Monke: Wanted: Revolutionary politicians
Chris Christie was all the rage last week in the eyes of the national media’s political pundits. A Republican reclaiming his governor’s seat by a landslide in the blue state of New Jersey? If he can do that, he may be the politician with enough moxie to unit a politically divided country, right? Well, at least he was on a single Tuesday night.
When the East Coast woke up the next morning, most media members realized they had actually championed and spoke highly of a Republican for a few hours and spent the rest of the day finding ways to poke holes in the Christie narrative.
There’s little doubt Christie is going to throw his hat in for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is no doubt Hillary Clinton is gearing up for a run at the White House that is highly anticipated by some and cringe inducing to others.
If the presidential primaries were held tomorrow, it’s probable that these two former lawyers would be at the top of their respective party’s ticket.
But neither Christie nor Clinton is a revolutionary political voice.
They’re simply modern-day politicians doing what modern-day politicians do: trying to climb the next rung in the political ladder regardless of if they’re capable of standing on that next rung.
This week, the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is holding its eighth annual three-day symposium on the 26th president. This year’s event is titled Theodore Roosevelt and American Culture. It brings four speakers from across the country to Dickinson and begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in May Hall.
Roosevelt, like a handful of former U.S. presidents and leaders, was a revolutionary.
Though if he ran for president today, who knows if he would even get past the primaries. Many tend to forget Roosevelt was President William McKinley’s running mate in the 1900 election and became vice president in 1901. Roosevelt only assumed office after McKinley was assassinated and was eventually re-elected in 1904.
Today, it’s likely Roosevelt’s style would be deemed too polarizing and too much of a risk by political strategists and pollsters.
After all, he was a rich, Ivy league-educated politician turned Dakota cowboy and rancher who later obtained appointed positions thanks to his namesake, including New York City police commissioner and assistant Secretary of the Navy, before assembling the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, all of which helped win the 1898 New York governor’s race.
He used his bully pulpit loudly and proudly and often made statements that by today’s standards would be out of place in the political spectrum.
Because political landscapes change over time, there is also a strong chance neither Republicans or Democrats today would wholly embrace Roosevelt since his platforms were a mix of liberal and conservative. He was a corporation-busting conservationist who wanted citizens to have an opportunity to get their fair share while also believing in the Americanization of immigrants and a strong military.
Our national media’s squawking heads would have a field day with Roosevelt. What would they make of a man like that? Or worse, what would they try to make him into?
At the same time, perhaps another Roosevelt is just what we need.
The country could use someone who isn’t completely attached to party lines, with the ability to force the national media — an increasingly important spoke in the wheel to the White House — to report on candidates journalistically instead of simply opining.
In a sense, someone revolutionary.
Barack Obama was supposed to be that guy. The first black president. The man who talked about change, and actually had the voice and demeanor to carry us there.
After five years, a few bright points and a few debacles, Obama has an average 42 percent approval rating, according to an average of 10 national polls taken between Oct. 18 and Nov. 8. Only 22 percent of people believe the president is taking the country in the right direction.
But is anyone else out there actually going to do any better?
Is Christie the unsuspecting savior? Is the first woman president the answer? Maybe someone a little fringe, like Rand Paul or Andrew Cuomo?
Our best bet might be someone who isn’t a lawyer, professor or a rich man turned politician, and someone with a little dirt under their collar who isn’t afraid to break from their party’s line every now and then for the sake of the greater good.
They’re not going to be perfect, but no one is.
All they have to be is a little revolutionary.
Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him at monkebusiness and read his past columns and features at monke.areavoices.com.