Setti Warren's Ambition

A few years ago, I attended one of Setti Warren’s “Meet and Greets” while he was running for mayor of Newton. I cannot remember anything he said, but I left with the impression that he was quite enthused about the job he was applying for. He was articulate; he was affable…one of Biden’s “bright and clean and nice looking” black politicians. Well, he won the election, and now, only sixteen months after taking office, he wants a promotion. He wants to be a United States senator.

I applaud Mr. Warren’s ambition; I lament how misdirected it is. What is it about politicians that they cannot be content with the jobs they have? At forty, Mr. Warren’s political career is just beginning, and yet he wants to proceed immediately to a job that many would consider a capstone to a career. (Unless Mr. Warren has presidential ambitions—and who these days doesn’t?—that is precisely what it will be.) The idea that politicians should wait their turn no longer exists, of course, and I’m not stupid enough to believe we can restore it. In any case, I’ve never given much credence to “experience” and so I’m not suggesting Mr. Warren must serve three terms as mayor before a senatorial bid.

One of the unfortunate results of receiving a Western education is that we are taught—not explicitly of course—to be perpetually dissatisfied with our lives. In America, the sovereign cure for this affliction is to get a new and better job. Now, I have no idea whether Mr. Warren is dissatisfied with his life; he might in fact be quite happy. Perhaps his friend the governor convinced him to run. Or perhaps John Kerry, another friend and former employer, did.

I sometimes wonder whether we do people a disservice in telling them they can do better. Too often better simply means reaching the next rung on the ladder. We all want, I know, to advance in life, but only those completely lacking in self-awareness cannot help occasionally laughing at themselves as they do so. If it could be proved that Mr. Warren has laughed at his own ambition, I’ll gladly consider his candidacy.