Chad Taylor Pulls a Sherman

In 1867, Prime Minister of Prussia Otto von Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible.”

Somewhere along the way, politicians figured out, politics is the art of the profitable.

A WWII-era novel chronicled the meteoric rise of an entertainment mogul who stepped on and stabbed friends all along the way to the top. He had to learn, “You can’t eat your brothers and have them too.”

Politicians’ drive to possible power and profit is a truth we hold to be self-evident. What is harder to understand is when a politician chooses NOT to run.

So what is making Chad Taylor un-run? Or, perhaps, run from running.

AP reports that Democratic nominee Chad Taylor filed a petition Tuesday with the Kansas Supreme Court to get his name removed from the Nov. 4 ballot in the U.S. Senate race, less than a week after he ended his campaign against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Not so fast. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who is the state of Kansas’ chief elections officer, refused to take Taylor’s name off the ballot because Taylor failed to comply with a state election law requiring him to state in writing that he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office. Taylor only sent a letter saying he was withdrawing, but didn’t give any explanation.

So it now remains a three-way race: Republican Sen. Roberts, Democratic candidate Chad Taylor and independent candidate Greg Orman.

What makes someone come to a reserved table at a restaurant — then suddenly decide he’s not hungry after all?

Was Taylor doing some soul-searching? Or could it have something to do with the fact that the three-term incumbent, Sen. Roberts, is certain to win reelection in a three-way race? Was it a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher to try to drive Orman home?

In the old days kingmakers picked candidates in “smoke-filled rooms.” — “a place of political intrigue and chicanery, where candidates were selected by party bosses in cigar-chewing sessions.” Safire adds, “The era of air-conditioned hotel rooms has blown away much of the literal meaning.”

“Sherman statement,” says Safire came about when GOP boss Charles Halleck couldn’t convince Senator Barry Goldwater to run for president, in 1963. F. Clifton White, who was getting ready a draft-Goldwater campaign, responded, “At least he didn’t pull a Sherman on us.”

Pulling “a Sherman” refers to when celebrated Civil War Union hero General William Tecumseh Sherman told the Republican National Convention in 1884, “I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected.”

The folk process of political memes has smoothed the rough edges and added cadence to Sherman’s statement making it: “If nominated, I will not accept; if elected I will not serve.”

While Sherman was a hero to the Union, hundreds of Native American widows and orphans surely wished he would also have refused the post of General.

In 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson ran hapless if not hopeless campaigns against General, then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The national mood was “I Like Ike.” Stevenson was perhaps most famous for being the “reluctant candidate.”

Perhaps mimicking Stevenson’s reluctance, Walt Kelly in ‘52 and ‘56, ran a series in his Pogo cartoon of all the characters eagerly trying to get Pogo elected president. All of them, that is, except Pogo himself. He wasn’t playing ‘possum; the Pogo character was a ‘possum.

In one panel, Pogo tells his friend Porkypine, “I repeats what somebody else says — ‘If nominated I will not run — if elected, I will not serve.’”

Porky responds, “You live up to that an’ mebbe you’s jes the type man we been needin’ all along…”

But another character, Bun’ Rabbit, throws cold water on the campaign: “That’s not zackly a change — We’s had public officials in our time what dee-livered that and never even promised it! What we needs is somebody honest — he don’t promise anything.’ An’ he lives up to it!”

The problem with “real” world public servants is, too often, they aren’t the servants of the public. It is the public who are their servants.

From the ridiculous to the sublime — consider another plane of existence: the tzaddikim who ran away from kavod.

When the position of Rebbe fell to Harav Shlomo of Radomsk, he refused, declaring himself unfit. That Shavuos, he escaped Radomsk to spend Yom Tov with Harav Yechezkel of Kuzmir. Upon greeting him, the Kuzmirer told him:

The Torah says “And Moshe descended from the mountain to the people, and he sanctified the people…” (Shemos 19:14). Rashi says, “This teaches us that Moshe did not turn to his own business — he went directly from the mountain to the people.”

“Now tell me, Reb Shlomo, what kind of businesses did Moshe Rabbeinu have? Did he have a store? No, of course not. The point is that when Moshe saw the need for working with the people of Israel — to bring them closer to Hashem — he took himself to the task at hand, suspending his personal worship for the needs of the community.”

After Yom Tov, Rav Shlomo accepted the Kuzmirer’s mussar and returned — not to be served — but to serve as Rebbe in Radomsk.