Some will protest that candidates for office have no ethical obligation to be competent. After all, running a bad campaign is its own punishment: you lose. That is not necessarily true, however, particularly in the states, but even if it is true, you can do a lot of damage while losing.
Like any other role, task, or job, running for a high elected office like governor of a state comes with responsibilities. For one thing, other people would like to run, work hard at it, and in the process, help democracy work better by giving voters a choice. Incompetent candidates like Brown not only block someone from running who might be good at it, they also give voters less choice, and sometimes, no choice at all. Those who complain about President Obama should review the pathetic campaign performance of John McCain. All these years to prepare, and he couldn’t master the skill of reading from a teleprompter without looking like he had been zapped by Dr. Strange and sounding like a Rotary Club awardee who begins his speech with “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…”?
There is more to resent about inept candidates, but let us focus on what makes Brown so awful. Many Idahoans were introduced to him during the recent Republican candidates debate, in which he began the night dressed like a superannuated biker, which is apparently what he is, or maybe Santa Claus in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Then he launched into what is obviously going to be his real schtick: blue collar, redneck sensibilities as imagined in the stereotyped dreams of Bill Maher, delivered in wince-inducing bumper-sticker slogans and bad jokes that would be the low-lights of the worst stag party routine of all time.
Harley, as his website warns you, has declared war on “political correctness,” and he intends to campaign with what he egotistically calls “Harleyisms”:
“This is a unique compilation of American blue-collar attitudes, political philosophy and non-politically correct humor to both edify and entertain you.I am an opinionated grandfather trying to do what I can to help America become a better place for my grandchildren. To tell the truth, political correctness is in fact, “bondage to fear. “I am making a major political issue of FREEDOM from political correctness. I intend to walk the walk, not just talk the talk…I want to present myself as a much different “Candid Candidate” from the politically correct lawyers now dominating political circles. Perhaps then multitudes of righteous citizens ( particularly the hoards of my currently unregistered blue-collar brothers) will become politically active and help me fight for the futures of our grandchildren with tremendous passion motivated by love…I believe Harleyisms to be a splendid weapon against the vile bondage of political correctness…”
“Harleyisms,” however, really means “moldy and mostly unfunny jokes someone else made up that are only funny to bigots, fools and kids, and are certifiably embarrassing coming from anyone over the age of 12 who is claiming to be worthy of representing, leading, and looking out for the welfare of an entire state.”
Like far too many on the Right, Brown decries political correctness but doesn’t really understand the problem. It is important to be tolerant of worthless, offensive and annoying speech because to stifle it by law, force or threatened harm will inevitably undermine innovative, creative, productive and valuable speech, and thought too. People like Brown, who are incapable of useful, productive or original thought, think beating down political correctness is just about being able to crack Polish jokes, call gay people “fags”and make comments about blacks picking cotton without some long-haired commie making a stink about it He is the equivalent of the crude boor who celebrates his free speech by using “fuck” loudly in the CVS. Brown abuses free speech, and thus gives the lurking censors ammunition to attack it.
His intentional offensiveness is even dumber than that, however, because not approving of elected officials making jokes about “faggots,” whores and Arabs (Harley: How can you tell when an Arab reaches the age of maturity? He takes the diaper off his ass and plops it right on his head.) has nothing to do with political correctness at all. Elected officials, especially governors, who represent an entire state, cannot be trustworthy if they appear to denigrate some groups that already feel under siege, and that the government neither cares about them nor stands ready to respond to their problems and needs. Nor can such elected officials serve as effective role models for civility, respectful discourse, and dignified public service. The way for an elected official to show disapproval of political correctness is by refusing to chill free expression and discourage dissent, unlike, say, the big city mayors who declared the owner of Chick-Fil-A persona non-grata because of his social views. Harley Brown really thinks the way to combat political correctness is to elect a governor who thinks “A Jap will out Jew a Jew but a Chinaman will get the Jap’s socks” is clever. Or worth saying. Or coherent.
He has nothing at all to offer the public as governor, neither executive experience, nor demonstrated civic achievements, nor the sense to come out of the rain. The fact that he is so cocky without having anything to be cocky about is the ultimate proof of his incompetence. He has no idea what running a state entails, but assumes that once he gets there he’ll figure it out. For now, he thinks, it’s good enough to proclaim his dislike of big government, liberals, gun control and fags, and that should be enough. So he gets himself on TV, chows down on his temporary fame like a glutton, and in the process holds up his state, his party, and the tea party, which supports him, to ridicule, which, I have to say, they all deserve if they can’t muster better candidates than Harley Brown.
Naturally, MSNBC invites Harley to come on the air and be exposed further by Chris Matthews, and naturally, being completely unaware of his own deficiencies, he accepts. MSNBC loves to feature idiotic Republicans (they’re all like this, you see) just like Sean Hannity likes to find the most ignorant Democrat possible, ideally one who can’t utter a grammatical sentence, and let her talk about what a wonderful President Barack Obama is for 20 minutes.
Harley Brown makes me angry and sad for all these reasons, but perhaps most of all because he shatters a cherished illusion, that our representative democracy needs more regular folk, just plain citizens, running the government, just like Mr. Jefferson wanted it. Unfortunately, the average citizen is likely to be like Brown, narrow, uninformed, badly educated, opinionated with having a basis for the opinions, and hostage to ingrained biases that can’t be removed without blasting. So in addition to making his party, state, political philosophy, race, religion, gender, and species look bad, Harley also makes our form of government look ridiculous.
There’s one more thing unethical about being an incompetent running for high office.
Sometimes you win.
Now, Heeeeeeeeere’s Harley!