David Michael Miller
There are lots of reasons Gov. Scott Walker should not be president, but one of them is not the fact that he didn't complete his college degree at Marquette.
This is a topic that comes up regularly with my neighbors and others in my circle of friends and acquaintances. They're incredulous that a guy who didn't get his higher education ticket stamped would have ever been seriously considered for governor much less president. While I guess I shouldn't be surprised at that attitude in a college town like ours, it's in those moments that I get a taste for why the rest of the state thinks we're a bunch of out-of-touch elitists.
For evidence that college is overrated as a prerequisite for leadership I offer George W. Bush. Bush has a bachelor's degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. His record speaks for itself. I could rest my case right there, I suppose.
But let's look at the other side of the equation: those without college degrees who went on to be successful in all kinds of fields. They include Microsoft founder Paul Allen, film director Woody Allen, singer Joan Armatrading and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. And that's just a small sampling from those with names starting with "A".
A man who should have been president but never finished college was the late Illinois Sen. Paul Simon. Simon, who ran for president in 1988, was highly regarded for his thoughtfulness on the issues. He was the author of some 20 books. There was a joke going around at the time that Simon had written more books than the outgoing president in 1988, college graduate Ronald Reagan, had ever read.
Look, I understand that for people with average intellects, like myself, college pays off in higher earnings over a lifetime, and, we hope, it might make us better citizens for having a broader education. For those reasons alone Walker's $300 million cut to the UW System's budget is shortsighted. If college accomplishes anything, it should instill a lifelong habit of learning, but I know lots of people who have that intellectual curiosity who didn't finish college and lots who don't who did.
Aside from the fact that the college rap on Walker is just wrong, the reason that Democrats have to shed this education-elitist attitude is that it's killing them at the polls. Fully 68% of Americans don't have a college degree and are probably too old to seriously consider getting one. (And in nations like Germany, where far fewer people go to college, but where technical school training is stronger, the middle class does better.)
Those non-college grads include my mother, who was plenty smart enough to get into college but simply couldn't afford to go. To the extent I'm any kind of a halfway decent writer I get that from her. I only wish I had her penmanship.
So, what does it say to my mom and to millions of other Americans who couldn't afford to go to college or whose life experiences kept them away or who simply found success without it, that we think you can't be president if you didn't put in your four years?
Democrats got crushed in 2014 in large part because they lost by a big margin among middle-class whites without a college education -- the very people who are being so badly hurt by Republican policies and who could be helped by Democratic initiatives. They voted against the Democrats because of this yawning cultural divide, which is only fed by the idea that those not privileged to have collected a diploma need not apply to lead the nation.