Column: Government Requires More Than Common Person Approach

This story was written by Erin Chapman, Indiana Daily Student

Andrew Jackson once said, The people are sovereign; their will is absolute.

Jackson, the original maverick, was born on the South Carolina frontier and once killed a man who insulted his wife. As president, he took on the National Bank and even attempted to abolish the Electoral College.

He was just the sort of renegade who Washington outsider Sarah Palin claims to be. The only problem is that Palin is no Andrew Jackson.

This election has become the most populist in recent memory. Beyond John McCains controversial VP pick, doubts about candidates down-home qualities have led Barack Obama to emphasize his food-stamp past and have even got Joe Biden touting his regular trips to Home Depot.

All of this talk of Joe Six-Pack raises a powerful question about the nature of democracy: Just how literally do we believe that government should be of the people?

Democracy by definition is government by the consent of the governed, but it has not always been filled with average people. The Founding Fathers doubted the ability of the common man to rule, and included provisions like the Electoral College and the Senate to protect government from the whims of the people.

We have since done away with many of these safeguards, but the question remains: Does a government of the people really mean that all people can govern?

Jackson thought so, to an extent. He once put forth the idea that public officials should hold office only for a short time and then return to a common life. He liked to think that Washington should be made up of men rotating in to serve their civic duty before heading back home to tend to the farm.

The McCain camp seems to agree. Although Palin held her own against Biden last Thursday, she did by dodging questions and quipping about Main Street. But can her charm and mainstream appeal really carry her through a tough negotiation with, say Russias Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?

Governing is difficult and requires a specific set of skills and a wide base of knowledge. Although the idea of a podunk Joe as commander-in-chief is charming, in a world where an executive must be well-versed in everything from economics to national security issues, it seems unwise.

Thats not to say that an aspiring leader must be bred of the political elite. Some of our best executives have come from the most humble of beginnings, and some of our worst have come from privilege. Being an outsider is an admirable quality, as long as it is matched with credentials and experience. Palin regretfully has neither.

Some might say it is elitist to think that only the best or brightest should govern, but is it wrong to expect excellence from a vice president, and perhaps future leader of the free world? Darn right, it isnt.