How do we make voting decisions?
As of today, January 23, 2016 we have sixteen candidates to consider for the presidency of the United States. We have a lot of qualities, characteristics and demonstrated abilities to evaluate before we make our choice. I would suggest that we start by looking at the constitutional duties of the presidency and consider what competencies the potential candidates have demonstrated to achieve them.
Those duties and responsibilities are spelled out in Article II of the Constitution and include the command of the armed forces, oversight of all executive departments of the federal government, making treaties with foreign countries, appointment of ambassadors and other public ministers, consuls and judges, including the supreme court Associate and Chief Justices.
Keep in mind that over time the Federal government has grown to fifteen cabinet level departments with nearly six million employees, including the armed services. It is clear that an organization of this size, with a budget in excess of three trillion dollars, requires a strong leader with a clearly articulated vision to operate effectively. A thoughtful voter has many question to ask before making a responsible decision.
Some questions voters may ask are:
- What value do we put on a candidate’s demonstrated ability to select, manage and lead executive talent?
- Is it important to us that in past positions he or she has clearly defined and communicated their goals and followed through on them?
- Is it important to us that the candidates’ message is consistent and not customized for each audience?
- Do we care if the candidate has shown in the past that they are willing to behave civilly toward their political opponents and foreign leaders and negotiated in good faith on the issues of the day?
- How does their stated general attitude toward government, i.e. big government verses small, align with yours?
- Do you think their beliefs on social issues, i.e. abortion, same sex marriage, gun control, public education, welfare, health care, tax reform, tort reform, prayer in school, etc. are clearly stated, well advised and sustainable?
- Do you think a candidates’ race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or region of residence would impact their performance in office?
- How important is party affiliation, special interest or celebrity endorsements, corporate background, personal commitment to compassionate causes, family life, personal habits, private friendships, etc.?
- Are you willing to prioritize your choice factors and support the candidate who you think will be the most effective overall leader even though you strongly disagree on an issue or two that does not make a major impact on the health of the nation?
- Are you willing to set aside your past voting patterns and label identifications and let your rational mind overrule your emotions?
- Will you resist the temptation to allow your choice to be influenced by a charismatic personality, appealing speaking voice, physical appearance and charming manner?
- Finally, are you prepared to take advantage of today’s technology to research the candidates, fact check their claims and advertising sound bites, challenge claims made by all special interest groups, keep an open mind and take your vote seriously?
There is a strong temptation to think tribally or to go along with a certain group when taking a political stand on a candidate or an issue. Don’t be afraid to think on your own and apply your own intellectual horsepower.
At this time of self destructive hyper-partisanship if only one voter would switch from a narrow mindset to a broader view of shared interest, we would be one step closer to the full potential of enlightened self government.