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By Tom Shroder
Sunday, March 15, 2009

I complain a lot about elected officials. If only they could be more reasonable, more empathetic, more pragmatic, less corrupt. If only, I flatter myself, they could be more like me.

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But here's the thing: As much credit as I give myself, I would never, ever, consider running for office of any kind. (The one time I made an exception to that policy was when I ran as a joke for president of my high school junior class, reading my campaign speech off my palm. I won. And then I was nearly impeached.)

The truth is that campaign events would bore me to insanity. The thought of repeating the same ideas ad nauseam in town after town horrifies me. And all those rubber-chicken and waxy green-bean dinners? No way.

Plus, I have no illusions about how long my candidacy would survive. I can't remember names, even of some relatives, much less thousands of strangers, as politicians are expected to do. And before you could say "24-hour news cycle," some gotcha journalist would discover my freshman roommate and dig up enough dirt to bury me deep -- and that's from fall term alone. Not to mention all the impolitic, intemperate tirades I've committed to the ether in the form of e-mails to colleagues, some of which have no doubt been digitally preserved. By comparison, a few of those messages might make Michelle Obama's gaffe about being proud of America "for the first time in my adult lifetime" seem fit for an endorsement by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

So, my chances of winning a general election are roughly equal to the chances that the Wizards, the Nationals and the Redskins will all bring home championship rings this year. Just as well, since I would despise the total loss of privacy and the virtual destruction of a true family life.

To summarize, I am not a candidate for my party's nomination. If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.

No biggie. This nation has no need to mourn the failure-to-launch of one more lame middle-age white, male politician. But the same cannot be said of the inspiring young women featured in the cover story that begins on Page 8. Interestingly, as writer Vanessa Gezari points out, I share my reasons for eschewing a career in politics -- fear of the nastiness, invasion of privacy, loss of family time -- with many women, who appear disproportionately discouraged by these aspects of public life.

Let's hope that as more women do cross the threshold, and eventually serve and lead in the same numbers as men, it won't be solely because women have changed, but because the conduct of politics has changed, as well.

Tom Shroder can be reached at shrodert@washpost.com.


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