The things I look for in a political candidate

This upcoming election season is proving to be quite interesting, at least on the Republican side. There are still quite a few candidates that genuinely have a shot at the nomination. I’ve had lots of discussions with a variety of people on both twitter and facebook.

I’ve had the “Paulies” come after me (the overzealous, cult-like Ron Paul supporters who gradually become more forceful until they are nothing but a barrage of insults and name-calling); I’ve had the intellectuals come after me (ivy leaguers, law grads and students, etc.) who pretty much tell me I’m too dumb to understand politics; I’ve had your standard leftists argue with me (journalists, art students, musicians, entertainment industry folks, etc.) who think all Republicans are Satan himself; I’ve been bullied by a few blue-collar union types for siding with the “rich” who have sent our jobs overseas; and I’ve also been attacked from the right by tea partiers and single-issue social conservatives who say my particular brand of politics “isn’t Christian enough” for their taste.

In my experience, when someone just can’t understand why you would choose a particular candidate, they just fall back into saying you’re dumb or that you’re naive, or misguided, or they’ll just call you names and get angry. Wow. So touchy. So much hate going on.

I’m not an ill-informed citizen. I try to stay on top of current events. I actively pursue various sources of news each day (traditional sources, news aggregates, talk radio, and social media). I pay attention to who the candidates are, what their positions are, what their background and experience is, and what their stated plans are. So, I’m sorry internet trolls, but I’m not dumb, naive or ill-informed. You just don’t like my selection. But that’s OK. I probably don’t like yours either.

During one of these discussions, I outlined for someone my priorities for selecting a candidate. I thought it turned out good enough to share here (with a few tweaks) – something I could personally refer back to and also point others to in the future.

  1. Idealogy.
    Currently in my case this means conservative with federalist leanings and an economic libertarian streak… I’m looking for a person who truly understands the Constitution and values the wisdom and heritage the founding fathers left us.
  2. Character
    This doesn’t mean that the candidate has never had a failing. But I’m looking for someone who learns from their mistakes, who can be honest about them, and can move forward in a healthy way.
  3. Leadership
    Does the person actually have the skills to lead and has demonstrated that effectively before in other roles? Or are they just obsessed with power or money? Or are they gifted more as a diplomat, an orator, soldier, manager, professor, or theorist?
  4. Likeability
    This can be a slippery slope, I know. But if you have a gut reaction where you just don’t like someone – I have found that there’s usually a good underlying reason for that feeling.
  5. A Bias Against Career Politicians
    I’m not ashamed to admit that I do not trust long-time politicians. It is an inherently dirty business that tends to corrupt even principled, well-meaning people over time.

This list doesn’t really change from election cycle to election cycle (though its entirely possible my idealogy adapts and grows and changes.) In 2008 I supported Fred Thompson. That is entirely consistent with this list. For 2012, I haven’t fully decided yet, but I’m leaning heavily towards Herman Cain because of this list.

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