I know it seems too early for this, but the 2016 presidential election campaign season has actually begun. It’s going to be a particularly exciting season because there’s no incumbent–so we’ll get drama from both parties. I know, right? (If you want information about the potential candidates, Ballotpedia keeps a pretty good running list.)
I tend to vote Republican for federal offices, but over the past few years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the (Far) Right. I’m equally disconcerted by the Left, of course; that’s why I usually vote Republican. But this time around, I’ll be looking at candidates from both parties.
Obviously I’m looking for the “basic” stuff in a candidate: has a strong moral compass, is not corrupt, is not an idiot, understands macro- and micro-economics (knows there’s a difference between the two), is not afraid to use the military when necessary, values education, and the like. But over the past years, I’ve realized that a few other characteristics are really important to me as well.
Because there’s no harm in being utterly idealistic, I’ve made the following list of traits I’d like to see in a president, traits I will be looking for in candidates. (Because there’s no point in being utterly impractical, I’m willing to concede that I won’t get all of these. But even a few would be a win.):
- Compassion. I’ll be looking at candidates who balance compassion for the underprivileged with the restraints of responsible government.
- Diplomacy. I know for a while we all wanted “non-politicians”–people who hadn’t been tainted by politics. But I think we paid a big price for that. I think we found ourselves with a Congress of people who didn’t see the value in civility, open-minded, and respect. I’m looking for a leader who has friends and allies–not just colleagues–on both sides of the aisle, regardless of strong ideological and practical differences. Someone who is valued by people from different parties, classes, countries, etc. Someone whose tone and conduct warrant respect, and someone who respects and listens to others.
- Compromise. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. In our fervor to elect “non-politicians” (a fervor that I myself was once caught up in), I think we ended up with a Congress of mules who didn’t and wouldn’t see the value of compromise. But I’m tired of that. I’d like a leader who realizes the value of give-and-take and who knows that governance is impossible without it. I’ll be avoiding candidates who take a “my way or the highway” approach. I’ll be looking at ones who not only talk about reaching across the aisle, but who have a history of compromise. “Demonstrated ability,” as job postings call it.
- Not shutting down the government. Candidates who think shutting down the government is the way to run it, need not apply. Seriously. We’re electing and paying you to work; stop being a baby. Use your words–use your compromise, diplomacy, and flexibility–to get things done. Shutting down the government reflects a kind of arrogance and flagrant disregard for the people, especially those who end up being penalized by the loss of work.
- American exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is totally not in vogue anymore, I know. But I’m not concerned about whether or not the average citizen believes America is the greatest country on earth. I’m concerned about what our leader believes. If you’re going to lead this country, you better believe we are the best and that we can keep being the best. Furthermore, your policies–foreign and domestic–should convey that belief, defend that belief, and be accountable to that belief.
- A clean campaigner. A girl can dream.