WASHINGTON — Americans are living in an age where too many of us no longer seriously question the promises and proposals of our presidential candidates.
The process whereby we choose our new leaders is a grueling, two-year political gantlet where we judge their honesty, competence and ideas to fix what’s wrong with our country. And for nearly 230 years, we haven’t done too badly in choosing our presidents. But something has gone terribly wrong in this election cycle.
We’ve had great presidents, good ones, bad ones and merely mediocre ones. But thanks to a system of checks and balances wisely established by our Founding Fathers, we’ve chosen well more often than not.
We govern ourselves through a democratic process by choosing our leaders from a bevy of candidates, listening to their proposals, questioning their agendas, and, through the news media, run them through a system of primaries that tests their knowledge, ideas, temperament and honesty.
One of the most valuable characteristics of American voters has been their healthy dose of skepticism that they bring to the election process. But that seems to have withered in a large part of the electorate, and it’s not clear why.
In the most recent past, experience usually mattered most. Among the last 12 presidents, five were former vice presidents and four were governors. Two were U.S. senators, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. Neither had any executive experience.
Only one of the 12 was an outsider with no experience in political office. But Dwight Eisenhower was the supreme allied commander of World War II who held the alliance together and won the war against Germany and Japan. That’s an impressive record accomplishment to have on one’s political resume.
But now a large number of Americans no longer believe experience matters in the presidency, according to all the latest polls.
The two front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination are Donald Trump, who builds skyscrapers and casinos, and used to host a reality TV show, and a former pediatric neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, who makes his living giving speeches and writing an opinion column for newspapers.
A group of freshmen senators are well below them in the national polls, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Neither has compiled any record of accomplishment in his first term; they have devoted most of their time to campaigning around the country.
Rubio has drawn scrutiny over financial troubles and mismanagement of his credit cards. He’s articulate, but clearly needs experience.