Open Primaries: Let Whitman Run

California is in shambles. I am currently looking for paid work in the Sacramento area and wherever I apply, the advice is the same: stay away from the government. The situation is so bad that people are taking unpaid, forced vacations to keep their jobs. With the world economy the way it is, relief is almost entirely out of the question. Still, some people want to come to our aid.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has taken the first steps to run as a Republican for governor of our bankrupt state. The billionaire has gathered an exploratory committee that will allow her to raise funds for her bid as governor. She is expected to financially back most of her own campaign in 2010. There is nothing wrong with Whitman’s bid despite the problems her candidacy will bring. She is nothing new, she embodies what makes democracy great and will help to change political trends.
Whitman is far from the first wealthy or well-known figure to run for public office. John McCain and John Kerry each used his own personal fortune to run for president. Arnold Schwarzenegger embarrassingly became our governor in 2003 in the wackiest political event in recent memory by reaching into his own pocket. One of America’s most famous presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, did the same at the turn of the century.
Whitman is by no means a perfect candidate. She has absolutely no previous experience. Many are quick to cite that she can oversee management of a billion dollar industry, but politics and business are not synonymous despite their close links. Having billions of dollars also puts her out of touch with the common person. How can someone with enough money to fill several dump trucks understand the plight of a family that cannot afford to feed itself?
The point of my argument is not to say she is a good candidate. She may be an awful choice for governor. With all the turmoil in Sacramento, the state needs someone with solid experience and an excellent track record. Despite arguments from her critics against her campaign, there is no reason she should not be in the running. In fact, she helps to illustrate what makes democracy wonderful.
An amazing aspect of our nation is that given the right circumstances, anyone can run for office. Of course, there is the stipulation that you need at least a couple million dollars, but in theory, anyone able to raise the money and gain public support can gain access to the highest levels of power. Some of America’s best leaders have been political long shots. Theodore Roosevelt was undersecretary of the Navy before he became vice president and then president due to William McKinley’s assignation. President Abraham Lincoln belonged to the marginally successful Republican Party and was able to win mostly through luck.
Whitman also serves to illustrate a growing trend over the last three years in politics. Since George W. Bush’s second term, a growing distrust of established politicians has developed in the nation. Hillary Clinton most likely lost due to her well-established political ties. President Barack Obama was able to win because he had little experience in government. He stood as a blank, uncorrupted slate. The nation had suffered almost 20 years of the White House being held by two families. In order to have a chance against him, McCain had to practically pretend that he had not been a senator for the last few decades.
Again, given her complete lack of a record, it is far too early to tell whether or not Whitman is the best candidate. However, despite her lack of experience, she should be allowed to run for office with few rolled eyes on our part. Despite her Republican ties, she represents a movement away from established party practices, just as Obama did. Her candidacy is not a novelty, and it is not impossible given that predecessors from similar backgrounds were able to achieve greatness.

Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.edu.