A frightening symptom is caused by a major systematic problem – that’s true in medicine, and it’s true in politics.
This birther nonsense that has popped up in Arizona over the last few weeks isn’t really about the president’s citizenship. Even the candidates and elected officials who are pushing this stuff don’t seem to actually doubt that the president is a citizen.
There is a clear uneasiness in the language they use – a lack of clarity and confidence that belies their actual feelings on the issue. These politicians flail about in their reasons for asking the state of Hawaii for evidence proving the president is eligible for the ballot because they know how absurd their actions are.
So to get back to the medical analogy – I am a doctor after all – the symptom here is ridiculous behavior from people who should know better. The cause is our broken politics and public discourse that incentivizes the wrong things – rewarding this kind of bizarre behavior.
The good news is, there is a course of treatment.
When I travel around Arizona, I constantly hear how frustrated people are by a lack of leadership from our elected officials. Things have gotten so bad in our state that a lot of folks I meet have lost faith that our political process can get anything done.
We can get back to being a state that solves big problems. Arizona can be state with sustainable economic growth, first-rate public schools and a strong public health system – and we can do all that with significantly more fiscal discipline than we are seeing from the capitol today.
The potential is there. But first, we need to make some choices.
Our leaders need to make the simple choice for commonsense and core competency over bizarre publicity stunts that may get you on television, but are an embarrassment to our state. And as voters, we all need to make the decision that we’re going to reward behavior that moves this state forward and ignore the sideshows that block progress.
Unfortunately though, too many of our politicians are making the choices detrimental of our state.
We live in a world of YouTube moments and divisive partisan arguments. And because too many of our leaders are career politicians who focus on getting themselves reelected over serving the people, the folks we elect to represent our communities are instead trying to one-up each other in this strange game of pushing distractions, instead of issues, just to get on television.
It’s shameful. And it’s why political paralysis reigns today in Washington and at our state capitol.
Many observers have blamed this rash of birther “investigations” in Arizona on career politicians pandering to the extremes. They posit that it must be helping these guys get elected, because why else would they do it?
But here’s the thing: all this birther stuff is doing is turning people off to the political process. It’s not helping anybody.
It’s an embarrassment that the state of Hawaii recently needed to send our Secretary of State proof of the President’s birth. And it’s inexplicable that the same evidence that finally persuaded our Secretary of State is being ignored by the Maricopa County Sheriff — who feels it is necessary to send a deputy to Hawaii for his “investigation.”
Let’s do better Arizona.
Dr. Richard Carmona is the 17th Surgeon General of the United States and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.