It is unfortunate that politics has become a cult of personality. Basically this election is similar to the vote you cast for class president back in high school. Who do you like more? The handsome, smooth-talking, bright, clever, likable candidate. Or the old guy who has an impressive history of service to his country. In other words, if you’re young and hip, you’ll probably vote for the young guy and if you’re more sensitive to tradition, then you’ll likely vote for the old guy. But perhaps you’ll transcend your demographic status and vote for the “other” guy just because…well, just because you like him more than the one you’re supposed to vote for.
But it gets complicated. Now add the affable, and slightly goofy, tall, old widower guy and the attractive, enthusiastic, folksy young mother of five. Because these two are paired, respectively, with the candidates at the top of the ticket, now you have to consider which combination of the two candidates you’ll vote for. Again, not unlike today’s trend in high school class politics. Choose a co-president, or co-vice president, so as to give your fellow students an opportunity to vote for you even if they don’t like you because the person you’re on the ticket with has complimentary credentials that will help you get elected to the office of class president, I mean co-president.
What if you like the young, handsome guy but not the old, goofy guy? What if you like the old guy, but not the young, folksy gal? How do you cast your ballot then?
If you are caught up in the politics of personality then I suspect you may be having a difficult time with your choice of who to pull the lever for on November 4th. And unfortunately, all you see on TV is a type of super powered high school clique war being played out by the two major parties and their candidates. “We’re better than the other team because…” or “Don’t vote for them because then you’re not cool.” I imagine that many a swing voter finds themselves challenged by the jocks vs. nerds debate taking place on the national stage (I couldn’t begin to tell you which campaign more resembles the jocks or the nerds…I’m just using those two classic high school social groups as an illustration).
If random guy from Vermont can influence you’re thinking at all, I would ask you to please look beyond the surface of the candidates’ appearance and mannerisms. Agree with our current president or not, there is clearly more to him than the “poorly spoken village idiot” that many people portrayed him to be. I would encourage you, especially to examine their ideas and the ideals of governance that they would bring to the office of President of the United States. In the end, that is what Obama or McCain’s presidency will resemble. Sure, their personality would have an impact on their executing the oath of office, but more important are the ideals that will shape the execution of their job.
Of course, character does matter and it would be impossible to separate character from personality. So, there will always be some element of personality politics, but let’s move that to the bottom of the list in our considerations of who we choose for the next president.