Thursday, August 27, 2009

Us vs. Them: Elected Officials

Driving to work this other morning, listening to NPR and trying to stave off complete maternal mental atrophy, I happened upon a discussion about Ted Kennedy. No big surprise there. They were outlining who would take over his Senate post, who would have the requisite $3-4 million dollars for a quick campaign (don't get me started on that one) and one of the candidates mentioned was his wife. Completely plausibly.

America - What The Chuff?

There is constant debate over how money may or may not win you a political campaign (common sense would seem to indicate more ad revenue would bring in more votes - but Freakonomics disputes this). Then tell me why our State has twice been run by a movie star? Huh? Huh? But that's an argument for a different day. What nobody ever seems to bat an eyelid at is the number of instances when an elected official dies, and their spouse (most often a wife) runs in his place and is elected. This seems to make a complete mockery of the system.

When Sonny Bono died skiing, his wife was elected to fill the remainder of his Congressional term. When Santa Barbara's Congressman Walter Capps died of a heart attack in 1997 his wife was elected to fill his position, and has since been re-elected four times. Now I'm not knocking our Congresswoman (after all, my Green Card expires in a couple of years), she is very highly educated and used to be a nurse - quite a useful background considering the current healthcare debate, it just seems so odd. I for one will not be leaping into LK's job should the worst ever happen.

I am instantly dubious of anyone who wants to be a career politician - someone who has always been hell-bent on political power and has never held a 'real' job, but equally, someone who takes up the reigns because they happened to be married to a politician. What kind of a qualification is that - how seriously ambivalent are the constituents? (Don't ask me - I can't vote).

As a counterpoint I will agree that the House of Lords is an equally ridiculous institution when it comes to inherited voting rights - but that at least is being addressed and the number of hereditary peers who can vote has dwindled to 92. The number of wives taking their deceased husband's seats in America seems to be increasing. If I was Arnie I would be pretty chuffing worried that my Kennedy wife would bump me off so she could start to run California. After all she would appear to be the more 'qualified' of the two....

4 comments:

notfromaroundhere said...

I read a really interesting story (although I have no idea where) about how these sorts of situations actually have helped break glass ceilings. Apparently the first female legislators all came in via this route, but it ended the old boys club for good and opened the door for women elected independent of any husband.

AliBlahBlah said...

I hadn't thought of that, I could see how it could historically be true - but why now? Does it ever happen the other way round - with male spouses being elected? Can't quite see Dennis Thatcher running the country, but then the Iron Lady never did think there was such a thing as a glass ceiling.....

Dayne Gingrich said...

But you'd be soo good running a 12 player clinic!

Here's the formula:

Feed left, right, right, left...

Keep them moving in a circular motion, making them run to the other side and pick up 4 balls if necessary!

Good luck.

Hyphen Mama said...

What? You mean you wouldn't want to ride on the airplane I'd be piloting, were my husband to meet his maker? I think qualifications are overrated!

You make an excellent point that most people have never even questioned.