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How We Decide To Vote

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Dennis Prager continues his series on left/right differences with this observation:

And feelings — not reason — is what liberalism is largely about. Reason asks: “Does it do good?” Liberalism asks, “Does it feel good?”

He goes through any number of excellent examples from the minimum wage debate to the self-esteem movement, but he does not examine the effects of of this observation on voting patterns and how much it has crept from left to center, and maybe even right.

While it is completely politically incorrect to say it, it seems baldly apparent that this phenomena played more than a small role in the two elections of our current president.  But my real concern is what role it will play in the coming election, and especially in the GOP primary.

As we look at the burgeoning field in the GOP, we see all sorts of candidates with all sorts of different appeals.  We will gravitate to one that best “represents” us.  That is to say the one that most closely echoes our stances and temperament.  But are these even the correct questions to ask in a presidential election?  Certainly for a legislative election this is an important concern.  You want you particular issue stance represented in the plethora of voices that makes up a legislature.  But in the executive the qualifications and requirements are different.

For one thing, the first requirement of the job is to get elected.  Running for POTUS is an undertaking like none other.  Whether measured in personal demands placed on the candidate, needed resources, or simply scale, it is an enterprise that is both unique and daunting.  Unlike large business enterprises where there are hard analytics on which to base decisions, every election is different, polls are imprecise and there simply is no metric on the deliverables.  On just the money side, it is all raising capital with no hard assets on the other side.

So reason says even though you really, really like candidate X, if they cannot get elected, you should let go of them – NOW.

Secondly, exercising executive leadership in our government is very different than exercising executive leadership in virtually any other situation.  Most other executive leaders have organization wide top-down authority.  With the exception of the military and foreign policy, POTUS has very little top-down authority and must exercise leadership in service to policy established by two other co-equal branches of government.  This requires an extraordinarily deft touch in leadership.

So reason says that even if bombast and direct, blunt talk are what the nation really needs to hear right now, it may not be effective when it comes to actually getting things done in Washington.  That blunt talker may be great on TV, but they may not be the best POTUS ever.

A president needs to be judicious in what they talk about.  Some issues, even issues of vital importance, are not presidential issues.  The candidate whose pet concern is your pet concern may not be the right candidate for president because your pet concern should be addressed in a different venue.

Reason dictates that the president represents the nation, not just you and that they have a duty to the constitution, not just their constituency.

I am sure there are numerous other examples we could come up with on how to approach our candidate selection with reason and not feeling.  But we need to flip the coin for the last example.

Mitt Romney ran a campaign designed to appeal to reason and failed.  He failed in part because of the intense, and unprecedented, emotional appeal of his opposition.  But he also failed because we on the right failed.  We let our lack of emotional appeal for the candidate stand in the way of our support for him.  In other words, we were not entirely reasonable – certainly more so than the other side, but still insufficiently so.  In the upcoming election we cannot afford to let our emotional concerns stand in the way of our support for the GOP candidate – too much is at stake.

But more, our candidate has to figure our how to generate emotional appeal for a reasonable approach.  It is not that difficult to generate emotional appeal, but it is extraordinarily difficult to generate in the context of a reasoned approach to the election and governance.  Emotion and enthusiasm are not bad things, they have their place and purpose, but they do not much like being placed in boundaries.  We need them, but we need them in their boundaries.  The successful GOP candidate is the one that can generate the maximum possible emotion and enthusiasm within their boundaries.


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