How Not to Choose a President

We're up to our eyebrows in the presidential campaigns.  Some of us are loving it, following every new wrinkle, every gaffe, every applause line.  Others are already sick of it all, tired of the negativity, the half-truths and daily polls.  This one's up, now that one.

We all know it's incredibly important that we elect the best person for the job.  After all, the President of the US is the world's most powerful man.  His actions not only affect every American but every other citizen of the world as well.  But only we -- lucky we -- get to decide who gets the job.

So far, I've heard the following assumptions for how Americans choose our President:
  • The one who seems most like us.
  • The one with the biggest campaign warchest, able to dominate the airwaves with campaign ads.
  • The one we'd like to sit down and have a beer with.
  • The one with the most appealing family.
  • The best looking.
  • In time of war, the Commander in Chief.
  • If the economy is strong, the incumbent.  If it's weak, the challenger.
  • The one our friends and family support.
  • The one who "connects" with people.
  • The one we're least afraid of.

A rather pathetic list, isn't it.

  • Let's not choose Obama because he's most like us.  
  • Let's not choose Romney because he dominates the airwaves.  
  • Let's not choose Bush Jr. again because we wanted a beer with him.  
  • Let's look past both darling families.  
  • Let's ignore Ryan's and Romney's good looks.  
  • Let's neither support nor reject Obama based simply on the fact the country is at war.  
  • Let's evaluate the economy only in connection with the president's actions (and inaction) related to it. 
  • Let's not choose Obama because he connects better than Romney.  
  • Let's ignore those on the right who warn (like Chuck Norris did in a recent ad) that the world will end if Obama gets a second term.  Let's also ignore those on the left who predict doomsday if Romney wins.

What if, instead, we looked at a combination of the candidates' education and experience (not just the resume, but what kind of choices were made), their positions on the issues, their potential effectiveness, who they might choose to advise them and questions of character -- e.g. Do they tell the truth? Do they have solid principles that don't waiver?  Do they consider consequences of their choices?  How do they hold up under pressure?

How many voters do you suppose are basing their decisions on those factors?  I hope many will.  But I know from our previous track record, we will feel compelled to cast a ballot regardless of whether we really know or care about any of the qualities that truly matter.  We'll "like" one of them, like we "like" someone's Facebook post.  We will believe everything bad about the other and everything good about our choice.

If this is how we make choices, how can we complain about the quality of candidates we get?  How dare we whine that the campaigns pander to us, promising us everything and telling us whatever we want to hear.

As the French observer of America, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote almost 200 years ago, "We get the government we deserve."


  1. Linda, I think your posts are clear and intelligent and thought-provoking. I often recommend your blog and intend to continue doing that. Keep up the good work! Justine


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