'Personally, I Donít Want Me in the White House!'

The Sarah Palin phenomenon owes much to a perception of her as “One of Us” – the folksy mantra and the down-home strategy of recent election campaigns.

Think back to the photos of George Bush clearing brush from his Texas ranch, a regular guy in a plaid work shirt, doing a real man’s work. Contrast that image with 2004 photo of John Kerry windsurfing: which guy could you identify with?

The ideal, ordinary candidate is often captured in the cliché: “someone you would like to have a beer with.” The political vocabulary of this script is filled with words like “genuine,” “real,” “plain spoken,” “down-to-earth.”

And the logic follows this thinking: ordinary, front-porch people know plenty about raising families, juggling jobs, stretching that meat loaf over one more night, and balancing checkbooks around the kitchen table (now the most famous piece of furniture in the American home).

These honest folks built our country with their rolled-up sleeves and sweat, so therefore, we should have an ordinary person run the country, That person could be a PTA mom, hockey mom, a guy clearing brush or one going to NASCAR races.

But definitely he or she should know how to shoot a rifle, quote the Bible, bake brownies, flip pancakes, slap folks on the back, and drink strong coffee in Mom and Pop cafes. These abilities have come to be qualifications for high office.

Personally, I want a completely extraordinary person in the White House and on the way to the White House. I want someone with a string of college degrees, someone who has been a Rhodes scholar and a regular speaker at prestigious commencement ceremonies. I want someone whose speeches are filled with historical references and quotes from philosophers and Shakespeare, who regularly confers with university professors.
My candidate would be an individual who speaks in detailed sentences filled with implied semi-colons. My choice would be the man or the woman who pauses before answering a question, takes more than one sentence to explain a complex issue and who crafts a thoughtful response that goes beyond “yes” or “no,” and even deals in a few “ifs” and “howevers.”

I’m looking for the candidate who thinks I’m intelligent and capable of listening to a nuanced argument, who knows I can handle more than “drill, baby, drill” slogans.

I wouldn’t mind if this person were rich; he or she could then devote full time to working for me, instead of working to get reelected. In terms of personal tastes, it would be acceptable if my person were also a wine connoisseur, a devotee of double, decaf, hazelnut lattes, a voracious reader who has whipped through James Joyce’s Ulysses three times, and a multi-linguist who throws French expressions into conversation.

Ultimately, I think I want an elitist, someone who is decidedly unordinary, with a slightly aristocratic air. In other words, I don’t want me in the White House.

Rose Murphy is a writer based in Sonoma, California, who explores current events and also focuses on Irish culture and history.

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