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Peter R. Orszag

Nobody Wants to Be a Politician Now

Polarization and scandals turn off young people.
Scandalized.

Scandalized.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Young people are disaffected with the political process and lack any interest in running for office, a new book by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Richard Fox of Loyola Marymount University demonstrates. Yet the book itself perhaps unintentionally underscores one of the key reasons why: We know too much about our politicians.

There are 519,682 elected officials in the U.S., the authors note, the vast majority of whom hold local jobs; they are mayors, city councilors, school board members, coroners or recorders of deeds. It is essential to the effective functioning of government -- without which the nation cannot succeed -- that competent people are willing to run for these offices.