This morning Politico asks a perennial question:
Jeb Bush might have pledged to conduct his campaign “joyfully,” but it’s hard to see the modern-day presidential campaign—months on the road, relentless attacks, kowtowing to donors—as anything but joyless. And if you make it through all that, your prize is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Why do they do it? To understand, Politico Magazine asked leading psychologists and psychiatrists to get inside the candidates’ heads and diagnose the urge to run. Is it narcissism? Masochism? Psychosis? Are presidential candidates just like the rest of us—or are they just out of their minds?
Some aspirants to the pinnacle of executive power in these United States probably are sufferers – enjoyers? – of some delusion or other. But they’re united far better under a different awning: their highest priority is the attainment of power. They demonstrate the intensity of their desire for power by enduring the rigors of a nationwide campaign.
Before the presidency was made dependent on popular balloting, one could not seriously say that anyone campaigned for the office in a sense comprehensible to contemporary Americans. State legislatures selected the electors; the electors selected the president-to-be. It was possible for aspirants to lobby the electors once their names were known, but a campaign of the sort we suffer today would have been deemed proof of psychosis.
Perhaps it should still constitute proof today. Of course, that would mean that anyone who chooses to run for president would be swiftly certified and packed off to some pleasant institution where the residents’ rooms have soft walls and the doors lock from the outside. But that might not be such a bad thing, considering the damage popularly elected presidents have done to the Republic over the century behind us.