To the editor:
How does one vote when one does not like either of the candidates? Luckily, this is a non-issue. After all, we are not electing friends or lovers, but government officials and constitutional representatives. One does not have to like a candidate one votes for.
Unmet needs and the need for change, too, come to mind. The real anxieties and insecurities of the poor, the jobless with no real prospects in sight, growing inequality, a precarious world order, and serious questions about our own country’s prospects and direction. This is an electoral non-issue as well, simply because these problems are monumental, interrelated, and complex, and therefore cannot be resolved by the election of any one candidate or even multiple candidates. Addressing such issues requires steadfast, long-term commitment, not just on the part of political leaders and representatives but the citizenry at large – that’s us (“government by the people!”)
On what basis, then, do I select any candidate to vote for? I propose competency, both absolute and comparative. Meaning: demonstrated skills of statecraft, the patience and temperament required to deal with complex issues and responsibilities of governance, knowledge of how the world works, and, especially on the presidential level, an ability to work with world leaders of all stripes on an equal, non-emotional basis.
But perhaps the best way to zero in on competency is by considering the tell-tale signs of its absence. Ideology and unfunded beliefs often seek to fill the void left by the absence of a competent, rational approach to governing. Cutting taxes to revive an economy, small (not better) government, market-fundamentalism, etc. come to mind. As if the country’s problems and the world’s could miraculously solve themselves if only we (government by the people) stepped out of the way.
Another major tell-tale sign of incompetence is scapegoating. It comes in many forms and under many labels – antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, exceptionalism, to name a few. Getting rid of The Other is the scapegoater’s one-size-fits-all, salvific solution to society’s unresolved problems.
Focus on competency. The rest – including candidates’ promises, mutual mudslinging, the punditry’s prognostications, polls, lies of convenience, and million-dollar TV ads – is noise.