I have six more months to decide who to vote for. But according to Facebook, internet articles, and late night shows, I am behind. It feels like I am supposed to have picked the next President now. I have not.
Here is what I learned from watching President Obama the last eight years: The effectiveness of any President is greatly impacted by the House and Senate. On one hand, that is an amazing thing. It keeps the highest ranking official in check; no crazy people can sink an entire nation by themselves.
At the same time, it has to be tremendously frustrating, no matter whom the President is. You win an election, you have all these dreams and goals, and quite often you find that you cannot get anything done. You try to keep the nation safe, your citizens employed, and you still face someone arguing against whatever measure you try to pass. Even a measure like helping life-saving heroes receive medical care is met by resistance.
The argument could be made to pick the most qualified, regardless of how much of a terrible person they are. I call it the Patch Adams argument. And yes, it has some merit.
However I start off assuming that the next President is only going to have limited success at running things. Whether they are male or female, an elephant or a donkey, I will low-ball it and say that only ten percent of their goals will be met. I feel a little cynical saying that, but I simply do not see Presidents being able to do what they think they can. (They also have a pesky history of claiming they can accomplish what other branches of the government are responsible for doing. But that is a commentary for another day.)
If I cannot have an effective President, then I want a kind one. I have gone back to this clip again and again. I think there is a kernel of truth there that we are too quick to dismiss. Jimmy Stewart thinks being pleasant is better. I listen to Jimmy Stewart.
That is my guiding principle in deciding who I want in The White House. I want a leader that the rest of the world wants to have over to dinner. I want my government to be seen as less of a universal police force, and more of a helpful neighbor. I do not need one of the most powerful nations in the world to be represented by a war chief. Give me a saint.
The hard part of all this is finding out who strikes me as the kindest of all. The only candidate in recent months who has given any indication that they might have a soft side to them is Bernie. And that was only because a bird was not afraid of him.
However, let us insert another kernel, if not a nugget of truth. The crowd cheered and screamed. That arena can get pretty loud. The bird did not fly away when tens of thousands of people were yelling the roof off. So either the bird is deaf or really likes crowds. More likely than not, the bird would approach any environment; be it a podium or a crowd of screaming people. It strikes me as crazy to trust a finch with picking my elected representative.
What I have noticed in my limited study of the candidates is that nice does not sell. Especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton, there seems to be a pervading notion that she is a man-eater. I have never met the woman. I have no idea how kind she is or not, but a woman seeking a powerful office acquires a perceived personality. I would like to know if she really is cruel and angry or if that is what a small portion of people think.
Besides, there are other candidates in the past year who have said things that are plainly cruel and racist. They offer phrases that I would never want another human being to say, most assuredly not a sitting President. Yet, I refuse to believe that any person is purely evil. I keep going back to my favorite Harry Potter quote. Gary Oldman says it is not that simple, so I believe him.
The only profile on a candidate’s plan that I have seen came from a show that blatantly and repeatedly states that no matter how much they might inform us on certain topics, they are entertainment-first, not fact. They are comedy, not broadcast news. Thus, one should not cite them as “doing their candidate research” too quickly.
You know who I want in office? John Quincy Adams. The man had character like few others and it infuriates me that I did not learn about him before this year. He turned down what was considered a prime political appointment because he thought his father was showing favoritism. (His father quickly dismissed that notion. He was simply the best candidate.) After he left The White House, he did something truly remarkable. He served for seventeen years in the House. Seventeen years in a job that was a step-down from his previous role. “No person could be degraded by serving the people as a Presentative to Congress”, he said.
He often voted for measures he thought were best for the nation, even if it supported the other party. His cohorts called him “unmanageable.” And here is the best part. In 1836 the House of Representatives banned any motion regarding slavery or the abolition of slavery. For eight years, Adams fought against it. At the beginning of every new Congress, he would bring forth a measure negating the restriction. Even as he did this, he faithfully presented petitions, from slave-owners and from abolitionists; he served both sides of the issue, and the country.
He was yelled at. He was verbally abused. Calls for his expulsion regularly filled the House. But in December of 1844, his motion to rescind won 105 to 80. He had won a few more votes every year. Where would President Lincoln have been if Adams had not paved the road for him?
In 1846 President Adams suffered a stroke. The next year he had recovered, and when he entered the House, he was met with standing applause. A year after that, he literally died in office.
That was a great President. That was a person who cared more about his country than his own legacy or grandeur. He may have lacked people skills, but you can hardly say that he did not care about his constituents. I want to vote for Adams. Surely one hundred and seventy years is long enough between terms?