Is the Republican List of Presidential Candidates Really Shrinking, and Do They All Have to Go to Old Ivy?

Fox News thinks so:

The Grand Old Party’s 2012 presidential pool isn’t looking so grand these days.

Add Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s extramarital affairs to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s unconvincing TV speech and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s family dramas, and the Republican presidential herd is thinning fast — leaving many to wonder who will lead the party in its attempt to reclaim the White House.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are the names now being whispered in Republican circles as potential winners — although observers admit political speculations can change overnight.

I think this process is easier to understand if the list be shortened by eliminating the non-Ivy Leaguers from the list.  I’ve gone through the rationale behind this before, as you can see here.  But in case you’re not up to speed, I’m reproducing my original September 2005 posting on this below.

That being the case, we can eliminate the following from further consideration:

  • Sarah Palin (sad, but true)
  • Mark Sanford (wasn’t in the running but didn’t know it, knows it now)
  • Haley Barbour
  • Tim Pawlenty (that was pretty clever what he did to his DFL legislature re the budget, but reality is what it is)
  • John Ensign

So Fox could have saved us all a lot of trouble by not touting these people to start with.

Let’s look at the rest.

  • Bobby Jindal: his weak speech is a problem, but at least he did it at the top of the election cycle
  • Jon Hunstman: probably the biggest loss to the “A” list, as Barack Obama got him shipped off to China
  • Mitt Romney: still definitely a contender, somehow he has to convince more of us he’s not made of suburban plastic
  • Eric Cantor: still in the running, still a real estate man
  • Mitch Daniels: IMHO, the strongest of the “A” list, like me thinks the Boomers are profligate

Let’s live in present reality, people.  Until this Republic collapses…

Blast from the Past: Do They All Have to Go to Old Ivy?

Originally posted 5 September 2005.

The sad events of Hurricane Katrina have overshadowed to some extent the drama about to begin in Washington this week—the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States. We know we call these “games” sometimes, but in many ways Supreme Court nominations will be the most important legacy of this or any other administration, given the way our entire system has abrogated its authority to the judiciary.

One of the Bush Administration’s goals is to portray John Roberts as “mainstream.” Part of this is to emphasise the fact that he went to Harvard law school. This is supposed to reassure us that he is not one of the unwashed hordes from the hinterland. It is also supposed to put the left wingers in Washington who likewise went to an Ivy League school on the defensive. But what does this say about our country?

We have not had a President since Ronald Reagan who didn’t go to an Ivy League school. No major party has nominated a non-Ivy Leaguer this millennium. Even in a nation as deeply divided about values and purpose as we are, in 2004 we had the spectacle of both sides of this division being represented by two Skull and Bones Yalies.

This isn’t the whining of a high school dropout, coming from a long line of same. For example, my grandfather, an achiever in his own right if not a scholar, was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. In 1911—the year before he graduated from Lehigh—there were four members of this fraternity sitting on the Supreme Court, none of whom were Ivy Leaguers. The fraternity rightly refers to these years as their “glory years.” So what’s going on?

To put things in perspective, let’s look at a country like France, which has been ruled by an educational elite for a long time. In France, things traditionally are simple: if you go to either Polytechnique or ENA, you have a chance of getting to the top, otherwise you’re stuck in the “provinces,” either literally or in a career sense. In the UK, you have Oxford and Cambridge to perform the same function. In all of these cases, surely these institutions of higher learning are not large enough to matriculate all of the capable people in these countries. So how is it possible for the Ivy League to perform the same function for the US, a country much larger than either of these?

Although the influence of the Ivy League has been disproportionate for a long time, the present trend began with the GI Bill after World War II, which gave Americans access to education in an unprecedented way. Education, rather than hard work and enterprise, has come to be seen as the way to the top in the US for far too many people. The idiotic Baby Boomers, never ones to do anything half way except what they should, have pursued this with a vengeance, driving their children like maniacs into the “best” primary and secondary schools so they can go to the “best” colleges and universities, which generally mean the Ivy League.

I cannot believe that the only people capable of directing our affairs as a nation are those who went to a small set of schools, liberal ones at that. I do believe that one reason why the general populace is enamoured with these people is because a) the whole political dialectic has been set up by these people for so long that everyone has become conditioned to it and b) they reflect their own aspirations, which have shifted from “traditional” American methods of personal advancement.

The casualty of all this is real diversity. Liberals ball and squall about the need for racial and gender diversity, all the while desiring to concentrate the real power holders as products of a small group of educational institutions where these people can be moulded after their own image and likeness. Such will destroy diversity of thought and perpetuate geographical, values and class divisions in this country.

In my years in the construction industry, I used to regularly read the magazine Engineering News-Record. In the back, where the bid offerings were published, they always put the slogan, “When you seal the envelope, you seal the verdict.” Today success in a broader sense is won or lost when the Ivy League school you have applied to, having gone through a process with a fair degree of subjectivity, seals the envelope. It’s time to start sealing our own envelopes again. Herodotus tells the story about the Persian King Cyrus, who turned down the suggestion to leave what is modern Iran and resettle in what is modern Iraq. He goes on to comment that the Persians agreed and “chose rather to live in a rugged land and rule than to cultivate rich plains and be subject to others.” This is true both literally and figuratively. If we don’t stop taking the easy way out and allowing an elite created by education to rule, then we will indeed no longer be the masters of our own destiny.

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