Choosing between Candidates: Personality or Policy?

When choosing between candidates, it’s often difficult -- if not impossible -- for people to distinguish between a candidate’s personality, “feel” and aura on the one hand and those candidates’ actual policy stances and governing philosophy on the other hand.

Some people will say -- not without at least some justification -- that an individual’s emotional makeup and reactive tendencies will influence their governing approach. Their thought is that the two are inextricably intertwined. Defensive, thin-skinned, secretive, deceptive, insulting, deceitful, fraudulent, inauthentic, dishonest, corrupt, unscrupulous, programmed, unethical, devious people are apt to let those traits spill over from one side to the other. The cell membrane separating the two sides tends to be rather porous.

But.... it’s not completely porous. There are some basic philosophical governing differences that persist, regardless of the amount and degree of distraction, amusement or outright offense offered by a given individual’s personal shortcomings.

What we have to do this year is subtract the clutter from both sides, no matter how important you think the clutter is, even if you think that the clutter is intertwined with the candidates’ approach.

What we’re left with are the four most important areas affecting your day-to-day lives that a president can really influence.

1) Setting the business climate

Make your choice. You either want the country’s business/jobs sector to run essentially on its own, in a competitive open-market fashion, where both companies and employees succeed or fail based on their ability or you like a more controlled, guaranteed environment, where more people are prevented from falling through the cracks by government-provided safety nets but the ultimate potential for success and flexibility to change career direction is somewhat reduced.

This is largely a matter of taxation and regulations. There will always be safety and environmental regulations, so don’t pull out that straw man argument. We’re talking about the presence or absence of excessive, punitive regulations. Same with taxation -- it will always exist, as it needs to, but its degree and purpose is the question.

Consider your own job situation and ability to confidently provide for your family. Consider your children’s job prospects as they enter the adult workforce. Companies either feel confident enough about the business climate to expand (or take a chance and start) or they feel uncertain about the future and they play things cautiously close to the vest and limit their hiring/expansion. Pick a side. We know where these candidates stand.

2) Energy

Do you want to maximize our energy production and supply or do environmental concerns take a higher precedence in your view? Opening up federal lands and waters for oil/gas exploration, pipeline construction, implementing or rescinding EPA gasoline regulations that mandate different kinds of gas in different geographical locations and in the changing seasons, emission requirements, vehicle mileage requirements, etc. -- these are the issues on which voters must be informed in order to take a coherent stand. Energy affects the cost of every product in a person’s life, in both production and delivery. Energy affects the heating/cooling of our homes and our workspaces and it plays a huge role in every household’s and employer’s budget. But on the other side of the issue, we need to conserve the water supply and atmosphere, so energy production has to be balanced against the environmental risks. Is there a candidate who more closely reflects your particular outlook on energy production and deployment? The president’s policies play a big role in this.

3) Military/National Security

In the 1991 Gulf War, we deployed 500,000 troops to Kuwait to defeat Saddam Hussein. We flew hundreds of air sorties each day in the run-up bombing campaign. Today, the entire U.S. Army numbers less than 500,000 and further reductions are coming. Our air readiness is dangerously compromised by a lack of spare parts and service capability, down to a level not seen since the late 1970s during the Carter administration, when so many of our aircraft were called “Hanger Queens” because of their inability to fly.

Do we still need a big military? The Cold War is over. Soviet tanks are not likely to flood through the Fulda Gap, are they? Perhaps we need a different military than what we had from 1945 to 1995. Perhaps we don’t really need a traditional military at all. Could be we need dramatically enhanced Special Forces/SEALS capacity, with order-of-magnitude greater CIA/intelligence capabilities and more emphasis on quick surgical strikes rather than older-styled battlefield-superiority resources. Perhaps a mixture of the two. But regardless of its theoretical purpose, our country’s military needs to be ready. The president drives our nation’s military posture.

4) Rule of Law

Does the president see to it -- within their legal and practical ability -- that the law is applied equally (or at the very least, gives the legitimate appearance of being applied equally) in all situations or do some situations seem to get special attention (good or bad) over others? In matters of race or so-called “political correctness,” or inconsistencies regarding where, when and how the executive branch chooses to intercede, does the president strive to ensure that the public’s perception is always that the law is being applied equally in all instances, to both rich and poor, to the ‘connected’ and ordinary alike, regardless of circumstance? Confidence in our system of justice is absolutely central to the smooth functioning of our society. The president sets the tone here.

These are the Big Four. There certainly are others, but these are the Big Four that the president influences directly. Remember, as we said before, “The cell membrane separating the two sides (a candidate’s personal traits and their governing philosophy) tends to be rather porous. But... it’s not completely porous.” Your voting choice is there to be made, either way, depending on your preferred Big Four governing priorities. But in my estimation, a vote based on “lying” or “insults” is not only a wasted vote -- it’s an ignorant vote.

