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Once, Credentials Determined Officials
Thought Experiment: how many of our highest-impact careers, tasked with protecting everyone's health, safety, and welfare, practice at will, without thresholds for schooling, credentials, or skill-sets? Hardly any. Age and birthplace aside, there are more task-oriented validations to operate a truck, ship, plane or train than run the White House. Such careers, because they overtly risk life and limb, require written, vision, lessons and/or real-world operating tests. And for "high prestige" professions, like medicine, dentistry, engineering, law and psychiatry, demands for elaborate proofs of real achievements apply.
No one trusts the multitude to assess heart surgeons, approve bridge construction, or certify life-saving genetic research. Why is it, compared to countless other, all-important roles, that "law-makers" stand alone, above the law, immune from demands to validate competence? Politics remains a glaring, backward exception to a complex, modern culture that rightly demands top credentials for top jobs: any buffoon struts into high political office and commandeers god-like powers over life and death.
This is no elitist whine or demand for consensus. We're not talking about mandating law, political science or economics degrees, but asking why politicians have such low bars for qualifications and on-the-job training. Listen to current, unelected loudmouths, too busy or arrogant to serve on a school board or planning commission, as if bravado stands in for what they don't know about government. Today, as mass media and concentrated wealth pollute public forums, time for adults to do what they do when facing mayhem: enact better rules of the road. Is it unreasonable to demand candidates prove they 1) understand the basics of governance (vs. strident obstructionism and blackmail), 2) have clues about modern knowledge, especially in science, so 3) they can stop turning American leadership into the world's laughing stock.
Buffoons are Health Hazards
So, how exceptional is politics, dependent for "credentials" simply on winning? Very. Not like doctors or nurses (nor most health specialists), not engineers or building contractors, plumbers or electricians, not teachers or professors: all need "outside" credentials. Ditto for CPAs, ship captains, lawyers, judges, vets, realtors, pharmacists, investment advisers, insurance agents, clergyman, scientists, casino owners or taxi drivers, every pilot whatever the plane -- plus folks in contact with living bodies (life-saving guards, physical therapists, often beauticians and manicurists). Even craven corporate lobbyists must register in advance.
In contrast, here's my short list for jobs without formal or established credentials: politicians and their advisers (nefarious spin doctors like Karl Rove), actors and entertainers, TV newscasters and journalists, pro sports players, CEOs and business managers/owners (though corporate executives often have academic, even advanced degrees). Even low-level jobs, like warehousing, retail, or postal clerks, need high school degrees and face mental health, drug or law enforcement scrutiny. Anyone for testing Trump's mental health?