By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Earlier this month, a new Gallop poll was released showing that sixty-four percent of Americans do not want their children to pursue a career in politics.
While I understand why Americans feel this way, I am also deeply disappointed by this.
Certainly, politics has earned a bad reputation. There’s no shortage of stories about corrupt politicians stealing taxpayer money, taking bribes or stealing elections through intimidation and voter fraud.
There are even books dedicated to telling stories about dirty campaign tricks and negative advertising.
We no longer think of politicians as statesmen. If I were to ask you to name a politician off the top of your head, would you think of someone like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson? Or would you instead think of someone like former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who tried to sell Pres. Obama’s former senate seat, or former Florida congressman Mark Foley, who sent sexually suggestive messages to teenage boys serving as congressional pages?
And elected officials aren’t the only political professionals who have a bad reputation. From lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and political operatives like Karl Rove, it’s no wonder that Americans are disenchanted with politics and don’t want their children to chose politics as a career.
In any other profession, you want someone who is a career professional to do the job. If you have to see a doctor, you want somebody with years of experience to treat you. If you are building a house, you want experts to design and build your home.
But in politics, it is considered taboo to be a “career politician” because the assumption is that a career politician is corrupt.
And, yet, our democracy depends on having good people serve in office. Without true statesmen and stateswomen serving in elected office, our government and our country would collapse from corruption.
We need good people with good hearts to serve in local, state and federal office. We need people with values, who will be good stewards of the taxpayers money and put the needs of their constituents ahead of the desires of the special interests or the political party bosses.
Unfortunately, Alabama has a reputation for being among the states with the dirtiest politics. That is something that we desperately need to change.
We need honest people in our government; people who will inspire our children and future generations to choose a life of public service. We need this for two reasons.
First, and most important of all, we need good, honest people serving in these positions of responsibility.
Secondly, we need leaders with experience to keep our government functioning.
While we do not want to get caught in a situation where new ideas and new energy is not welcome, we also don’t want to find ourselves in a position where the people in charge of our government do not have the knowledge or experience to do the job they have been elected to do.
But most of all, if we want to make sure that America continues to be the greatest country in the world, then we need to inspire the best and brightest in our country to serve, and encourage our children to get involved.
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.