Entering the arena

Some words of thanks today for 574 Missourians. All of those people have filed as candidates for statewide office or legislative and congressional seats. Republicans.  Democrats.  Libertarians.  Members of the Constitution Party.  Some are veterans of the political shark tank.  Others are new to the process.  But all 574 of them have put themselves forward as potential public servants in a time when cynicism about government is being shouted in our streets and meeting halls,  from the loud mouths of popular pundits on radio and television, and from blogs and other social media.

We don’t know what really motivates all 574 of these people.  It’s undoubtedly a mixture of statesmen and stateswomen, seekers of power, common folks who think they can bring common sense to a cacophony of confusion, loons, wingnuts, and people who want to show the grandkids someday a bumper sticker that says “Jones for (whatever).”

Those of us who watch government for a living and try to sort out its processes and meanings probably hope the final result tilts more toward statesmen than loons after November (although we might not say so publicly because it might indicate a bias against loons).  But, hey, this is representative government and even loons and wingnuts deserve representation and we try to let their voices be heard because they are part of the political process.

Plus, one person’s loon is another person’s statesman.

But all of that is down the road between now and August and between now and November.  For now, let’s recognize that more people have stepped forward to seek public office this year than signed up to run in 2008 and in 2004.  We will leave it up to you to consider why that might be—there are no doubt several reasonable explanations.

Five hundred and seventy-four people are willing to put themselves in a spotlight, to allow themselves to be subject to possible intense public scrutiny, to reduce themselves to beings scrounging for funds to sustain their efforts, and in the end to place their futures in the hands of a notoriously fickle public judgment process.   It takes ego to be a political candidate.  But, as it always has, it also takes courage.  For many of these folks, their pursuit of public office will turn from today’s anticipated adventure to July’s painful slog.

So today, we appreciate those who have come forward.  In weeks to come there will be a lot of what used to be called “spread-eagle oratory” about Democracy and the Republic and all of that stuff, countered by acidic and poisonous advertising and commentary  that will leave scars on some of August’s and November’s winners and losers

But today, let’s just savor the idea that 574 Missourians — that’s a little less than one in every 10,000 people living in this state — are willing to try to convince the public to put its confidence in them, whatever their motivation.  That one ten-thousandth of us is the difference between a Republic and totalitarianism.

And that’s reason enough to ponder the importance of their willingness to step into the arena.

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