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John Merrill Is One of the People Who Suck

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column here at The American Spectator entitled “We Are Governed by People Who Suck.”

That piece had a couple of nice features to it. First, that it was quite entertaining — at least, according to the feedback I received from it. And second, that it was absolutely, positively, unquestionably, obviously true.

But the column had been written as a reaction to a torrent of missteps and outrages committed by the Biden administration and its allies in Congress. As such, it focused on the unquestionable fact that the Democrats in control of Washington deeply, truly suck.

No one should infer from that truth the contention that because the Democrats suck, the Republicans don’t. I never said that and certainly don’t claim it.

How could I? Everyone knows there are lots of Republican politicians who suck. An outstanding case in point, which came to light this week, is John Merrill, the secretary of state in Alabama.

If you’ve never heard of John Merrill, it’s all right. By the weekend you will long for your blissful ignorance about Merrill and his various nocturnal predilections. Because it’ll be everywhere.

What are we talking about? It seems that Merrill, who has held himself out as a paragon of Christian virtue while scaling the political heights from serving as the spokesman for the Tuscaloosa County School District to the Alabama House of Representatives to his current job, which he’s held since the 2014 elections, and even ran a failed 2020 campaign for the U.S. Senate and has been angling toward running for the Senate again, had an extramarital affair.

More than one, it appears, as a woman had come forward in 2015 claiming she performed oral sex on Merrill during a 2010 intrigue; he denied that but admitted an “inappropriate” relationship and survived the small tempest that resulted.

But he won’t survive this one. Not after the scrupulous, granular detail that Cesaire McPherson, a 44-year-old legal assistant from Montgomery, provided to the online political blog the National File. McPherson held nothing back, including a full description of Merrill’s rather exotic sexual tastes and even the asymmetric quality of his genitals.

Which gives rise to several questions, among them how come this guy can’t find a mistress who won’t go to the papers after he breaks up with her? He’s like a bank robber who takes a nap in the getaway car because he wants to get caught.

What’s irritating is that Merrill will be blown out of politics not because of the deeds in question but because of his hypocrisy. He held himself out as moral and virtuous according to a standard that has been accepted in this country almost since its founding, and his inability to meet that standard will be proof that the standard is no good.

They (meaning our media elites and chattering classes) always do this to Republican politicians, because the Republicans know their voters won’t generally support those who won’t at least aspire to behavioral norms and therefore pay homage to the standards. When a Bill Clinton gets busted, it’s a non-story because Bill Clinton never bothered to hold himself up to any standard of behavior. We should be putting the corrupt People Who Suck on trial, and instead it’s the standards; who benefits from that? And why do we always fall for it?

John Merrill isn’t through in politics because he’s a perv who calls himself a Christian. Or at least he shouldn’t be. He ought to be done in politics because he’s a perv whose xxx-rated deviant sexual habits are now a matter of public information. The hypocrisy doesn’t make this worse — it’s already over the top.

That we have this kind of thing over and over again says bad things about our culture, but it speaks loudest about our political culture.

According to the Alabama secretary of state’s website, John Merrill’s annual salary is $87,805.20. To win reelection in 2018, Merrill raised some $220,000 and spent about $175,000 of that — in a more or less uncontested race in which his Democrat opponent didn’t even go through $10,000. He traveled all over the state, kissed all the babies, ate all the rubber chickens, glad-handed all the usual suspects … for $88,000 a year.

Most normal, decent people capable of running an operation as big as the Alabama secretary of state’s office could command a whole lot more than $88,000 per year doing private-sector work. As high-end executive positions go, that job sucks. That’s why you’re so often stuck with the John Merrills of the world doing it.

Run for office and you’ll have your life taken apart. Did you get a DUI when you were in college? It’ll come out in the media. Tax problems? Everybody’s going to know. Bad breakup in your past? Have an answer for all the lurid accusations sure to come when you run.

Do you really want to go through all of that for $88,000? Of course not.

Unless you’re the type of narcissist who likes that kind of thing, and who thinks all press is good press no matter how humiliating.

And that, all too often, is who we get in politics.

There is no real way to fix this. It is literally the age-old question, the one ranking, in importance to an analysis of the governance of man, just under the famous description attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history: whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”

How do you recruit moral men and women, incorruptible by power, to govern?

The answer is that you can’t. If you could, we would have cracked the code on politics and government a long time ago.

Vote Democrat and you will be governed by the Anthony Weiners and AOCs, for whom power over their fellow man is the strongest narcotic in the world, save perhaps for the license that power gives them to flout the conventions of society. Or vote Republican and you risk the John Merrills and Mark Sanfords.

It isn’t a coincidence so many political figures become laughably corrupt in their personal financial dealings or unspeakably corrupt in their sexual ones. That narcissistic, corruptible, attention-whore personality is drawn to politics just as strongly as it is to personal vice.

And you can’t solve this. Our founding fathers sought to deal with it by limiting the power and impact of these people. Small-government conservatism aims to continue that insulation and mitigation, and it has to be the default position of any sane, intelligent, self-sufficient voter.

Because when you can’t avoid being governed by People Who Suck, it’s imperative to shrink down their impact on you as much as possible.