Democracy could run so much more smoothly if only candidates would represent their ideas and their position accurately, and if elected, follow through to institute or support policies consistent with the statements they made to win office. Ah, but we all know that is not the case. Realists must recognize that policies change, positions change. Candidates will say what is required to get elected, but all too often harbor intentions contrary to those positions, vote their true beliefs, or in weakness will seek the safety and support of the pack and vote in line with their party.
Wise voters must know that they cannot vote for candidates based on platform and expect to get results. There are just too many factors. Consequently, wise voters must make their choice based on a candidate’s character, their core values and not their position. Policy will change but character will not. Core values will not. That is why political races have degenerated into mud-slinging character assassination. Most candidates accept that they must challenge their opponent’s character to win. Arguing policy will always remain hypothetical. No one knows the future or the outcomes of policy. It’s always going to be a best guess, trial and error. Take the economy, for instance. Even the best economists cannot make accurate predictions based on potential policy initiatives. All systems are turbulent, reacting in echo-like waves to each reverberating change. So, what can we as voters depend on?
Established politicians, especially those who have held office for a long time, will certainly have a long history of life events that can provide fuel for challenges to their character–associations, mistakes, bad choices, personal and family conflict, mental health, addictions, legal or financial difficulties. In this way, established politicians are at a disadvantage. Not so the political virgins of whom little or nothing is known. Innocence and humility underlie core values that inspire hope and voters are attracted to hope like a magnet. It’s the one thing that infuses their vote.
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Core values have been reduced to three principal categories to simplify voter choice: Progressive, Moderate and Conservative values. Candidates must choose a brand and make it stick or else be branded by their opponent. This is a delicate proposition for the faint of heart. This is where character comes into play. A candidate must walk the fine line between the difference of what the voters will agree to and their personal core values. The trick is to align the voter’s perception of their core values with their district’s preference for one of the three categories that are used to define values in broad strokes, usually based on past voting statistics. It’s a gross mistake to use this type of analysis when the dominant criteria will be change.
Conservatives define themselves as pro-family, anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-gun, pro big business, anti-regulation, anti-taxation, pro-balanced budget, pro-military spending, and anti-deficit and have traditionally been positioned as anti-labor, anti-welfare, pro-privatization, anti-environment, anti-climate change acknowledgment, anti-union, anti the protection of natural resources, pro-coal, pro-oil and against sustainable technologies, pro-Israel and often pro policies that have racism as their basis. Staking claim to the constitution they cloak themselves with the wrapper of “tradition” and thus clearly rooted in the past, their only idea of change is to return to the past but without acknowledging the principles on which it is based, principles like equality. Trump’s idea of change is just an unadulterated form of nationalism and his tenor is fascist in nature.
Trump’s 30%, his core base, will not sway in their support for him. His policies do not matter. His effectiveness will not matter. They do not support policy, but rather the man who they believe engenders their core conservative values. They have seen change all around them—technology, the internet, globalism, social values– and powerless to control it, they seek the comfort of a billionaire braggart, an all-powerful messiah, to intervene on their behalf and return their beloved nation to a state the majority of them have never experienced. They weren’t born in time. It’s a myth they carry with them passed on by oral tradition of “the good ole’ days.” It’s a hope that can never be fulfilled.
All but a few progressives are scared of their own shadow, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren being the notable exceptions. In the last election, only they inspired voters, and it was through their core values that their progressive policies were validated. Each had an established record of action and voters were energized to turn out for them. Obama took us there, but voters recognized that we needed to go further and that meant a turn to the progressive side of the party with candidates whose character and core values were aligned with progressive ideals. Young voters and those with the most to gain, the jobless and those discriminated against, were inspired to action as evidenced in the support given Bernie.
Hillary assumed the moderate position. She tried to straddle the fence, but being a corporatist she represented something closer to conservative values than progressive. She stabbed the Democratic party in the back by denouncing Bernie’s policies as impractical and impossible to implement. She denied the voters hope and crippled the party far into the future with a division that remains today.
Obama ran on hope. A relative political newbie on the national stage, his core values were reflected in the policies he ran on and once elected he moved to implement his values through policy. Trump did not run on hope but was elected by hope (election cheating notwithstanding). A hope for change. Trump represented change while Hillary represented same old, same old, neither the hope of an Obama nor the hope for change that Trump inspired.
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, none can lead this nation to fulfill its potential. To be sure, Pelosi and Schumer are good people of integrity, they nevertheless do not represent hope. They served well in their day, but that day is past. As for Pence and McConnell, I have nothing good to say about either of them, hypocrites and obstructionists both, each with different toolsets.
When the Democratic party takes back the house in the midterms, as they are most likely to do, the party will face a difficult choice. Who will lead it and where will they go?