Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama won the office in part by arguing that more experienced politicians were too set in their ways. But now he has to fend off a whole new flock of candidates in both parties saying pretty much the same thing.
Dear Mr. President,
Some time back I was out in New Mexico talking to Gov. Bill Richardson and our conversation came around to his ill-fated presidential bid. You may recall while you were racing to the front of pack, he was back there elbowing for his life in that scrum of Democrats running after you: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and heck I can’t even remember all the names anymore.
Anyway, I asked him how he felt about the experience and he said he enjoyed it but the voters just weren’t buying experience that time around. You’ll have to admit he has a point. Based on his resume, he had all the chops: Years of experience with national and international affairs, business contacts, political savvy, you name it.
And judging from what I’m seeing in these midterms elections, experience is still not selling so well. I suspect about the last thing any politician wants to say in a close race right now is “I’ve been inside the government. I know how it works!”
For old-time political operatives I know that this is puzzling. After all, if you were going to have your house painted, would you hire someone who has painted a lot of houses, or someone who has never done it before?
Of course, politics is not house painting and that’s the problem - because experience also brings bias. If you learn how to handle a certain problem in a certain way; you naturally may become a little hesitant to try a new approach. And voters hate that way of thinking right now.
So how do you reconcile the two? I think the true winning party out of all this will be the one that combines the experience of knowing how to get things done in the government as it is, with a heartfelt desire, commitment, and vision to change the government into what it can be. And as you have found, that is a difficult trick when so many people in both parties seem so content on keeping everything just the way it is…because that’s how they were elected.
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