In defense of “outsider” candidates

13716116_1218403031523492_6379696068682980907_nA few weeks ago, I saw this photo and shared it to my social media accounts. I found it humorous, especially considering the current state of electoral politics. And while I still find it funny, I felt the need to expand on this point about non-politicians running for elected office. One of Donald Trump’s biggest selling points (according to many of his supporters) is that he’s an “outsider.” That is, he is not a career politician like nearly every other person who ran for presidential nominations this year. His argument has been that he is outside of the broken political system, and thus he is untainted by it. His supporters will gleefully tell anyone who wants to listen that Trump is not corrupt like every other politician, and that’s why he should be trusted with the highest office in the land. And while I vehemently disagree that Trump isn’t corrupt or even corruptible, I want to break down this point into a slightly more nuanced discussion. 

First, let’s start with this overreaching argument that we absolutely must have an outsider as president this time solely because every politician is corrupt. I’ll touch on the need for an outsider president later, but I want to strongly rebut this idea that every sitting member of Congress (and the Executive Branch, for that matter) is corrupt. The cynic in me will admit that corruption is a major problem in our political sphere today. Between constant fundraising and lobbying groups, there’s plenty of evidence that countless members of our government are taking bribes (in the form of campaign donations and other legally ambiguous sources) to do the bidding of the rich and powerful.

landscape-1468266875-jillsteinbernieI’m not disputing that corruption exists, but I strongly push back against any broad statements about every single politician. You may not like Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein or the countless other candidates who are running or have run for president this year, but I think it’s fair to say that they are quite literally defying conventional wisdom when it comes to campaign fundraising. We can argue about how many corrupt people there are in public office, but it is absolutely false to suggest that every single person elected by the voters is a fraud and a greedy underhanded public servant. 

Now, because corruption does exist, I can sympathize with the argument that it is a major factor in the gridlock we’ve seen in Washington in the past few years. Whether or not that means we need a president who hails from outside the beltway is a decision that each individual voter will have to weigh on top of policies and every other normal consideration in an election cycle. I do understand the desire for a candidate that is not stained by the negative label associated with Congress and the presidency. Congress, after all, has a lower national approval rating than cockroaches. In some respects, I think it would be refreshing to see a president in the future who brings new perspective to the Oval Office, detached from the everyday wheeling and dealing on Capitol Hill.

Just to give an example, Dwayne Johnson of action movie fame (perhaps better known to some as WWE legend The Rock) has recently begun musing about a future run for office following several articles suggesting that he do so. I have no clue what kind of candidate Johnson would be, but I admit that I’m intrigued by the idea of him or someone like him running for office. There are countless other people, from celebrities to business owners to average American citizens, who could and probably should think about running for office one day, and I welcome those voices into the political discourse. 

I’m reminded of a segment from Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time (stay with me if you aren’t a Bill Maher fan, I promise this is going somewhere). One of Maher’s guests on the show was Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist with a knack for explaining incredibly complex ideas in very simple terms. Tyson makes the point that Congress is essentially overrun by people who cite law as their profession, with very few exceptions. This, he argues, leaves us with an entire legislative body which has little to no experience in the many other fields that make up our country. There are no scientists, doctors, engineers, journalists, teachers, etc. So when Congress debates education budgets, for instance, we are essentially watching a room full of people, who are not teachers, make important decisions that will affect millions of teachers and students for years to come. That is fundamentally backwards, and I have long believed that it needs to change. 

Here’s where it gets a little confusing, at least for some people. Do I support the idea of a candidate, whether for president or other public office, who has not spent time working in government? Absolutely. Do I support Donald Trump, a candidate who has not spent time working in government? Absolutely not. This gets to my fundamental point, and it’s really the reason I wrote this entire post in the first place. I don’t dislike Donald Trump because he’s an outsider, or because I want to keep the status quo, or because I think Washington isn’t broken in countless ways. I dislike Donald Trump because he is dangerous, he is woefully unprepared to fulfill the basic duties that a president must perform, and his entire campaign is built upon anger, fear, and hate.

trump-reporterI cannot support someone who vows to ban entire religions from entering the country and labels entire populations as rapists and criminals. I cannot support a man who has no respect for the family of a soldier who died for this country, simply because that soldier happened to be a Muslim. I refuse to accept this idea that America is some weak little child of a country that is being taken advantage of at every turn. I am disgusted by his multitudes of comments about women, his mocking of a disabled reporter, his refusal to condemn an endorsement by a KKK Grand Wizard, and his completely unrepentant statements about John McCain not being an American hero. I do not support his make-it-up-as-you-go-along presidential philosophy, and I have no qualms about the suggestion that his temperament and lack of a steady hand would lead this country into the worst economic and foreign policy decisions of my lifetime.

As an aspiring journalist, I condemn his treatment of the media and his banning of dozens of news outlets from his campaign events for what he considers “unfair coverage.” I’ve got news for you, Donald: reporters aren’t there to do PR for your campaign. Reporters are there to question everything you do and say, because you are asking the American people to trust you with the highest office in this country. You don’t get kid gloves. You don’t get to decide what the media writes about you. That’s the entire point. And I love your constant claims of “in the old days we’d have just thrown them out,” because in the old days, it was a reporter who exposed President Nixon’s Watergate scandal that later forced him to resign. So take your “so-and-so is a dishonest/unfair reporter” excuse and go back to Trump Tower, because this isn’t kindergarten. If you want to be president, you better grow a set and get over yourself, because the “unfair media” is going to come after you every single day of your administration, and your response cannot be to ban everyone from the White House Briefing Room. 

I could go on and on about why I will not vote for Donald Trump, but I’ll just end by making the point that I would love to see an outsider candidate run for president in the future. In fact, I would love to see an outsider candidate become president one day. But I will not support an insane fascist who would alienate every ally we have in the world, and erode the very fabric of what makes this country great, even if he is an outsider. 

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