The Value of Experience
“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” — Steven Wright
It used to be we looked for experience in our leaders. FDR served as state senator, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Governor of New York. Eisenhower served as general and military governor. Reagan was a union leader, a political activist (for both parties), and Governor of California. Bill Clinton spent twelve years as Governor of Arkansas, as well as serving as the state’s Attorney General. Even George W. Bush, who many of his supporters now agree was a poor president, served two terms as Governor of Texas.
Fast forward to the 2016 presidential campaign. Favorite Hillary Clinton has been elected Senator twice, and served six years as Secretary of State. She has never run anything. Yet far from being an outsider, she’s been the wife of an experienced politician, and is supported by big-money interests. (Does her husband’s experience make her more qualified?)
Donald Trump has never been elected to anything. He’s a famous businessman, yet not entirely successful (five of his businesses have gone into bankruptcy). He’s supported presidential candidates from both parties, including George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. From 2001 – 2009, he was a registered Democrat. Now, he’s a Republican claiming he can lead the nation.
Ted Cruz has been elected exactly once, as a junior senator from Texas. He did serve as a legal adviser to George W. Bush, and spent 5 years as Solicitor General in Taxes.
Ben Carson is a retired doctor who has no political experience at all.
Marco Rubio served eight years in the Florida state senate, and served as majority leader for several years. He’s served one term in the U.S. Senate.
John Kasich, who’s running in third place among the GOP, served 4 years in the Ohio state senate and 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was also elected Governor of Ohio. On the Republican side, he’s got the most significant political experience. He’s also the only candidate to have run a state.
Then there’s Bernie Sanders, who served three terms as mayor in Burlington, VT, 16 years in the U.S. House, and 8 years as a U.S. Senator. He has more years of political experience than any of the other candidates, and is the only candidate besides Kasich who has ever run an administration.
Ironically, the Hillary Clinton campaign regularly attacks Bernie for his inexperience, as do pro-Clinton editorials around the country. But let’s look at the facts: By my count, Hillary has won two elections and served a total of 12 years in two positions. She has never run an administration. Bernie, on the other hand, has won eight elections, and served in four positions over 35 years. He has three times the experience of Clinton. Both served on many of the same committees. It’s hard to gauge their respective records of “getting things done,” but many commentators suggest that Bernie’s record on working both sides of the aisle exceeds Hillary’s.
But none of that matters. We’ve become a cult of personality, and it looks like we’ll be given a choice between Clinton and Trump. The two most experienced candidates, Sanders and Kasich, will fall by the wayside.