Scott Kelly is a retired US Navy Captain and a retired astronaut. He has completed 4 trips into space, including a year-long mission aboard the ISS in 2015. He has recently published his memoire, Endurance, which talks, in part, about those missions and the impacts his experiences, shared by so very few others on this little blue planet, have had on his life. I haven’t read his book yet but it’s on my list.
Scott Kelly was recently interviewed by the CBC’s Anna-Marie Tremonti on her show, The Current. (You can listen to the entire 20-minute podcast here.) The interview was very interesting but it was right at the end when a question about any political ambitions he might have started me thinking.
His response to that question about political ambitions? “I am too much of a moderate. I’m not on the edges of either political party and unfortunately, in the US, to get elected in a primary, you have to be an extremist.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
If he’s correct – and the current political climate would seem to indicate he is – what it means is that if you are a highly accomplished professional with the kinds of extensive skills and experiences we say we want (and so desperately need) in our leaders you will likely never get elected. Your contributions to society over decades of service will count for naught with party brass. Your informed, moderating voice will never be heard. Your ability to see the gray in every situation will never be there to counter the black and white of the extremists. And the people who think like you, who are decent, common folk with no particular axe to grind will never have your voice speaking for them and working for them.
However if you contribute nothing of value to society other than being a frothing-at-the-mouth rabid partisan you have a shot. If you appeal to the worst extremes (on either side) you have a shot. If your only qualification is that you are not “the other guy” you have a shot. (And if there was ever any doubt, President Trump endorsing Roy Moore simply because he’s not a Democrat proves the point beyond debate.)
While the US is clearly a leader in this particular dysfunction we have numerous Canadian politicians who also view the world through that same “us or them” lens, all the while bemoaning the fact that political participation, particularly among young people, is at an all time low and sinking like a stone. And I'm afraid we are only a few election cycles behind our friends to the south before it becomes endemic to our political process as well.
It really is a depressing state of affairs.