In an unexpected move, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who gained international prominence for her handling of a mass shooting and the Covid pandemic crisis—as well as being elected at the young age of 37 and becoming only the second world leader to give birth while in office—has announced she is stepping down from the role. I’m not overly familiar with NZ politics, I’ve never been to NZ, and my knowledge of Ardern is limited. But this is the internet, so none of those factors would prevent me from sharing my expert opinions on the topic. But instead, I want to connect the Ardern story to the broader state of politics. In announcing her decision to resign, Ardern explained: “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.” The broader question is what kind of person has enough in their tank to deal with the lie and rage swamped cesspool of modern politics. In Pink Houses, John Mellencamp sings the line, “They told me when I was younger, said, “Boy, you’re gonna be president.” When that song came out in 1983, the idea that one could become president was meant to be aspirational. Now it sounds more like a life sentence.

Being New Zealand’s prime minister sounds similarly nightmarish. The same pandemic response that earned Jacinda Ardern international raves also surfaced a relentless campaign against her. As the AP reports, “Ardern faced growing anger at home from those who opposed coronavirus mandates and rules. A protest last year that began on Parliament’s grounds lasted for more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and setting fires to tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave.” The lunatics are no longer at the fringe. Need evidence of that? Consider the US House of Representatives. Sane people retired or were forced out of DC, where they’ve been replaced by the most rabid members, not only of Congress, but of society. Marjorie Taylor Greene is now sitting on the Homeland Security Committee and George Santos sits on the Small Business Committee and the Science Committee. Today, running for office is like voluntarily leaping into a pit of trolls.

The scourge extends from the national halls of power to local school board meetings. Being loud is now more important than being right. Consider the case of mayors and climate change. In a recent survey, we learned that just about every mayor knows humans are contributing to climate change and that it’s a really urgent crisis. But most of them also admit they’re not going to try to pass any major legislation because of the political ramifications. So why become a mayor? Why get into politics? Today, the job of being a politician feels like a fallback option for someone who can’t make it as an internet troll. And here’s the rub. The worse the politician’s job description gets, the more we need decent people to run for office.