How do we do choose our president? How should we do it? What should be the prime criteria?
The Republican Party will select their nominee, most certainly Senator John McCain from Arizona, at the Republican National Convention to be held in Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota, September 1-4 this year. The Democratic Party will select their nominee, presumably either Senator Hillary Clinton from New York or Senator Barack Obama from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention to be held in Denver, Colorado, August 25-28 this year. On Election Day, November 4th, as almost everyone knows, we will elect a new president who will be inaugurated and take office on January 20th, 2009.
There will likely be several lesser names from other parties on the ballot, but most political analysts seem to agree that it is very probable that our new president will be Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain, or Mr. Obama. The only two other theoretical possibilities, and their chances must be viewed realistically as very poor at this point, would be Republican candidate Mike Huckabee from Arkansas or potential Independent candidate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg from New York.
There are several weaknesses with our current presidential election system and those were commented on in my posting in early January. This is primarily about how we as voters choose among the various front-runners to become party nominees and in the General Election how we choose among the several party nominees.
I frankly haven't seen any reliable polls that break down how most voters make their decision, but I can make an educated guess. First, I should mention the important and very unsatisfactory and embarrassing fact that in recent decades only an average of about 55% of eligible voters actually have voted in federal elections! That means that an average of 45% have chosen not to participate, much higher than what has been experienced in the great majority of other developed country democracies. I hope, and we have some basis for optimism, that the numbers will be much better this year.
My belief is that many of those who do participate simply vote for the candidate who is a member of their own political party, largely regardless of the candidate's specific positions on the major issues. Many younger voters vote for the candidates supported by their parents or best friends, without much regard for political positions. Many other voters, especially on the far left and far right, vote based on a candidate's position on just one or two "hot-button" issues, that to me often seem of relatively lesser importance, such as perhaps protection of little known endangered animal and plant species or abortion rights.
It seems to me that eligible citizens have a responsibility to vote, and voters have a responsibility to become reasonably knowledgeable about the specific positions of all the leading candidates on a majority of the key issues and make their own decisions based on their best judgment of who is the best candidate. This obviously takes some initiative and effort, but it's needed. Few of us have the opportunity to meet the candidates personally, so we have to primarily rely on our impressions based on what we hear and read from several different media sources, watching or listening to debates, interviews and townhall meetings, reading books candidates or other authors may have written on the candidates, and talking to people whose judgment we trust. This seems quite clear.
What are the main criteria in choosing? People will differ on this, but I think the main criteria should include intelligence, judgment, character, leadership and executive experience, ability to select strong lieutenants and advisors, and proven ability to solve difficult problems in a stressful environment. Other important criteria include communication, planning, analytical and negotiation skills. As business people know, these are all basically more or less the same criteria large company directors generally look for in selecting the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and should not be controversial. This should not be surprising. After all, the president is in fact the CEO of the country.
All three leading presidential candidates, as one would expect, appear to qualify very well when it comes to intelligence, judgment and communication skills, but, as I see it, all three seem to fall somewhat short when it comes to serious executive experience. Governor Romney, Governor Huckabee, and Mayor Bloomberg all appear to have a definite edge there. John McCain supports many of the key positions of President Bush, especially on Iraq, but he is not popular with most conservative Republicans. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both moderate liberals, seem to have similar views on a majority of the key issues, including health care and on withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and ending the war as soon as possible, likely by the end of 2009. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama want a larger role for government than Mr. McCain.
None of the three leading candidates have everything I'm looking for, to be sure, but I think all of them could perform quite capably if they won, especially if they did a strong job of selecting cabinet members, their chief of staff, and key advisors, and, additionally, if they were committed to working effectively with leaders of Congress in both major parties, without which they would struggle. The main message to voters is to do your homework and make sure you vote for the candidate who in your judgment would best lead our country and the rest of the Free World!