Monday, October 1, 2012

We Are “The Decider”

By this time – October 1, 2012 – close to half the voters in the nation can cast ballots for the President if they wish to do so. I’ll not be able to do so for another three weeks or so. But it is time to begin moving toward a decision. It is never easy for me to make that decision because it never entails just one – or even a half-dozen – issues. It is complicated by concerns not properly called “political issues.”

The first decision I must make is whether to vote at all. For many years I stopped voting in the Presidential (and other) contests because all candidates offended me with their dishonest ads to which they added their endorsement by “approving” the message. Things are hardly any better this year. The fact-checking organizations show that both campaigns, and more egregiously, the outside organizations supporting the two campaigns, violate the principle of truthfulness in almost every ad. My preference is to pronounce a plague on both their houses. But I’ve been persuaded that I should at least make a choice between the lesser of the two evils. In my mind there is a distinct difference at least at the campaign level if not in the case of the Political Pacs.

But I also need to consider those political issues. It would be so convenient if all the admirable positions were taken by one party and all the less admirable by the other; if one candidate was clearly a saint and the other indisputably a devil. But that is not the case. Both parties espouse things that I feel deeply about. Both embrace ideas that I find objectionable. Again, I have to sort and rank the issues carefully. Some of the positions taken by the parties are simply for show. Both parties have demonstrated this over the years, speaking out for particular causes during the election, doing little or nothing about them after they are elected. So I must ask myself, “How serious is the party about the issue I’m serious about? Will they really attempt to do something about it or are they simply pandering to me (and others who, like me, care about the issue) in order to get my vote? In the end, there are only a handful – perhaps not even a handful – of issues those who “run the show” really care about. I need to evaluate the parties on the basis of the issues they will or will not pursue if elected. That simplifies the choice for me.

Yet another consideration is the record of each candidate. Are they true to the principles they claim to espouse? Have they shown through past actions consistency in those areas? Are they giving the voters a chance to know the policies they plan to pursue and the means by which they hope to achieve their stated goals? Are they consistent in what they tell audiences with different interests? Are they willing to tell a “hostile audience” their true position even if it alienates some in that audience? All of these things show, not just the policy trajectory we can expect from the candidate if he/she is elected, but also the strength of character he/she possesses. This may seem like a judgment call but there is often plenty of hard evidence to be weighed if one wishes to make an honest assessment of the candidates.

Finally, there is a judgment call to be made. Which person seeking the office seems to me to have the qualities that suit him/her to make critical judgments on events and issues that cannot be predicted at the time we are selecting them? Do their personal decisions, their stated philosophy of government, their religious convictions, their past associations, their demeanor, their background, point in directions that give me confidence that they will be the President of all the people? Does their command of the facts and issues demonstrate that they have the political, moral, and emotional maturity to become the leader of our nation? Do I like them? Do I trust them? Do I believe they care about those who are like me? Will they make me proud to own them as my President?

No single criteria is decisive as long as I believe the candidate has the maturity for the job, is honest, and sincerely wishes to serve the county rather than simply put a feather in his or her cap. In my lifetime I’ve voted for almost the same number of Democrats and Republicans. I hope to continue in that pattern of voting. The candidates and the parties move much more than I do, although my position on several issues has “evolved” as President Obama said recently of his. But more often than not, I stand where I’ve always stood, and the parties, like a slide-ruler, have moved to my left or right. My job is to determine which party or which candidate, at this present time, aligns best with my understanding of good governance and good public policy.

I’m ready to vote . . . but I’ll have to wait at least three weeks. Meanwhile, I’ve quit listening to the political ads. I will give the candidates the opportunity to sway me through the debates. That is one advantage we “later voters” have that early voters forego.

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