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What the Republican Presidential candidates can learn from Donegal teenagers

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Rick Perry
The only thing that is preventing the Republican primary race from becoming a complete head bang is the sheer comicality of it. There’s Mitt Romney, who is only marginally more popular than smallpox; there’s Rick “EPA?” Perry, a man who is to memory and general regular behaviour what Mr Magoo is to eyesight; there’s Herman Cain, who I’m not sure could name any more than five other countries in the world; there’s Newt Gingrich, a man whose opinion of himself is in orbit, for no compelling reason. And then there’s the most hilarious of all, John Huntsman, the one sane man among them and the only one who could actually bring a fight to Obama, but his numbers are so low they can only be measured by the Kelvin Scale.

While the Republican base are amped up to stiff peaks of mental at the minute, the last two years in particular have not been good ones for political sanity in the States in general. Warped ideological fidelity has trumped practicality. Bloody-minded obstinacy is now apparently official policy. Every word spoken is either advancing or casting aspersions on some political agenda or other. It’s toxic in the extreme.

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Even at home, as election promises are still ringing in our sardonic ears, the feeling that we’ve driven down a dead end is pervasive.

Thank the baby Jesus and his farmyard ensemble cast, then, for the Donegal Youth Council.

Last Saturday I took twelve of the councillors for a politics day, a day where we’d discuss hot-button topics, moral dilemmas and discover what their opinions meant in the context of political groupings, parties and philosophies. The fact they were there on a Saturday morning/afternoon at all made sure I’d leave happy, but the manner in which they took to the issues left me elated.

They have previous form on this sort of thing, having asked questions of election candidates both in the general and Presidential elections earlier in the year questions you wouldn’t habitually expect from 13 to 18 year olds. But just as impressive as their grip on issues as varied as military intervention or economic policy was the method in which they had the conversation. They were measured, reasoned, and all their positions came from a basis in fact. In other words, several times more mature than 90% of the world’s elected representatives. When they disagreed, even on the contentious issues like abortion or drug legalisation, they took each other on earnestly and without animus. Nobody was out to win, or more to the point beat anyone.

I’m not sure what it is that makes so many candidates for high office the way they are, I’m not sure if the system moulds them a certain way or if the kind of people who run for those kind of things are just unusually venal, hysterical or straight-up bananas. But whatever the hell is the problem, maybe it should be young people running branches of government, while the Perrys and Newts of this world take a weekend class or two.

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