The specters of Rob Ford, Sarah Palin, and Chris Christie

A question that has haunted me since Sarah Palin first set foot on the big stage in 2008 concerns what, actually, disqualifies you to lead in a democratic society. She was a values candidate: we all knew that, or at least I thought we did. As the criticisms of her came more to the forefront, it wasn’t just that people didn’t support her because they (like me) didn’t share the values she represented, but because she was rural and didn’t have a particularly fancy education (a series of community colleges and then the University of Idaho.) Her education is a lot more like the rest of America than Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s.

It’s not entirely fair to ask some of the questions I am about ready to ask, but: Chris Christie supposedly couldn’t be a leader because he is fat. (He’s also a mean son of bachelor, but that glorious factoid got revealed to the Puritans’ delight after their ‘buh buh buh…..he’s *fat*’ objections.) But lots of Americans and Canadians are tubby. Rob Ford’s a mess, he’s a *practicing* addict, and his values are repulsive to me, but…if he did manage his symptoms, the very fact that he didn’t always have his disease under control means he’s disqualified from ever being elected. But there are a lot of addicts out here, some of whom are ok, some of whom are not (at the moment) doing ok, etc.

Could you imagine if a man who did time wanted to run? it the case that only Ivy-educated, Type-A’s with Hollywood teeth are allowed to lead in a democratic society?

I am confused about my own thinking because there are imperfections and flaws, and there are much more serious matters. There are a lot of child abusers out there, and that would disqualify somebody in my book pretty fast. Just because a flaw is common doesn’t mean it’s not deadly.

But it’s no good complaining about ‘those political elites’ not representing us if perfected people are the only people allowed to exist in the public sphere. Either we admit: these are elite offices that only elites may attain, or we have to allow that there are people with problems in the world–problems that $$$ and cosmetic surgery fix for the elite–but that those people with problems, too, can help us solve public problems. Would it be so horrible for us to be with Christie as he struggles with his weight? Or to understand that Ford is struggling with a disease?