President Barack Obama has taken some flak from the Tea Baggers because he is a Harvard-educated Constitutional Lawyer and not just plain folk. I suppose their premise is that highly educated individuals cannot relate to the problems of “average” Americans.
Our elected officials, whether they are in the Legislative or Executive Branch must have a strong set of skills in many areas:
- Highly competent in managing a diverse set of individuals from a multitude of backgrounds and skills.
- Strong negotiation skills.
- Ability to prioritize and multitask, making correct decision with partial and/or unconfirmed information.
- Outstanding communications and motivational skills.
- Ability to analyze a problem and understand the technical intricacies, both in depth and breadth.
Like many, I am fairly well versed and experienced in these skills, yet I am not nearly skilled enough to be President, Governor, or even a Congressman. I want someone in those posts who is an order of magnitude smarter than me, and highly skilled in all of the areas listed above.
Yet, competency to do the job does not seem to be a prerequisite for some people. We elected a Hollywood actor as president in 1980, and that turned out to be a disaster. The Republicans are enthralled by a former beauty queen who attended five different colleges before getting a degree and whose governance of a resource-rich, sparsely populated state is unblemished by success.
That’s not to say that competence is the exclusive province of one party or even one philosophy. There are a lot of highly skilled and intelligent people in the political realm from both parties. But it seems that this is no longer an asset to some in how we choose our leaders. Instead, they evaluate potential leaders on sound bytes and appearances.
Barack Obama has shown he can emphasize with “plain folk” while people like Sarah Palin who purport to be in the grass roots are more heavily under the thumb of big business, and couldn’t care less about union workers, the uninsured, and women’s health.
An Ivy League degree should not be used as a factor to disparage a candidate for political office. Incompetency, inexperience, and demagoguery should.