None of the Above
During the long lead up to the Iowa caucuses this week, people have periodically asked me which candidate I would support. While I had an early favorite or two, I actually wanted to hear what the candidates had to say. Only half-jokingly I would say that I had a list of all the candidates and was checking them off as they gradually eliminated themselves from my consideration.
I didn’t think it might be possible that all the names might be checked off the list. Could it be that on Election Day in November the only button I can honestly push is “None of the above”?
Since 1964, I have been a political junkie. I have listened over the years to almost all the serious candidates of both parties. I would usually make up my mind based on their ideas, their philosophy about government, and their previous service as a leader in government or business.
That formula does not seem to be working this year. I watched the debates until I began to think they were a waste of my time. There isn’t much time for serious policy debate when everyone is trying to get a sound bite or a “gotcha” on their opponents.
Frankly, the lack of substance in the debates is largely the fault of the commentators asking the questions. Why? Because the public likes wrestling matches more than “Meet the Press”. It also drives up the ratings and the networks make more money.
The part that depresses me the most is watching candidates that I respect, that are thoughtful and articulate about the issues of the day, gradually move to the left and the right because the polling tells them they have to appeal more to the fringe of the parties.
Their consultants tell them they have to go negative against their opponents if they want to win. A month ago, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were best friends. Now they attack each other like they are lifelong enemies, using words like “nasty” and “anchor baby”.
The most painful transition for me is watching Jeb Bush try to go negative. It isn’t his style and it doesn’t feel natural or authentic. While I think he is one of the most experienced and thoughtful of our potential candidates, the Bush message is lost in the smoke, mirrors and noise of modern campaigning.
What would I like to see in our next President? I would like a person whose own life story is an inspiration. It doesn’t matter to me if they are rich or poor. It matters that he or she has a connection with the American people and is confident in their ability to lead.
I would like a person that has experience. I am not sure how I feel about someone having on the job training for the most important job in the world.
I would support a person that has firm beliefs yet is willing to listen to others about the economy, national defense, jobs, education, and our future. I want a person that is concerned about our national debt, but who is honest with the American people about what a difficult job it will be to get that debt under control.
I want to support a person who feels genuine and at ease with themselves, who wants to lead for all the right reasons, who realizes they represent all the people, and who resists long term policy change based on overnight polls.
Iowa, with 4% of the nation’s vote, has finally started the process for electing our next President. I am hopeful that before it is over, someone, anyone, will rise to the top and give me a reason to choose them rather than “none of the above”.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org