row inmates waiting for a pardon.
Win a U.S. senatorship and you get to judge who gets to sit on the federal bench — including the Supreme Court.
Win the presidency and you get to command the most awesome military might in human history.
Win a spot on a municipal council and you get late-night phone calls from irate constituents about tax bills and flooded streets.
Aspirants for local office also suffer from the public’s distrust in politicians — a credibility gap widened by these (among other) pledges from our last four presidents ...
George H.W. Bush, as president: “Read my lips: No new taxes!”
Bill Clinton, as president: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
George W. Bush, as presidential candidate: “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building.”
Barack Obama, as president: “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
Maybe some of those presidents believed some of those things at the time.
Maybe serving in high, low, or in-between elective office isn’t as easy as it looks.
Consider the plight of our senior U.S. senator.
Lindsey Graham has a solid conservative voting record and knows his stuff. He also knows, however, that his stances for immigration reform and against “defunding” Obamacare, though logical, have riled many right-wing voters in our state. A neighbor of mine even has a “Lose Lindsey” sign in his yard.
A sign that Graham is taking next year’s primary seriously: He will introduce a bill this week to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
OK, what many expectant moms feel kicking inside them by, and frequently before, the 20th week is much more than a mere zygote. It’s a fetus within four weeks of viability outside the womb.
Yet abortion has been a legal U.S. reality for four decades. It’s also culturally ingrained as a “woman’s right,” despite the fact that China and India are increasingly skewed toward male majorities because so many parents exercise their right to choose aborting female fetuses.
Whose folly now?
Back to U.S. political reality: Exit polls showed Mitt Romney won not only the men’s vote but the married women’s vote a year ago Wednesday. Obama’s huge edge among single women cost Romney the presidency.
Now Graham, who has rightly branded the GOP’s hard line on immigration as a self-inflicted electoral disaster (Hispanics heavily backed Obama last year), proposes further alienating single women. And all for a symbolic stunt as futile as that quixotic “defunding” quest he decried.
Hey, he wants to keep his job.
Meanwhile, municipal candidates want much lower-paying elective jobs of their own.
And thanks to their willingness to brave the political fray, registered voters can have a meaningful say today.
That is, if voters bother to do their self-governing job.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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