I believe that people should be judged on their abilities alone. I admire people of all persuasions who do well at their chosen path. Mostly I am talking about people’s ability to do a job well. Be they in business, be they a bureaucrat, lawyer, doctor or architect, be they a warrior, athlete, artist, writer, scientist, teacher or politician (well, not many of those).
I don’t wish to sound too high-flying here because there are many economists, activists, socialists and progressives I don’t respect, though they may be considered to be doing well at what they do. I don’t like them for what they do. To avoid being criticized by the nit-pickers for minor chinks in my broad statement, no, I don’t like dictators, criminals and crazy fundamentalists, etc.
In other words, I believe in meritocracy, the kind of thing that Alexis de Tocqueville admired about America, one of the things that has contributed to our greatness as a people. I don’t care for people who are proponents of mediocrity at almost any level of our society. Or those who get ahead by political pull, or nepotism, or criteria other than competency. Or those who discriminate against another because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference or physical disability, thus not giving people who may be competent a chance to demonstrate what they can do.
It is with regret that I must disapprove of Rush Limbaugh on his glee at the support Bristol Palin received by the phone-in audience that resulted in a superior dancer, Brandy, being kicked off Dancing with the Stars. His glee related to his belief that the callers were mostly conservative Sarah Palin supporters and “Tea Party activists” and that “liberals” and “progressives” were outraged by this turn of events. He believes that the majority of Americans are supporters of Palin, and anything they can do to irritate liberals and the “drive-by media” is a good thing.
While it is difficult to disagree with the irritating liberals part, I believe he does a disservice to the conservative cause. Bristol Palin is clearly a mediocre dancer, and Brandy was clearly a fine dancer. This is not about Limbaugh, whom I respect; it’s about people supporting mediocrity for ideological reasons. It’s not right. It is a kind of conservative affirmative action whereby people of lesser abilities are given support and credence though they are clearly unqualified.
I believe Palin is a mediocre politician and generally uniformed and ignorant of the reasons behind the ideals she espouses, but that she gets paid a lot of money to say them as the Mama Grizzly to her fans. Many of my readers were unhappy with my recent criticism of Palin. I’ve lost a few readers but also have gained quite a few more as a result. Now that I am being critical of Limbaugh as well, I suppose I’ll lose some readers and gain even more. Whatever.
I think my real point is that if we conservatives and libertarians are willing to accept mediocre leaders and politicians, then we will lose ground to the left and yield the field to the Obama Regressives. We do need charismatic, articulate, intelligent and informed leaders. I believe Palin gives us charisma and she reads speeches well, but she is avoiding tough interviews. She has demonstrated that she is mediocre, uninformed and can’t articulate or argue the issues underlying complex ideals that guided our founders.
By setting the bar too low, and opening our arms to Palin, we will get what we deserve. I think even former President George W. Bush is more competent than Palin, and he trashed the Republican Party and turned to a movement of conservative Christian social values instead of traditional Republican values.
I believe such affirmative action shows that we are failing to live up to ideals that made this country great, which is to support people of merit and ability who support, understand and can be effective advocates of our ideas of freedom, free-market capitalism, individualism and tolerance. I intensely dislike President Barack Obama’s politics, economics and general worldview. But the guy is bright and articulate and can think on his feet, even if his worldview is entirely wrong for America. He is persuasive, but he falls on his ideas.
I am not suggesting that we support losers such as former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. John Kerry, Al Gore or former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. But I think we need the whole package. I believe we need to demand higher standards of our politicians and not settle for mediocrity.
Palin said this week in unequivocal language that she is a candidate for the presidency. Personally, I don’t think she is serious. I believe it may be a tactic to keep her in front of the Republican Party, appear to be a power in the party, and to enhance her status and appeal as a saleswoman for herself. Selling herself to America is something she does very well — see Sarah Palin’s Alaska and you will see what I mean. I enjoyed the series and found her to be likable, but that doesn’t mean I would want her finger on the trigger or on the economy as my president.
But, in the off chance that she would see it through to mounting a serious campaign for the presidency, I believe it would be a big mistake for America’s right wing to fall in behind her.
Folks, we can do better than that. Demand excellence.
— Jeff Harding is a principal of Montecito Realty Investors LLC. A student of economics, he has a strong affinity for free-market economics. This commentary originally appeared on his blog, The Daily Capitalist.