So I watched every second of the debate last night. It was a huge mistake on my part, not likely to be made again. But it got me thinking, how do we actually decide who it is that we have leading the executive branch of our federal government? What is the thought process that we go through to actually make the decision?
I am not endorsing or detracting from any candidate officially (though I really, really want to…) but I think it is more than fair to give ideas on how one might decide who to vote for. A set of questions, in a specific order, that gives you an idea of how to choose a candidate.
Remember, these are in a specific order. Start with the first question and move down.
1. Is this candidate qualified to actually fill the role of President?
If I sent an application to an engineering firm, it would rightfully be tossed out. Do you know why? Because I am incapable of completing the tasks of the job I am applying for. It doesn’t matter if I have the same design philosophy of the company, it doesn’t matter if I’m a really cool dude, it doesn’t matter if I’m fresh blood while another candidate is old hat, if I cannot complete the tasks required of me, I should not be hired.
all the vast majority of people – include Christians – get so caught up in the political game and black-and-white nature of partisan politics that this very simple question gets ignored. It needs to be first on the list, period. You don’t hire pastors as security guards – usually – and we shouldn’t hire people who can’t actually complete the tasks of President to be President.
(Sidebar: I hate capitalizing President…)
2a. (Specifically for Christians, but also applicable to others) Will this candidate embody the Greatest Commandments?
2b. (For everyone) Does this candidates actual political positions align with my moral convictions?
I tried to come up with something more instructive here, but I couldn’t. Look at the political positions the candidate purport, look at how they speak and act, and then decide if you can give them the yes on these questions.
There is an argument that these questions (especially for Christians) should come first, but the best morality and the best politics and the best person means absolutely nothing if you can’t put those things into action. The reality is that if someone cannot actually do the job, it does not matter how awesome they are. There is a reason I’m not, nor will I ever be, a baseball pitcher or starting NFL quarterback. I’m pretty awesome, but I can’t do that.
3. Is this person the best candidate for everyone who isn’t me?
I am a white male, protestant, religious, moderate, working class (and slowly clawing my way up), beer drinker, bourbon drinker, short, over-weight, non-pot smoking, writer, pastor. And I could focus that microscope even further. Who is best for me may not be best for my wife, or the church secretary, or the family that just moved in down the street, or the banker, or the homeless guy I gave money to that one time, or the pan-handler I gave money to that one time.
When we choose someone who is best for us, we are choosing on a very narrow microcosm to benefit with our choice. If we decide to be a bit less egocentric in our decision-making, then we actually consider a much broader set of benefits and actually, you know, attempt to improve the world, not just our personal microcosm.
And really, everyone else being better off makes you better off, just saying.
4. Is this person the best candidate for me?
If you actually get this far, then you can actually be selfish. If you are fortunate enough to get through all of the questions with two (or more?) candidates who can actually do the job, embody your moral convictions, and are good for everyone, then you can selfishly choose a candidate who will pass laws that will make your microscopic microcosm of the world better specifically for you.
That’s the end. Hopefully this was unbiased enough to not actually endorse/detract from anyone specific, but I can’t guarantee that. This is the first election where I very much wanted to just start screaming publicly about political matters, but it isn’t my place and certainly my pulpit will not be sullied by partisan politics.