Here I go, dating myself again. In the early 1960s, there was an absolutely horrible game show called “Queen for a Day,” in which each week several women would compete for who had the most pitiful life of hardships. At the end of each show, the audience would vote on who would be—literally, crowned—Queen for a Day, and garner the fabulous prizes.
Last week and this, we’re being treated to a modern version of this parade of litany of woes, as candidates from the Republicans and Democrats take turns sharing their sob stories of disease, hardship, hard work, and challenges.
It is indeed a rare family that is able to escape hardships: money cannot buy health, luck, or happiness—as graphically evidenced by the tragic parallel of both Mrs. Obama’s father and Mrs. Romney herself having multiple sclerosis. And even the best parents can neither forestall tragedy nor insure their children’s futures.
Yet the similarities of the stories told has been carefully spun, and there has been much careful crafting of the narratives, with emphasis on the notes the oracles predict will best play with the targeted voters.
Please don’t get me wrong. I greatly admire the modeling of loving families, hard work, and perseverance. This, after all, is the promise of America, where anyone can overcome every challenge to create his or her own success story.
But do we have to be played like the proverbial violin, or can we be grown-ups and demand that people vying for the control of the greatest amount of power over the greatest number ever known in the history of mankind appreciate and promise adherence to the policies and civil society that actually provided the opportunities that overcame the challenges they describe? Or are they all simply, hopelessly out of touch, part of the 1% that all federal politicians occupy today—with both the Senate and the Congress—on both sides of the aisle—consisting mostly of millionaires?
And, face it: no one is more privileged than the Obamas today, and few more privileged than the Romneys.
So what I want to know is: who, if elected, will work to create an environment enabling future generations to overcome the kinds of truly horrific obstacles to success our forebears faced? Mine, just two generations ago, were born on the American frontier, one in Indian territory, one in a sod house—that’s a house made, literally, of dirt and plains grass. From those beginnings, my grandfather put himself through college and law school with newspaper routes, and went on to stunning professional success and head of a loving family, aided and abetted by his equally capable wife.
Federal loan programs that have driven the cost of a college education into stratospheric realms, regulatory barriers to enterprise, tax policies that penalize job- and wealth-creators, policies that feed uncertainty and demonize honest labor, entitlements that subsidize irresponsible behavior and fraudulent relationships, crony capitalism/mercantilism/fascism on a scale never before imagined, immoral and murderous foreign policy, the abasement of our most fundamental rights to privacy, security in our homes and property, due process, and habeas corpus—are not offset by being a good dad or having a nice wife.
Let’s remember that we’re supposed to be free and autonomous beings, not dependents seeking a good daddy or mommy. That means holding up a standard of demanding adherence to strict standards, not accepting pandering platitudes.