FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Preacher and the 2016 Primaries
Rick Perry became the first candidate to drop out of the Republican primary last night, in spite of the fact that he may have been the most qualified on the record. He spent over a decade as governor of one of the largest states in the country, one that saw great economic success while the rest of the country struggled.
More to the point, if you ever spent time around Rick Perry personally, you knew this wasn’t on accident – while Perry wasn’t personally responsible for all the success Texas had as a state under his tenure, his calm leadership and clear vision were clear contributing factors to his administration’s usually correct decisions about when to get out of the way and when to get involved in the problems Texans faced. And so a lot of the Rick Perry folks are disappointed today, and with good reason.
One of the great things about the Bible is that even if you’re not particularly religious, there’s a lot of wisdom to be found therein. This is particularly true of the book of Ecclesiastes, where the preacher sets forth in chapter 9 verse 11 a truth that has plagued mankind since the dawn of time:
I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
Here in America we like to deceive ourselves that we are a pure meritocracy, but we see time and time again how that isn’t so. America is a land of opportunity, and probably here more than anywhere else in the world, you can have success if you work hard and are committed.
But it’s false to assume that we are a society where success is wholly determined by hard work, intelligence, talent, or skill. Donald Trump has some skill as a deal broker but he’d likely be another middle class schlep if he wasn’t given a huge jump start by his father’s money.
Plenty of other examples abound in this country – and in politics in particular – of people who fall backwards through sheer dumb chance or family connections into cushy jobs or positions of power. Meghan McCain is one of the least astute people on either side of the political spectrum on the face of the earth – having actually predicted with a straight face that Lindsay Graham would be the surprise contender in the 2016 GOP primaries – but she is paid well to prognosticate on TV while millions of more qualified people (i.e., literally almost everyone else on earth) are not. John Weaver continues to get paid good money to run Republican Presidential campaigns into the ground. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) 5% is a United States Senator. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 15% actually has a leadership position in Congress. Katy Perry has made millions as a “singer.” Robert Bork doesn’t have a seat on the Supreme Court, but Anthony Kennedy does. And so on and so forth.
Time and chance happen to them all.
I guess ideally running for President would be primarily a merit-based endeavor, especially here in America, but that just isn’t the way it works and probably really hasn’t ever been. It’s largely more about who happens to be in the right place at the right time to meet the mood of the time. Only very rarely does a person of actual brilliance and skill come along who happens to be the person America wants at that time. On our side, it hasn’t happened probably since 1980 which is why every Republican running for office tries to pretend that they are Ronald Reagan, even though they aren’t. On the other side, they’re currently propping up a woman who has done literally nothing of note except have the, uh, good fortune to marry Bill Clinton.
Time and chance happen to them all. Maybe 95 times out of 100, the Yankees would have beaten the Pirates in the 1960 World Series. Maybe 9 times out of ten, David Tyree would have dropped that pass in Super Bowl XLII. But sometimes fluky things happen and sometimes people just aren’t right for their time, even if they would have been for others. I firmly believe that if he had run in 2012, Chris Christie would be President right now; four short years later, he is a mere afterthought in the Republican primary. Maybe at lots of other times (probably, any time before George W. Bush’s two terms), Rick Perry would have been the guy for his time. But he wasn’t the guy for this time, which seems to prefer Donald Trump. What that says about the times we live in isn’t especially positive; but ours is not to wonder why. Until next time, Governor Perry.