William Fulbright to Kanye West: Our Nation’s Slide into Idiocracy

Being an elected official is incredibly challenging. Among other things, there are so many different areas one needs to know and understand. And it is why we have historically chosen leaders that have strong educational backgrounds as well as a long history of government service. This has changed though.

In the 2016 presidential election, most thought we would be shattering the glass ceiling. Instead, we shattered a very different type of ceiling—the one separating the unexperienced and unknowing from the presidency. While Trump may be the candidate you voted for, it is a fact that Trump had no government experience, no military experience, and no experience of public service prior to running for president, and he knows less about the policies he will be deciding than any presidential candidate of the last 100 years (including George W. Bush).

And it’s not just Donald Trump. The third party candidates this year, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, frequently embarrassed themselves on the campaign trail as they demonstrated how little they knew. Hell, Gary Johnson couldn’t identify a single world leader he admired including Vincente Fox who served as President of Mexico while Gary Johnson was governor of New Mexico.

And in case we thought this may be a one-off and the United States will return to normal in four years, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced this summer that he is considering running for president in 2020. As did Kanye West. And we cannot very well discount their chances of winning, can we?

When did it become okay to run for the most important job in the entire world, and do nothing to prepare for it other than be famous? Is anyone else offended by this? Do we treat any other profession this way? If you are undergoing surgery, would you want a doctor who had never gone to medical school or performed this particular surgery? If you were getting your taxes done, would you want an accountant who never got past 6th grade math? If you were going to get a haircut, would you want someone who is on their first day of the job and skipped barber college? Of course not. But when we want to select the person who will be leading the world’s largest military, and making the most complex decisions imaginable, suddenly we are ready to consider people who have no experience, no knowledge, and no business running for city council, let alone the presidency.

If you want to know just how different our times are, I ask you to consider Senator J. William Fulbright. Senator Fulbright led a fairly remarkable life. He went to Oxford University and eventually became a Rhodes Scholar. He represented the State of Arkansas in the U.S. Senate for 30 years (1945 to 1974). While in the senate, Sen. Fulbright was considered incredibly cerebral and a real thought-leader. One of his signature achievements was to create the scholarship program that still bears his name. Did I mention he represented Arkansas?! When Fulbright returned to Arkansas to meet with constituents, let’s just say he didn’t fit in so well at a lot of places. He dressed smartly; had a large vocabulary; spoke in depth about complex things; and that was okay. The great majority of his constituents looked upon Fulbright with tremendous pride, as if to say, “That is MY senator. He is our state’s very best. Let’s see if your state’s got someone better.”

That meritocracy is now gone in too many places. No longer are voters looking for their state’s best and brightest. If Fulbright attempted to run for Senate in 2020 from Arkansas, he would undoubtedly be labeled a smug egghead who thought he was better than everyone, and someone who routinely demonstrated his arrogance by talking down to people. Voters would ask where the candidate is they can have a beer with? So long as voters choose candidates on the basis of their beer swigging abilities, doing so will likely leave us with elected officials who are good at little else.

– Dylan


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