The public perception of elected officials has hit rock-bottom in this country.
Eight percent. That’s the portion of Americans who think the U.S. Congress does a good job, according to a poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted last month by Rasmussen Reports.
With such negativity leveled at elected officials, what kind of people are going to want to embrace politics in the future?
Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been compared to fascist and genocidal megalomaniacs like Adolf Hitler. There have been grown men demonstrating at the Decatur Post Office carrying a giant head shot of the president with a Hitler ‘stache drawn on it. It’s safe to say the negativity and vitriol surrounding national level politics is about as high as most people can remember.
In such a toxic climate, it’s hard to imagine any child saying their dream is to grow up and become president. What kind of young person could embrace stepping into the arena to inhale the stench of the boil- and pustule-covered body politic?
But in the midst of negative droning, Tuesday’s primary election became a refreshing revelation on the local level. The excitement and positivity surrounding the victory by J.D. Clark in the Republican primary for Wise County judge was palpable.
It was a campaign run the right way from the start. Clark had built up a reputation by volunteering for his hometown for years, bringing real, hands-on improvements to the city of Chico where he served as a young and green city councilman before taking over as one of the youngest mayors in the state.
He continued to be active on crucial issues affecting local residents, from federal EPA designations to veterans’ affairs. From the ground up, Clark developed himself into a serious candidate with a strong voting base by action, not words.
Now he has carried that over to become one of the youngest county judges since the position was created by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1841. No offense to Jim Stegall, the Democratic candidate for county judge, but considering more than 90 percent of the people voted Republican in the primary and Clark just trounced two men both more than twice his age in a three-way Republican primary race, the general election in November is almost an afterthought at this point.
The exciting thing for me in Clark’s victory was to see a young, positive politician not jaded by the system, with no apparent selfish motives other than maybe the gratifying feeling of accomplishment. New energy, new ideas and a mind willing and open to learn from his elders is what we can expect from the county judge over the next four years.
And there are already whispers that Clark is a rising star in the political realm, that the office of county judge is a step that could eventually lead to higher office down the road.
Could Wise County be the launching pad for a politician who eventually rises above the pessimism that has created an 8-percent positive rating?
If Clark chooses that road, will he get corrupted by the power and big money of corporate donors or remain the same man he is today?
I’m getting ahead of myself.
But for now, I’m glad I got the opportunity to actually vote for a political candidate I can believe in.
Brandon Evans is a reporter for the Messenger.