Politics is a Rough Game
April is election time for a few government offices so I was reminded of some election-related stories.
In 1969 when Richard Nixon was elected as the President of the United States, a local man who was a former county official concluded Nixon’s win was a golden opportunity for him as he was eminently qualified to be the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States. There were several reasons for his assured success:
- 1. He had been a solid Republican all his life.
- 2. He was an experienced politician
- 3. He had grown up on a farm and still lived on one. What more did he need to know?
- 4. He was an independent bachelor of a certain age and was free
to move to Washington, D.C. to fulfill his destiny as a good citizen.
So pleased with his decision to apply and excited at the prospect of a well-paying job, he brought his letter of application to share with a small group of men who regularly met for breakfast at the “liar’s table” in the local café. They were a collection of active and retired businessmen and farmers he respected and trusted. An outsider would discount their authority by judging them by their appearance – Worn bib overalls and plaid flannel shirts were worn by the majority closely followed by the crisply pressed jeans and western styled shirts the horsemen favored. This was not a suit and tie crowd, but equally shrewd and canny as any man on K Street. In their small world, they were the unstated power brokers as he well knew, and they knew him.
With an unstated wink, they quickly seized upon the idea of “helping” him with his application to ensure its success.
“Great idea, Zeke!” the real estate broker seated next to him said enthusiastically.
“I see a couple of typos, Zeke. Let us help you re-write your letter a little. We can make it a slam dunk.” Said the banker.
“I know our congressman, Zeke. I will give him a call when you mail the letter.” Said the assessor, lying without a qualm.
The next month hummed with drafts and revisions to create the perfect document. At last, pressed by an increasingly anxious candidate, the letter was sent off with high hopes to the White House. Several weeks later, Zeke came to breakfast waving a faded photocopied letter declining his generous offer to serve America.
“Look at this” he moaned. “I spent weeks making my letter perfect and all I got back was a damn photocopy saying I wasn’t chosen!” He was furious that despite his efforts to send the perfect application, he was blown off. He had been so sure he would be successful. After all, as a white male, he was entitled.
In recalling this incident, I thought perhaps I’d underestimated my own qualifications for elective office. I had many years of executive experience working for Fortune 500 companies, had managed multi-million-dollar budgets, coordinated many projects – even represented those same companies in Washington, D.C. In addition, I had earned a PhD (although the citizens of Pineville refused to call me Doctor even at meetings where a male educator was fawningly so designated). That led me to leap into running for mayor of my hometown. Getting elected was easy; enduring what was to follow wasn’t. It is a story for another time.