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The reality of political qualities

Adam Newman | Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Americans do not tend to hold their politicians in very high esteem.
In an October poll by CBS, members of Congress had only a nine percent approval rating. In a January poll, Americans had more favorable opinions of root canals, NFL replacement referees, lice, cockroaches and traffic jams than Congress. Thankfully, Americans have a more favorable approval of Congress than gonorrhea, North Korea and the Kardashians.
The perennial joke is approval numbers are surprisingly high since there is no way members of Congress have that many friends and family to approve of them. In all seriousness, while the gridlock certainly helps explain falling popularity, the moral failing of our political leaders is a cause for unpopularity as well.
The most embarrassing story may be that of Anthony Weiner, who famously in 2010 tweeted a picture of his groin to his entire Twitter following, rather then the woman he intended. Yes, a man with the last name of “Weiner” sent out a picture of his “wiener” to his entire Twitter following. After initial denying it, Weiner admitted to his personal misgiving and resigned from Congress. Even sadder at the time, he was married for less than a year and his wife was pregnant with their first child.
After resigning from Congress, one would think Anthony Weiner would focus only on raising his son and mending relations with his wife (who did not leave him). Instead, he decided to run for mayor of New York City less than three years later. Old habits die hard, as it was revealed Weiner had sent pictures to women long after he stepped down from Congress under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger”. The story of Anthony Weiner is certainly an outlier when it comes to political scandals, whether sexual, financial or legal. But one thing strikes true – it seems many politicians engage in scandals that undermine the public trust.
One must understand the qualities of those who enter public life. First, one must become extremely confident he or she can enter a campaign and win even with the intense scrutiny. Also, with any candid moment having the ability to be captured by a smart phone, politicians must be aware of his or her surroundings 24/7.
In addition, one must fundraise an enormous amount, with most members of Congress spending 40 percent, yes, 40 percent of his or her time fundraising for the next election. This combination creates a dirtiness that disgusts most people. And the only people who are left are those who have all the qualities we detest. Most Americans hope for politicians similar to the ancient Cincinnatus, the general who famously worked on a farm during his retirement until an invasion caused him to be called to serve Rome as dictator. He used his power to defeat the enemy tribes, resigned his position and returned to his farm.
A more interesting trend will take place in the future, as more people who came of age during the age of Facebook begin to run for political office. The conversation over what is and is not acceptable on the internet will change dramatically. The Onion, the satirical newspaper, had a very relevant headline in a recent paper – “Bad news: Thanks to Facebook, every potential 2040 president already unelectable. ”  
In the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” there is a great line that goes: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” This can easily be transferred over to the context of public life, as “we accept the politicians we think we deserve.” America deserves better, and if we would realize it we could have more heroes and less Weiners.

Adam Newman is a senior
studying political science. He can be reached at anewman3@nd.edu
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.