POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY PETER PRESTON IN THE GUARDIAN
Peter Preston's general argument is correct.
But it is simply a fact that the political establishment does not bring forward the best and the brightest.
It works much like a public-education establishment in which mediocrity is the norm.
If you look at the history of the United States in some detail, it is remarkable that such a dynamic political entity has produced so many second-rate leaders.
America's list of past presidents contains only a few remarkable men and many inept, unattractive, and incompetent ones. Even a few genuine madmen like Andrew Jackson.
This is in part the result of a rigid, outdated Constitution, setting close to unchangeable rules. It is also in part the result of generally uncritical public education.
The set of myths around America's founding and growth, the so-called American Civic Religion, is so powerful there is little allowance for critical public education. American children are raised in an environment of drums and flags and pledges of allegiance with more than a little resemblance to the practices of outfits like Hitler Youth.
Added to these factors is modern America's having been so completely immersed in marketing and advertising since WWII.
Political campaigns are run with exactly the same techniques.
Money is king, money to buy air-time and creative staff and lots of other gimmicks.
In early America, only a tiny fraction could even vote - no different than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party out of China's population. A few men of substance ruled. It was an aristocracy.
Today, despite two centuries of expanding the franchise, in effect, owing to the needs for money in modern campaign techniques, the same relatively small group still pretty much determines the direction of affairs.
And those guys aren’t looking for heroes.
P.S. Obama is one of the rare genuinely fine figures to rise in decades. It is the result of widespread revulsion to two terms of Bush’s stupidity and horror.