Election 2012: Third and Long

Football fans understand that each game played either moves a team forward toward the conference playoffs, conference championship, and Super Bowl, or toward the role of spoiler, where their role is to affect the outcome of the seasons’ top teams. While they watch their favorite players, they recognize that one injury can make the difference between a good season and a bad season unless there is depth in the team’s capacity. The ability of a team to work together, weather, home field advantage, seasoned leadership, knowing the other team’s playbook, all of this factors in when developing a championship team. True fans understand the complexity involved in bringing home the ring.

Politics also involves such complexity and as we ramp up toward the 2012 election, it behooves the citizenry of this country to become educated in the strategies used by both parties to enhance the viability of their candidates while reducing the credibility of the opposition. For those who enjoy politics, following the primaries is as compelling as watching the football season unfold, and for the populace as a whole, a much higher stakes game is being played that goes beyond who will gain the office of chief executive. The 2012 election has the potential to influence the direction of our country for many years beyond a presidential term of office.

Strategy 1: Discredit the messenger. Within a party and between the parties, this strategy is used to cast doubt in the mind of the voter as to whether the person running for office has the intellectual or moral capacity to lead our country. While it is important to get to know each candidate, to understand his or her strengths and weaknesses, it is also critical to remember that we are not always given the choice of voting for the best person to hold office; we are given a choice of picking the better person to become president. We need to have a set of criteria that this person must meet, much like the ideal candidate for a job. While most people cannot meet every expectation, it is the combination of skills and personality that makes a person the most viable choice. What traits make a good president? Part of this depends on the challenges that person will face. What experiences have prepared the candidate for this role? How has the candidate dealt with adversity, job growth, managing others? What problems face this person going in? Does the person have the depth to understand the long as well as the short term impact of each challenge in relationship to any solution being proposed? Does the candidate exhibit the intellectual capacity to weigh all considerations against a long term goal for leadership? What future does this person envision for our country?

Strategy 2: Discredit the message. Sometimes it is hard to swallow bad tasting medicine and if a message does not appeal to every voter, it is recast to focus on how it will hurt a particular constituency in the short term, rather than deliver for the country on the whole in the long term. The candidate needs to be savvy enough to defend the policies being suggested and to be able to answer the concerns voiced by the public regarding how policies affect the pocket book or security of our nation. Policies that appease special interest groups at the expense of others by treating people unequally are unconstitutional. Everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they are elected or electors, is to be treated equally under the fundamental law of this country. When a policy is constitutional, it should advance the stability and wealth of our nation while protecting the individual freedoms of our citizenry.

Strategy 3: Prevent the message from being heard. Regardless of which candidate moves forward in the primaries and is chosen to run on the parties’ ticket, each debate allows the American people to hear each candidate’s response to their concerns and to begin to understand the complexity in addressing each issue. If a teacher was expected to teach a unit on the civil war and then tested the students on the revolutionary war, there would not be an alignment between the content and the assessment. There would not be a true understanding of what was learned or whether the subject was covered well enough or if parts need to be retaught. In a primary debate, moderators need to ask questions that address real concerns facing our country and allow time for the candidates to voice their strategies and solutions, to discuss with one another why they believe they are correct or to adjust their reasoning based on new knowledge. It is inconceivable that a primary debate would be preempted by a rerun of a television series.

Just like the objectives of a teacher should be aligned to the goal of a school; to provide the tools for each student to grow into responsible citizen, able to think critically and be a lifelong learner, not to tell a child what to think, the goal of a president should be aligned to the founding documents; to protect our individual freedoms while advancing the strength, wealth, and security of our nation. It is not to promote special interests or be reelected to office.

When making huge life decisions, getting married, buying a home, taking a job, too many people jump in without weighing their choice against their long term goals, what their expectations are for the work environment, raising a family, how they envision their life in ten, twenty, fifty years. Sometimes people haven’t thought about these things, they have a utopian idea about how life will evolve but they do not have a plan to get there or the tools that will allow it to happen. The president of this country must be able to show us the game plan and how we’ll get there. The goal is pretty simple really, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity; it’s how we get there and whether the president’s plan aligns with this goal that matters. Right now, the way I see it, it’s third and long.


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