Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Caroline Kennedy "Qualified" to be a Senator?

Let us get to the point: What, exactly, are the qualifications to be a United States Senator?

According to the U.S. Constitution, a senator must be at least 30 years old, a citizen for at least nine years, and live in the state the senator represents. So, according to that august document, she is qualified to serve in the United States Senate.

There are other important factors, however, that speak to the qualifications of an individual for government/legislative service. Let us consider some of these:

  • Integrity. A legislator should be an honest person both in personal and public dealings.
  • Understanding of place. A legislator should recognize the parameters and limitations of the office. He or she should strive to work within those parameters while...
  • A spirit of service. A legislator must realize that he/she serves the people whom he/she represents. A legislator must not treat the position as one with which to benefit self (See: Blagojevich, Rod). Within the parameters of the office, service to constituents should be strong and prompt.
  • Philosophy and worldview. A legislator should demonstrate a philosophy and worldview that is compatible with the United States Constitution and the legislator's state constitution. In general, a legislator should view government as a necessary evil, to be kept minimal in size while able to perform its essential duties.
  • Knowledge of government. A legislator must educate himself concerning the mechanisms, history, and current affairs of government.
  • Ability to cooperate. A legislator is one of many; it behooves each to learn to deal with both allies and opponents.
Then there are other so-called "qualifications" which are not necessarily consistent with the above:
  • Ability to raise money, or the ability and desire to spend one's own money.
  • Political connections.
  • Name recognition.
  • Favor from people in high places.
Caroline Kennedy therefore stacks up as follows:
  • She meets the Constitutional requirements.
  • She meets the list of other so-called qualifications.
  • I have my questions, though, about the first list. Is she truly dedicated to the service of the people of New York (this would be a good question to ask re: the resigning N.Y. senator)? Will she strive to stay within the parameters of constitutional government, or seek to continue its expansion into areas never intended by the Constitution? As a democrat, is her philosophy and worldview consistent with the Constitution? How well will she work with members of both parties to do constructive political work?
I am not a New Yorker anymore, but if I were, I would want to know the answers to these questions. And quite frankly, if Caroline Kennedy demonstrates a commitment to small, constitutional government that maximizes the freedoms of the people (in other words, what republicans are supposed to be doing), and is willing to work with other senators and the president to that end, I have no problem with her becoming the next senator from N.Y. I would say the same thing about any other candidate who will be chosen.

And just for the record, Gov. Paterson, if you want to nominate me to take Hillary's place, I will move to N.Y. in a heartbeat.

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