Four individuals are seeking Michigan’s 2018 Republican nomination for U.S. senator. Whoever wins will face incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow next November.
Two of the four stand out.
They are Robert Ritchie (aka Kid Rock) and John James.
Kid Rock, of course, needs no introduction. A popular rock music artist and notorious bon vivant, Kid Rock will be the candidate of Trump-style populism.
John James is a relative nobody. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
But the differences between these two men go far deeper than fame. Beyond their shared patriotism (which Kid Rock has proven by military music tours), the two candidates are the polar opposites.
For a start, John James hasn’t done much partying. He is a combat veteran who served in Iraq during the surge.
While Kid Rock was educated in the school of life, James’ served in the school of death. War.
Yet even before Iraq, James’ choice of education was anything but fun. The former Army helicopter pilot was instructed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. And as anyone who has graduated from West Point will tell you, a cadet’s four years in New York are hardly hedonistic. Instead, a cadet’s life is defined by the inculcation of intellectual rigor and three sacred words: duty, honor, country.
The dichotomy of education continues to this day. Where Kid Rock has never looked back since leaving high school, James has never stopped learning. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law and Systems (Industrial) Engineering, a Master’s in Supply Chain Management and Information Systems from Penn State University, and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
My point here is simple. Education matters.
Especially in politics.
It matters for reasons best proved by a former Republican candidate, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a prodigious boxer, but also a voracious reader. In 1903, Roosevelt wrote to a friend who had asked for book recommendations. I’ve clipped an excerpt of the letter below (the book list goes on for another page!).
The depth and diversity of that reading list speaks to something. It explains why Roosevelt’s confidence and skill was not simply born of the ether. It was forged by his lifelong intellectual curiosity. Roosevelt always wanted to know more, and in seeking that knowledge, he became a better citizen, clearer thinker, and great president. James follows that legacy.
Kid Rock does the opposite. He revels in the populism of easy songs, flowing beer, and a perpetual good time.
And that’s fine, we live in a free society and Kid Rock seems to be a good man. Between Herodotus and hedonism, however, the former seems more like the pathway to a better American future.
After all, while the opportunities facing the nation are great, they are also under threat. Our skyrocketing deficits are burying future generations in debt. Our healthcare system is increasingly unaffordable. The gap between our skills and jobs is increasingly wide. And around the world, we face many challenges.
Dealing with these issues will require conservative leaders who value intellectual curiosity as well as small government. Because the solutions will not always be simple.
Conservatives in Michigan thus face a serious choice. It’s a choice between two good, but very different men.
They can elect the candidate who uses the flag as a cape.
Or the candidate who serves the flag as his cause.