When I was in high school, the governor of California, Ronald Reagan, came and spoke to us while campaigning for President. It was the first time I paid any attention to politics. I listened to a few candidates speak on TV and decided to support Senator John B. Anderson, who ran as an independent. I saw Anderson as a straight talker, Reagan as a misty-eyed dreamer. Following that first election, I decided that choosing a candidate had little to do with policies and promises. I observed that the President is the head of the Executive branch only; he has the other two thirds of the government holding him back and thwarting his ambitions. So I don’t choose a candidate on the basis of platform. Instead, I tune in to a debate and look for the candidate who exhibits any of the following; as soon as he does, I eliminate that candidate from consideration:
- Talks nonsense. The most common one is “I will cut taxes, increase spending, and balance the budget.”
- Assumes I don’t remember anything that happened more than four years ago. My favorite here is when a candidate assumes I do not remember how his party blocked federal judgeships the last time they was out of power.
- Blames the other guy for everything.
Within a few minutes, there’s no one left on my list.
So now I just watch, like I’m watching an argument in the college cafeteria — or a brawl in a bar. Now I look for the following:
- The candidate seems to know what he’s talking about.
- The candidate seems reasonably intelligent
- The candidate talks like he assumes I am reasonably intelligent.
In many races, the list stays empty, and the choice becomes that discouraging “lesser of two evils” thing. But I generally do not vote program. I am aware that our complicated, cumbersome system pretty well guarantees that things will not go as the candidate plans, and in fact, not in accord with anyone’s plans. So instead I look for evidence of intelligence and a modicum of integrity. That’s who I want in government.
So I could get behind Santos or Vinick!