Where did the good citizen candidates go?

Published 12:02 am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Will the pendulum of public tolerance for political shenanigans and ineptness swing soon, please?

It’s gotten downright ridiculous each election season — and that’s not a statement about the perennial list of silly nicknames that make their way onto the ballot. I’m referring to an ever-increasing drop in the quality of candidates willing to throw their names in the hat. Public service has become a sideshow.

On the national level politicians fight and scream at one another during the day on so-called “news” shows and get caught sending suggestive or lewd self-portraits by night.

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Our country deserves better.

At the state level, many of the “top” politicians seem incapable of avoiding negative advertising and low, half-truth attacks.

The recent series of TV ads depicting Mississippi state treasurer Tate Reeves, who is running for lieutenant government, as a tiny, yipping dog is the latest in a long line of examples.

How sporting is it for the second-most powerful elected man in the state — or at least the man who wants to hold that distinction — to pay good money to essentially call his opponent a “sissy” on the nightly TV news?

Our state certainly deserves better.

Locally, our county is no better off. In fact, it may be worse off. The state and national foolishness seems to happen somewhere else as we’re simply distant observers. With the local foolishness, we have front-row seats.

On the more ridiculous side, we’ve heard many reports of residents complaining about the mysterious appearance of unrequested political signs in their yards and other property. Vacant homes were targets, as were practically any available spots along public roadways.

Do we really want to elect these people who are foolish enough to think it’s OK to sneak around and erect signs without obtaining permission? If they’re already violating the rights of others before the election, just imagine how much more trust may go out the door once they are elected.

But let’s dig a little deeper and ask: For whom is my candidate REALLY working? Is it the voters; or is it the people who donated money to their campaign?

Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Many candidates will promise you the moon, if you’ll just vote for them. But ask yourself: Don’t we really just want them to put the best public interest ahead of their own?

Much ado has been made over the tax liens and other court judgments that several candidates for office have on file at the courthouse.

Our newspaper’s decision to print those facts was simply an effort to inform the voters as such things may indicate a person’s deeper nature and ability to organize and handle routine money matters — a key in almost every public office, but particularly important in a few offices.

The results of that study were disappointing, but not surprising.

Quite honestly, we’re at a point in which fewer and fewer “good citizens” are running for office.

Instead, we seem to be getting more and more people who view public office as just a job and a pathway to a long, lucrative retirement.

Our county and its hardworking taxpayers deserve better.

Hopefully, the pendulum is swinging toward a return to more good, honest, even-keeled citizens returning to the ranks of would-be county leaders. I have to believe that. If I didn’t, I’d simply stop caring and stop voting.

But the pendulum swing cannot happen soon enough.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.