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Whom would you vote for?

The Top
Good Men Politicians
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10

“Good” is not the adjective that springs to mind when most people think about politicians. Unscrupulous, self-serving, incompetent, sure—but good? Not so much.
As our political landscape grows ever more polarized—and ordinary Americans feel increasingly alienated from the political process—the conventional wisdom seems to be that when it comes to elected officials, a good man is hard to find. As humorist Kin Hubbard once put it, “We’d all love to vote for the best man, but he’s never a candidate.” At the Good Men Project Magazine, we want to believe that there are a few good men in politics. We need to believe it. So we spent the last few months looking for them. We looked for men with integrity and intellectual honesty. We looked for men who respect their political opponents, treat their constituents like the adults they are, and promote openness and transparency in government. We looked for men with compelling ideas—and the ability and vision to turn those ideas into action. Do we endorse everything they stand for? No. But we can respect those we disagree with. We looked for men who can see beyond the next election cycle and who have the political courage to lay the foundation for America’s future success—even if it means making unpopular decisions today. We looked for men who are willing to work in good faith with those from across the aisle in order to get things done. We looked for men who are not afraid to challenge their party’s leadership when that leadership is putting politics and partisan mudslinging above what’s best for the country. Most importantly, we looked for men who aren’t completely full of shit. *** Sadly, we didn’t find any. Just kidding. Believe it or not, there are actually more than 10 good men in politics. In list-making, as in politics, you can’t make everyone happy, so we had to exclude some worthy candidates from our Top 10 Good Politicians list. We also excluded many worthy women—we are the Good Men Project, after all. While we don’t expect our list to restore your faith in America’s political system, we do hope to bring your attention to elected officials worth respecting for their integrity, their passion, and their ideas. In addition to our list, we asked fifteen political thinkers, commentators, and journalists—including Cokie Roberts, David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, John Podesta, Chris Wallace, Andrea Mitchell, Joan Walsh, Thomas Frank, and Jonathan Capehart—for their nomination of a “good man” in politics.

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Mitch Daniels
What happens when you travel through Indiana in an RV and on a motorcycle, visiting all 92 counties (three times each) and sleeping in the houses of random strangers? If you’re Mitch Daniels, you get elected governor of Indiana. Twice. A Harley-riding budget wiz, Daniels was reelected in 2008, garnering the most votes in the history of the Hoosier state. He stood against the Obama tide that washed away so many conservatives. We respect Mitch Daniels because he does what he believes in—cutting spending, attacking government waste—even if it means axing some popular programs and upsetting people in the process. [read more]

Bernie Sanders
When Bernie Sanders, the Great Socialist Contrarian, spoke to a group of 60 students at South Burlington High School in Vermont in 2006, he didn’t begin with lofty rhetoric or empty political nonsense. Instead, he made a simple, unorthodox plea. “I urge you all to argue with your teachers, argue with your parents,” he told them, concluding with the observation, “The discussion we’ve had in here is at a higher level than what we often have on the floor of the United States Congress.” [read more]

Anh “Joseph” Cao
In Vietnamese, “Cao” means “tall.” At 5-foot-2, the Republican congressman might not be living up to his name, but he has managed to stand out from the crowd. In 2008, he ran for a New Orleans House seat against William Jefferson, a black nine-term incumbent in a largely Democratic and African-American district. Obama’s presidential campaign was running parallel, and for a time it didn’t look like Cao had a fighting chance. Luckily for Cao, Jefferson was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges. And, thanks to the late-season hurricane, the election was moved back to December. Voter turnout dropped dramatically, and Cao won. (He was dubbed “the accidental congressman.”) [read more]

Cory Booker
A thousand comedians have told jokes about Newark, New Jersey. Largely, they go unanswered. But when TV host Conan O’Brien made a good-natured jab at the city on NBC’s The Tonight Show, Mayor Cory Booker took up the charge and jabbed right back. “The mayor of Newark wants to set up a city-wide program to improve residents’ health,” O’Brien said. “The health-care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.” [read more]

Richard Lugar
Richard Lugar, the squared-away, combed-over Republican senator, has never cared about celebrity or notoriety. He doesn’t possess the eye-winking charm of Bill Clinton, nor the rhetorical gifts of Barack Obama. But in today’s politics, where substantive arguments are often outweighed by scandal, Lugar has avoided every 21st-century political pitfall, emerging as a historic figure revered for his steadiness and intellectual pursuits. [read more]

Jeff Flake
Before the Tea Party boiled over in anger over government spending, before it became vogue to hate waste, Jeff Flake was fed up with Washington’s high-pork diet and was crusading against earmarks. Officials have often tacked on perks to make sure bills benefit their constituents. Earmarks—addenda to bills requesting funding for projects unrelated to the bill itself—infuriate many Americans, for good reason. In 2006, Flake publicly challenged several requests— including $750,000 for a new building at the Los Angeles County Fair and $500,000 for a swimming pool in Banning, California. The earmark system, Flake argues, is in need of a major overhaul. [read more]

Mark Strama
Mark Strama was married in Playa del Carmen, a tourist town near Cancun. Despite being a state representative in Texas, he was one of the least famous people at his own wedding. Strama’s fiancée (now wife) was an Austin-based television journalist named Crystal Cotti. Present at the wedding were high-profile Texas lawyers and politicos. The doctor who delivered NFL quarterback Vince Young was present. So was journalist Lisa Ling. The Austin AmericanStatesman was there to chronicle the whole thing. The story was thorough, covering every part of the wedding—except Strama. The notoriously low-profile state representative was hardly more than background noise in his own region’s coverage. [read more]

Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio. He listens to John Tesh, drinks Miller Lite, and leads a Congressional exercise group. The man is arguably as exciting as an extra point in football. But Ryan has a plan to save America—and many folks are listening. His strategy, a combination of privatization and spending freezes, holds true to many core principles of conservatism. He aims to privatize Social Security, asking younger workers to shuttle their accounts to a non-government-run system; freeze discretionary spending but leave the military budget untouched; and, most controversially, eradicate the popular Medicare program and replace it with a voucher system. [read more]

Al Franken
At the annual Minnesota State Fair, mere weeks after Franken was sworn in, a group of Tea Party members angrily confronted the new senator, arguing with him over the Democratic position on health care and other issues. The encounter—like many political discussions that summer—had the potential to turn nasty. Then something strange happened. Instead of anger, the argument turned toward reason. Instead of shout ing, Franken led the group through a sober ten-minute discussion. “I thank you for your passion,” Franken told them. [read more]

Carl Levin
In April 2010, account executives from Goldman Sachs stood before Carl Levin, head of the subcommittee on investigations charged with probing the financial crisis. The senator focused on one particular odorous transaction, drawing attention to a Goldman memo that bragged of a deal that was to the company’s advantage. But as Levin pointed out, it wasn’t just any deal. “It was a shitty deal.” The hearing was live on C-Span, but Levin didn’t seem to care about his use of profanity. The more the Goldman executives offered excuses, the angrier Levin became. That scene became a viral sensation on the Internet. It wasn’t solely because of the image of a stately, graying senator, whom Jon Stewart calls “the kindly old shoemaker,” instilled with biblical rage. It was because Levin was doing what millions of Americans would have done themselves. He was holding the bastards—and all of their shitty deals—accountable for their actions. [read more]

At The Good Men Project Magazine, we write, discuss, and invite commentary on a whole slew of topics for men and about men in today’s world. Real, honest, complex, and thought-provoking.

www.GoodMenProject.com

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