Ruth McClung is running for Congress in Arizona’s 7th District. She seems like an interesting person–physics degree, works in rocketry at an engineering company, worked her way through college, enjoys rock climbing, an amateur painter whose work has been displayed in local galleries.
Views on specific issues aside, it’s great to see so much true diversity among some of the new people running for office. Too many of the old crowd are made in the same mold…typically lawyers, who have spent their entire careers in public office, government “service,” or in pseudo-private positions (lobbyists, attorneys focusing on regulatory issues) which are closely connected to their governmental experience..or activists and “community organizers,” types of activity which are really just other kinds of lobbying…and many them appear to have little intellectual or emotional depth and no real interests in life other than the acquisition of personal political power and influence.
And diversity of career background and interests promises real benefits for improving the effectiveness, and even the sanity, of government. See for example Ruth’s op-ed a physicist’s perspective on energy independence. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few people in Congress who actually understand something about how energy is produced and distributed? And a substantial number of people who have actually created and run companies? And lots of other backgrounds? Lawyers are an essential part of our society, but there is no reason why we should have allowed the the running of our country to become so much of a legal monoculture, let alone that we should have allowed what was supposed to be a representative body to be composed of so many people that are there for decades and have little experience or comprehension of any other kind of activity.
In political philosophy, the concept of “virtual representation” has several interrelated meanings. One of these meanings, the idea that one can be represented without being able to vote for those who make the decisions, was an argument often put forward by those who opposed expansion of the franchise in 19th century Britain. The idea was that the agricultural laborer didn’t need to vote because the landowner for whom he worked would represent “the landed interest”, which included him, while the factory worker didn’t need to vote because the factory owner would represent “the manufacturing interest.” Our political class has become so self-contained and self-perpetuating that the current situation–in which lawyers, “community organizers,” and professional politicians supposedly represent people in a vast diversity of occupations and with a great diversity of interests–comes uncomfortably close. Indeed, one could argue that the disconnect between the interests of the members of our political class and the interests of those they represent is just about as great as the disconnect between the interests of the 1840 factory owner and his operative–maybe even more so.
When considering your choices in the coming election, I think it is entirely reasonable to consider a candidate’s occupational background and, other things being more or less equal, to favor the opening up of the legislative and executive branches to a broader range of experiences and talents.