So, not long ago, a person came to me and said he wanted to run for political office. I asked, “What do you want to do?” He said, “I know I can lead, I really feel called to this!” I asked again, “But what to you want to accomplish?” He said, “Well I want to get elected.”
If there’s anything that I have learned in my 16 years in Virginia politics, it’s this: Ambition, particularly raw ambition, is corrosive; corrosive to the political process, corrosive to the people, and corrosive to the soul of those who seek office, including those who feel “destined” to do so.
To be sure, there are ambitious people who want to be elected to political office. I ran for the nomination of Lieutenant Governor in my party. There was ambition there. But at 63 years old, I was running with a purpose in mind. I won’t recount that here, but it wasn’t because I needed more medals on my chest or another “promotion”. Had plenty. And to be clearer yet, I hold no resentment to those who are ambitious for whatever reason. It’s not for me to judge anyway.
But I would make this observation. I think it’s time in America to go in search of what I would call “reluctant warriors” to run for office.
Permit an illustration. In Virginia today, there are no less than four people declared to run for the US Senate against Senator Tim Kaine. I know Tim and I like him personally. We were in a bible study together for several years. But I don’t agree with his policies any more than he agrees with mine. We’re, shall we say, polar opposites when it comes to politics. And I think the policies of his party are taking us in the wrong direction. But I digress.
The people who have stepped up to run against him have their reasons. They’ll grace you campaign-long with them. But I have to say that I’ve grown a bit disillusioned with the next “destined” leader, or the one who nurses a messianic vision of power and position, not to mention the pay check that accompanies it. I’m even a bit suspect of people who run and supply us with generalizations like “I just want to do what’s right” or “I want to serve the people” or, well, you fill in the blank. Power is corrosive and gives rise to the worst instincts in us to include pride.
That’s why I’m in search of what I would call “reluctant warriors.” I spent a lot of time in the military where there are real warriors, not “political combatants” who tell us how they are “fighting” for this or that. Most of them have never truly been in a real fight, much less gotten their nose bloodied for any reason.
Where are these reluctant warriors? Well in general, they are busy being successful in their field of pursuit, their vocation. And if they are successful, they are very likely unimpressed with those who seek fame and fortune in the political realm. They are reluctant, frankly, to get involved with the down and dirty of politics. After all, when you wrestle with a pig, you get muddy and the pig enjoys it. Better to make a payroll.
Nonetheless, if there was ever a time for someone of accomplishment to step up, it’s now.
We need people to run who understand that there’s more to politics than bumper-stickers, one-liners, negative characterizations, and issue-pandering. There’s the business of governing, of making “the trains run on time”, of sustaining the Republic as the founders wanted us to, of following the Constitution, and yes, even compromising on legislation to achieve the aforementioned goals.
These reluctant warriors are not stepping forward because they’re disgusted. I can’t say I disagree with them. Whether it’s the fringe of the two major parties, or the careerist-oriented establishment in either party, or the egocentric personalities, they want no part of it. But if ever there was a time for people of quality to move to the front of the ranks, it’s now.
I know many conservative CEO’s, educators, retired military (lots of them), teachers, doctors, lawyers, small business folks, men and women alike who would be outstanding public servants (US senators too) and have NEVER held public office for a single solitary second. Alas, they are disinclined. Which means some of us need to be in the business of “inclining” them…calling them to public service.
Sixteen years ago, conservatives in Prince William recruited me to run for the House of Delegates. I was definitely not the establishment pick. Nevertheless, I told those seeking me out that “I didn’t know anything about Virginia Government” in the hope they would desist in their appeals. Their response? “Don’t worry, no one else does either.”
After a great deal of reflection, I went forward and I’m glad I did. But it wasn’t my intent. I share this because in arriving at my decision to run, I had to ask myself “what do I want to accomplish?”
The answer to that question today is vastly less complicated but far more important: protect the constitution, advocate for free market principles, and advance pro-family policies. Indeed, save the Republic from the ignorant people who have to come to believe that socialism is our salvation. That will take people willing to sacrifice, not people looking for the next meal ticket, position, or klieg light.
Scott Lingamfelter is a member of the House of Delegates for the 31st District.