As we enter into the home stretch of the election cycle, a few things are really starting to leap out at me. One such is our increasing willingness to look more at WHAT a candidate stands for than at WHO that candidate is. If anything about politics in the current era — or any era, really — should have taught us by now is that what someone believes, or says they believe, is only a part of who they are. Sometimes a small part.
We want to think that because our leaders share our core idealogy (conservative, for example), that that person is like you. But that isn’t necessarily true. The candidate might be a conservative, but might also be a coward. A candidate may be “Liberal” but corruptible and without moral center. In my experience, the traits of the individual trump the political leanings every time.
It is the natural position of humanity to gloss over the faults of our leaders. We do it all the time, choosing to put the “good” of a person over the “bad” indiscretions they may have had or mistakes they’ve made. This tendency seems to go into hyperdrive during the political season as each side of the aisle looks for the focal point of their ideaology. The problem we tend to run into is when we focus so much on our need for an idealogical figurehead that we forget about the actual person we are placing that belief in. The bitter truth of the matter is, we don’t elect an idealogy. We elect a person. A belief is unfailing — it can never let you down as long as you continue to believe in it. But a person… well, not one of us is perfect and each one of us have made mistakes.
If you have doubts about a candidate’s character, you’ve got to take that seriously. Immediately take stock of why you’re backing that person. Is it becuase you feel you can trust them, or is it because you think they represent your political beliefs? I’ve known many leaders in my time — a few good and, unfortunately, more bad — and I can assure you, always favor the one you trust. Always. Poltical ideaology is one thing, but personal integrity is the real heart of leadership. If you don’t feel in your gut that a particular candidate has the pure intestinal fortitude to make the right call — not for himself, but for the country — than you might want to reconsider.
When Sen McCain ran against G.W. Bush in the primaries in 2000, he had my full support. I believed in him and I wanted him to win. He didn’t win, though, and that’s a shame. Not just because of a lost opportunity, but because of what it did to the political landscape. When he ran again in 2008, I didn’t vote for him. Why? Because he had altered himself so entirely from his previous run that I couldn’t trust him anymore. You see, he was willing to compromise his integrity to get that nomination, to satisfy “the base.” Some will make excuses for that, saying he had to play the political game to win — I call bull shit on that. You are who you are and you stand and be counted. If the people want you, they will vote for you. All you can be is yourself. To be otherwise is fraud, in my opinion.
The government is “for the people BY the people”, not “for the people BY an ideology.” Know WHO you are voting for, not just WHAT you are voting for.