How to Choose a Candidate: Three Simple Principles

What are some basic guidelines that we can use in order to determine whom we should choose and vote for as a candidate? After all, as responsible citizens, we should make informed decisions when it comes to the governing of our nation, states, counties and towns. So, here are three simple principles that may help as you choose a candidate. And note that each criteria is so crucial, that even two out of three is not enough.

Competency. Does a candidate have a proven track record in the role for which he is campaigning? Since being President of the United States is a first-time gig for most (unless running for re-election), there will be some on-the-job training. However, the candidate probably should have fairly exceptional experience in organizational executive leadership. Therefore, in my opinion, a complete outsider to politics may not be the best choice. This does not mean that he should be “a Washington insider,” but that he understands what it is like to function in that type of environment. In my opinion, I do not think that someone’s first experience in political leadership should be the office of President of United States. This is why governors (as those who have experience in organizational executive leadership) may have a step up on the other candidates. Although men or women who have served as Senators or Congressman, or even other roles in public office, have a valid claim to pursuing the Presidency as well.

Character Personal character counts probably more than any other criteria. By this I do not mean that the candidate is sinless or has no flaws for which to repent. Quite the opposite is true. The candidate who is willing to repent and acknowledge when and where he’s wrong, thus showing himself to be teachable, is revealing a profound depth of character. Other aspects of character would be things such as trustworthiness and integrity (meaning, he or she is the same in public as in private and vice versa). In my opinion, one of the most important dimensions of character is the ability to show respect to others, even and maybe especially to those with whom we disagree. In other words, we need statesmen who are not in politics for power (to serve their best interest), but who are in politics to serve the best interests of their constituency. And they are not willing to win at all costs, because what it costs to win that way usually involves dishonesty, a lack of integrity, and demonizing one’s opponent with inflammatory rhetoric and verbal insults.

Convictions. In addition to demonstrating competency and character, the candidate should be known by very specific, identifiable convictions—convictions that will range from economic policy, to foreign-policy, to a perspective on the U.S. Constitution, to the size and influence of government, to national security, to social policy, etc. Since it is quite easy for a candidate to espouse what he thinks the electorate wants to hear and what will get him elected, I believe that a candidate’s convictions should be well-established principles that have had time to settle and harden like cement. Each of us is free to change his or her position on any topic we choose. However, this change should not be recent for those running for the highest office in the United States. As voters, we must learn to distinguish between genuine conviction and political expediency. At this point, we simply need to examine the candidate’s record. What have they actually said and how have they actually voted before they began running for office?  

I hope that this very simple framework of principles will help to get you started narrowing your focus and making an informed decision as an educated voter.

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