A run for president has all of the same problems as being a celebrity (including a lack of privacy and everybody trying to backseat-drive your life) plus a smaller paycheck, required pandering and much, much more responsibility. The vetting process for the highest office in the land should certainly be difficult, but these days anyone who plots a run for President is an idiot — and doubly so if he expects to win!
Every four years an array of driven, accomplished people (well, usually) trip over each other in their race to Iowa and New Hampshire on a quest to the White House. This always results in one winner and a dazzling amount of shameful, humiliating pandering. The candidates pander to voters in places far removed from the power centers in the major cities in peculiar ways: eating lots of corndogs, kissing many a baby, acting folksy and otherwise doing their best to stroke the egos of normally inconsequential flyover states. As a nation we’ve decided that in these ways we must knock each successful suitor down a peg or two before we give them their piece of cheese at the end of the rat maze.
At the same time us voters demand silly, scripted actions from those we might entrust with the nuclear football, the donors who power a candidate’s campaign are even worse. Having amassed enough wealth that they can literally throw millions toward a particular candidate or issue, these individuals feel even more entitled and knowledgable than the average voter. They ask silly questions and are unrelenting with their advice and scorn. If a candidate doesn’t allow these life-giving donors to backseat drive the campaign or if they sense that their contender is losing they will jump with their bags of money to another horse, figuratively speaking, leaving behind the burning wreckage of a campaign. Voters may choose the office-holder, but the elite among us appear to have veto power over a candidacy.
Meanwhile, the media also has a hunger for information and, more importantly, a narrative (they do need to fill 24-hours of coverage for Pete’s sake). This means they can quickly become fickle and edgy if deprived of action and movement in the race. They’re going to find a story one way or another — it doesn’t matter whether said story is perceived or material, partisan or objective, gossip- or policy-based. This means privacy cannot be taken for granted, a sad state of affairs for someone who is constantly forced to pander to disparate groups across the nation for both votes and money. A camera in the right place can really ruin a campaign’s vibe or even cripple an otherwise powerful candidate.
But the most important component of the pain and humiliation that is the modern campaign for the presidency is the very real possibility of winning. The winner does get his very own airplane and has a theme song played every time he enters a room, but imagine the campaign state of affairs protracted over not a few months but 4-8 years! Add in a Congress that is vying for attention and needs its massive ego rubbed in order to pass a bill, an opposition party that will say or do anything to tear down the winner, and the fact that the office of Presidency is a magnet for the violence of mentally unstable individuals and you can sense the magnitude of what a candidate is sacrificing to have all that power. Plus, we totally stopped adding faces to Mt. Rushmore decades ago.
So we may call the President the most powerful person in the free world, but I think we should perhaps be calling him the idiot-in-chief.