Around Politics: Focus on the decision makers: Our representatives

Last week, I wrote about the Supreme Court nomination process and specifically the status of Judge John Roberts. The process took a turn for the ugly as it was reported that The New York Times had their reporters digging into the adoption of the Roberts’ children.

Those children were adopted out of a Central American country. This scrutiny makes me wonder why anyone would want to serve their country or their community. They allow their names to be placed in contention for a position, and the result is a “witch hunt” of sorts. The media turns over every pebble trying to find controversy. Some of this digging is good but, in the Roberts’ case, looking into their children’s adoption is going too low.

Public service by individuals is a key element to our democracy and society as whole. The six-figure salary of judges does not justify the delving into such personal detail as has been begun in this case. These activities have had a chilling effect on those who may want to serve, save for the excruciating analysis.

A balance needs to be struck when it comes to researching a candidate for Supreme Court, presidential Cabinet position, or even local appointed boards. Those seeking elective office need to realize that this is their choice and that they will not be spared the dissection. All of these individuals, elected or otherwise, are making sacrifices whether they are compensated or not.

Having served in government for a couple of congressmen, I know what kind of schedule they keep, and I never envied them. Working for those holding elective office is never a 9 to 5 job; and in many cases, the job takes great tolls on family life. In part, this is due to the competitive nature of politics. Someone is always out there looking to beat the elected official in an election. In larger part, this is due to the absolute responsibility involved in the issues that elected official must address.

Part of the feeding frenzy involved in nominations is due to the fact that the public—us—is looking for simple answers as to why they should support or oppose a nominee. The issues of the day are much too complicated, so it is easier to generate opposition if a nominee once “kicked a dog,” for example. But if the discussion turns to whether a nominee to the federal bench is a constitutionalist, or whether they “legislate from the bench,” you start losing attention based on sensationalism.

I am not a believer that the “masses are asses.” I do believe that people are so busy with their everyday lives that some of the issues in our democracy are relegated to a low priority. That’s why we elect congressmen, senators, Illinois House and Senate members, city councilmen, school board members, etc. They are supposed to represent us and make the right decisions based on the best information available. Ultimately, the thing we “masses” need to focus on are those who represent us. The rest will take care of itself.

Jim Thacker is a political consultant and columnist.

From the Aug. 10-16, 2005, issue

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