Monday, June 6, 2016

Choosing the Right Politician

There certainly isn't any single metric people use to select their politicians. People have used everything from years of experience and ethical effectiveness to "I feel like I could have a beer with him."

Today I'm going to share my ideal basis for choosing a politician. Hint: it's not just "I agree with them about a lot of things." That sometimes happens, but not always.

I'm going to begin by admitting that back in 2008 I was ready to vote for John McCain. I was very much behind him for much of the campaign. I was an independent then as I am now, and I can't say I was terribly interested in most of the Republican platform, but McCain seemed different. He seemed reasonable; it seemed as though, sure, he was a conservative generally, but he wasn't inclined to let labels like "conservative" and "liberal" define his actions. He was ready to listen to the facts and make a decision. The fact that he was not defined by his affiliations suggested to me that he thought for himself, and I wanted a thinker.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, didn't give me a lot to go on. I don't actually remember much about his campaign, possibly because I was living in South Louisiana, and everything was being reported from a southern, conservative viewpoint that painted Obama in a bad light. I did my best to see through the anti-Obama propaganda, but while that left me with no negative opinion about him, I was left with nothing to support, either. In the end, both seemed like fine choices, but I could relate to McCain better.

However, this changed with the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Even the conservative filter through which I got my news couldn't make her seem appealing. She seemed to revel in ignorance and lacked a modicum of tact. In short, she was dangerous. There had been politicians I'd simply disliked in the past, but never before had there been one I considered dangerous. She was Trump-before-Trump, and having her be Vice President--one unfortunate accident away from the presidency--was terrifying.

Which was really unfortunate, because I like John McCain. I still do, to be honest. I was still debating with myself, even as I entered the voting booth. It wasn't until that moment, staring at the candidates' names in that booth, that I made my decision and chose Barack Obama. And though he lost Louisiana, he did go on to win the presidency, and I have no regrets. It's been a pleasure to get to know him better.

In the end, I've come to learn a lot about how Barack Obama thinks. Had I been as familiar with him then as I am now... it would have still been a difficult choice for me in a sense, since I think both Obama and McCain were good candidates. It's so rare that we have that.

In any case, my point is that even then I knew what I was looking for in a candidate, and it doesn't have a lot to do with what side they're on regarding various issues. Rather, it's about how the candidate thinks through an issue and comes to their conclusion. I want to understand their thought process. I want to trust that they have a mind that will weigh the consequences of their actions before acting. I want to trust that they will understand the ramifications of their actions, which would hopefully prevent rash decisions.

You see, the major issues that are generally raised by the media, the big differences between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, are the result of us generally agreeing on a lot of other things. These issues that bubble up to the surface are the issues that don't have obvious answers, otherwise they would have been settled already.

I can appreciate a person's stance on a complex issue, but I don't think their opinions on hot-button issues are necessarily telling of their effectiveness as a President, or a Congressman, or a governor, and so on.

Unfortunately, we don't always have a lot of information to go on when electing politicians. In the end, we have to make our decisions based on what information was have. Still, though, nowadays I'm much more inclined to look deeper, having some idea of what I'm looking for: some evidence of how these people think.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I respected McCain, but there's no way I could respect that Sarah Palin nomination. He seemed to change in other ways when it looked like the presidency was within his reach, too. I still most likely wouldn't have voted for him. But I definitely don't think he or Mitt Romney are as temperamentally unsuitable as Trump is.