When choosing between candidates, it’s often difficult -- if not impossible -- for people to distinguish between a candidate’s personality, “feel” and aura on the one hand and those candidates’ actual policy stances and governing philosophy on the other hand.

Some people will say -- not without at least some justification -- that an individual’s emotional makeup and reactive tendencies will influence their governing approach. Their thought is that the two are inextricably intertwined. Defensive, thin-skinned, secretive, deceptive, insulting, deceitful, fraudulent, inauthentic, dishonest, corrupt, unscrupulous, programmed, unethical, devious people are apt to let those traits spill over from one side to the other. The cell membrane separating the two sides tends to be rather porous.

But.... it’s not completely porous. There are some basic philosophical governing differences that persist, regardless of the amount and degree of distraction, amusement or outright offense offered by a given individual’s personal shortcomings.

What we have to do this year is subtract the clutter from both sides, no matter how important you think the clutter is, even if you think that the clutter is intertwined with the candidates’ approach.

What we’re left with are the four most important areas affecting your day-to-day lives that a president can really influence.

1) Setting the business climate

Make your choice. You either want the country’s business/jobs sector to run essentially on its own, in a competitive open-market fashion, where both companies and employees succeed or fail based on their ability or you like a more controlled, guaranteed environment, where more people are prevented from falling through the cracks by government-provided safety nets but the ultimate potential for success and flexibility to change career direction is somewhat reduced.

This is largely a matter of taxation and regulations. There will always be safety and environmental regulations, so don’t pull out that straw man argument. We’re talking about the presence or absence of excessive, punitive regulations. Same with taxation -- it will always exist, as it needs to, but its degree and purpose is the question.

Consider your own job situation and ability to confidently provide for your family. Consider your children’s job prospects as they enter the adult workforce. Companies either feel confident enough about the business climate to expand (or take a chance and start) or they feel uncertain about the future and they play things cautiously close to the vest and limit their hiring/expansion. Pick a side. We know where these candidates stand.

2) Energy

Do you want to maximize our energy production and supply or do environmental concerns take a higher precedence in your view? Opening up federal lands and waters for oil/gas exploration, pipeline construction, implementing or rescinding EPA gasoline regulations that mandate different kinds of gas in different geographical locations and in the changing seasons, emission requirements, vehicle mileage requirements, etc. -- these are the issues on which voters must be informed in order to take a coherent stand. Energy affects the cost of every product in a person’s life, in both production and delivery. Energy affects the heating/cooling of our homes and our workspaces and it plays a huge role in every household’s and employer’s budget. But on the other side of the issue, we need to conserve the water supply and atmosphere, so energy production has to be balanced against the environmental risks. Is there a candidate who more closely reflects your particular outlook on energy production and deployment? The president’s policies play a big role in this.

3) Military/National Security

In the 1991 Gulf War, we deployed 500,000 troops to Kuwait to defeat Saddam Hussein. We flew hundreds of air sorties each day in the run-up bombing campaign. Today, the entire U.S. Army numbers less than 500,000 and further reductions are coming. Our air readiness is dangerously compromised by a lack of spare parts and service capability, down to a level not seen since the late 1970s during the Carter administration, when so many of our aircraft were called “Hanger Queens” because of their inability to fly.

Do we still need a big military? The Cold War is over. Soviet tanks are not likely to flood through the Fulda Gap, are they? Perhaps we need a different military than what we had from 1945 to 1995. Perhaps we don’t really need a traditional military at all. Could be we need dramatically enhanced Special Forces/SEALS capacity, with order-of-magnitude greater CIA/intelligence capabilities and more emphasis on quick surgical strikes rather than older-styled battlefield-superiority resources. Perhaps a mixture of the two. But regardless of its theoretical purpose, our country’s military needs to be ready. The president drives our nation’s military posture.

4) Rule of Law

Does the president see to it -- within their legal and practical ability -- that the law is applied equally (or at the very least, gives the legitimate appearance of being applied equally) in all situations or do some situations seem to get special attention (good or bad) over others? In matters of race or so-called “political correctness,” or inconsistencies regarding where, when and how the executive branch chooses to intercede, does the president strive to ensure that the public’s perception is always that the law is being applied equally in all instances, to both rich and poor, to the ‘connected’ and ordinary alike, regardless of circumstance? Confidence in our system of justice is absolutely central to the smooth functioning of our society. The president sets the tone here.

These are the Big Four. There certainly are others, but these are the Big Four that the president influences directly. Remember, as we said before, “The cell membrane separating the two sides (a candidate’s personal traits and their governing philosophy) tends to be rather porous. But... it’s not completely porous.” Your voting choice is there to be made, either way, depending on your preferred Big Four governing priorities. But in my estimation, a vote based on “lying” or “insults” is not only a wasted vote -- it’s an ignorant vote.