Do We Want A “Regular Guy” For Congress?

Yesterday, I met with Guy Fogle, one of three men seeking the nomination to be the Democratic Party’s congressional candidate for Ohio’s 3rd District. The Special Democratic Primary is July 13.

The DDN recently ran an article, that, David Esrati declared, made Fogle’s campaign “toast.”  I responded to the article by finding a positive thought: Guy Fogle’s Life Story — Overcoming Adversity Of Cancer, Bankruptcy — Might Help Him Gain Votes.

Fogle is not running away from his recent history. He says all of his experiences will help him be a more effective congressman. Fogle’s position seem to be that one of the reasons he is most likely to do the best job is because he is the one most likely to understand what regular people in the 3rd District are going through. His web-site uses the headline, “A Regular Guy For Congress.”

In a way, I guess, the “regular guy” strategy was also Lincoln’s campaign strategy. People of his time could identify with the laborer who spit logs or with someone living primitively in a log cabin. Lincoln could understand the struggles on the common man, because he had endured and overcome those struggles. Lincoln could advertise himself as a common man, but, the catch: he rose to success because he was anything but common. He had amazing leadership qualities.

I told Guy that the phrase “regular guy” has some downside. I said, if we are in trouble, we want to find the best lawyer or the best doctor — not just a “regular guy.” Maybe “regular guy,” to me, sounds too much like “Family Guy.”

We want a leader to be a “common man,” yet we want him or her to be anything but common. We want our leaders to be extraordinary in their capacity to inspire, in their talent for bringing out the best, in their foresight, in their wisdom, in their capacity to engage and empower. A great teacher is a great leader and vice versa. We’ve amazingly dumbed down the whole concept of leadership in every area of our society. And we expect, and get, trivial, immature leadership from our political process

We have a crisis in leadership in this country and simply electing another Democrat to Congress will not address the crisis. We are putting people in office, in positions of authority, for all of the wrong reasons. Our task as Democrats is to choose a candidate who demonstratively shows more leadership than the incumbent Republican, Mike Turner — not just someone who has the best chance of winning.

We need to encourage a general discussion of representative effectiveness. We need to encourage a general discussion of what it means to be a leader.

How can you tell if your representative is doing a good job or not? The Ohio Department of Education has a check list that it uses to evaluate school districts — enough checks and presto you are deemed an “excellent school.”

As Democrats, we have the opportunity and obligation to define the debate. What is the checklist we should use to evaluate our representative to congress? I don’t think Mike Turner would get a check for “Shows leadership qualities.” I don’t think he’d get a check for “Educates and Informs the public,” nor one for, “Advances the common good”

The non-checked list is long. But, really it can all be summarized, in general, as leadership. We need a good Democratic definition of the term and we need a Democratic candidate who can demonstrate the kind of leadership that will inspire a grass roots movement. We need someone who can provide a compelling leadership alternative to Mike Turner and who can demonstrate the leadership in an effective campaign.

I am wanting to hear more from all three of the candidates: David Esrati, Joe Roberts, and Guy Fogle

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