The late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” If only that were true in the prosaic Louisiana governor’s race.
It’s as if the watercolors are ready. The canvas is primed. But all we get from them is an unsatisfying, paint-by-numbers portrait. They check this box, endorse that position, attack this person and indignantly respond to those allegations. No wonder the polls show that few voters are engaged in the race. No one is inspiring them.
I understand, of course, that some politicians who can deliver a great speech cannot govern. There are also leaders skilled in twisting arms and passing legislation who think that oration is a canoeing term. We need all types of leaders with unique skills to make government work. Clearly, Lincolns and FDRs don’t come along every year – or even every generation.
And governing isn’t always an inspiring or uplifting process. I’m well aware that our politicians’ daily lives more often resemble the antics you’d see on “Veep” than the uplifting drama of “The West Wing.”
Nonetheless, there are moments in a nation’s or state’s history – times of profound crisis or great challenge – when we sorely need inspiring leadership and governance. This is one of those times. Sad to say, our candidates are, so far, not equal to the challenge. They are mostly prose and very little poetry.
Maybe you have thought to yourself about a candidate, as I have: “I agree with him on the issues, but I want more. I want to be motivated and inspired.”
Inspiration is not a cheap or unimportant element in a campaign. If fact, it’s vital to our politics because voters usually don’t make purely rational decisions about candidates. Deciding whom to support is a strange brew of the rational and emotional. Our voting decisions are rarely decided by the sum of a candidate’s positions. Instead, it’s often a gut feeling about that person. That is, what do we perceive as the candidate’s basic values and do they jibe with ours?