In Politics, Only the Dull Need Apply

The recent controversy over U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s teenage dabbling with witchcraft illustrates the difficulty in getting good people to run for office.

Power Line and Patterico both proclaimed O’Donnell’s political career over as a result of the incident. If dabbling in the occult as a teenager is enough to permanently damage any potential political career, Republicans could find a shallow pool of potential future candidates. According to a 2006 Barna poll, 73% of teenagers were to one extent or another experimenting in the occult.

One could argue O’Donnell’s great offense was not the dabbling in witchcraft, but talking about it on national television. This is acceptable provided you only want political leaders who have successfully covered up all of their mistakes in preparation for a future run for political office and have lived a closed life full of dishonesty and half-truths.

Dealing with youthful indiscretions is hardly a new issue in politics. President George W. Bush made no effort to hide his rough youth, declaring, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.” He chose not to go into grueling details, and this was fine with the American people even though, for eight years, leftist scandalmongers speculated about Bush’s drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately, twenty-first century technology could make this method obsolete.

Thanks to the rise of the Internet and social media, permanent records are creating of all kinds of things a sensible person would not want to exist anywhere, such as drunk pictures on Facebook, a blog post flirting with anarchism or the occult, a tweet celebrating a sexual conquest, or an online diary written during a dark period.

This information can be hidden from the casual searcher, but not highly paid opposition researchers. Potential candidates who care about their families and reputations may forgo running for office to avoid the disclosure of embarrassing details from their past, particularly if Christine O’Donnell’s high school years are lethal.

What we will be left with in politics are a few boy scouts and girl scouts, but mostly power-hungry career politicos who live a clean and boring life out of a desire to fulfill themselves by ruling others. Get ready for the era of the sociopathic narcissist.