What recent president has been more of an outsider than Barack Obama? He had no particular ties to Washington, no real international experience and essentially came out of left field (figuratively and literally) and was catapulted into office. So what is it about the outsider experience we are currently enduring that voters seek to replicate? Given the failures of President Obama, why is it that so many have convinced themselves that a candidate who doesn’t know anything about working in Washington would be more effective working in Washington? Do we really want to elect another person who lacks any legitimate claim to the expertise that could make him or her more effective in working with Congress? Do we really want to elect another person who completely lacks an informed worldview? What am I missing?
Granted, I do write for the Washington Post under a banner called, “The Insiders,” so I might be a little biased, but I really don’t understand what is it about being an “outsider” that voters think is desirable. Given the current state of the world, don’t we need a president who not only knows how to make Washington work, but who understands America’s role and value to the rest of the world? I’ve quoted TIME’s Joe Klein before as saying, “Over time, politicians tend to be the best politicians” and I still think he is right. We need an effective politician in the office of the presidency now more than ever. That said, I recognize that it would be political suicide in 2016 for a candidate to declare he or she has savvy expertise, understands the dynamics of Washington, appreciates and can soothe the anxieties of a reluctant Congress, is aware of America’s historical international alliances and is tuned in to what motivates America’s enemies.
I think the whole “outsider” thing is overrated and misguided. I’m not saying stale is better, but I do think the Obama example is illustrative. Barack Obama was an outsider, and he hasn’t worked well with any insiders during his time in office, so why would we expect another outsider to be more effective once they are on the inside? The calls for a new outsider overlook the flaws of the current outsider. Voters should pause and take a breath. In a democracy, we count on the voters to be wise, and they shouldn’t make decisions in the throes of a collective tantrum.