Had we nominated these two candidates, we could have had an election about the issues and the future of our country. We could have had a President focused on leading the country, instead of one consumed with scandals ranging from adultery to treason. Why didn't we make the better choice in the last election? How can we choose better in 2020?
The Election I Want to See... and the One I Don't Want to See9/16/2015
The Republicans are having their second televised debate this week, while the Democrats, with a smaller field of candidates, still haven't had their first. There will be 11 candidates in the main Republican debate this time around. Carly Fiorina has surged into the top ten. Governor Chris Christie has dropped out of the top ten, but, for some odd reason, CNN has decided to keep him in the main debate. I think there were rumors all the traffic lights around the CNN building were going to experience "software failures" if Christie didn't keep his spot. Those darn Iranian hackers are everywhere. Here are the debate lineups: http://www.vox.com/2015/9/10/9308571/republican-debate-candidates
The point of today's blog is not to emphatically declare I have chosen the candidates for whom I am willing to vote next year. We are fortunate to have many opportunities ahead to evaluate the candidate field and make our final choices. But the nominating processes for both major parties generally do not select the candidates I feel would be best for our country--that is part of my frustration with the major party machines. I think my frustration is shared by many, and explains why 44 percent of registered voters identify themselves as independents. So I want to share my thought process on the current candidate field with you at this early point. I encourage each of you to consider the candidate you would select from each party if you were to vote today for a candidate from that party.
Since the Republicans have already had one debate and are about to have another, let's start with them. I am happy that former Ohio governor and congressman John Kasich is still in the line-up. He is my preferred Republican candidate at this point for three reasons: (1) my research shows that former governors are more likely to perform better as president than people without that experience (What Makes A Great President), (2) Kasich was a key player in Congress during the Clinton administration and played an important part in balancing the budget during his tenure as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and (3) although he has spent most of his life in politics, he has demonstrated the ability to rise above party and interest group pressure to act on his values--a key characteristic of a career citizen. A Kasich ticket with Fiorina as Vice President would be compelling in my view. Fiorina is the quintessential career citizen, but I think she needs some experience inside government before she is ready to be President. Her track record as a senior business executive shows me that she took a while to come up to speed as CEO of Hewlitt Packard, and we can't afford that kind of learning curve in our next Chief Executive.
On the Democratic side, I would like to see Martin O'Malley nominated. Again, he has the experience of being a governor (What Makes a Great President), and he is more credible than the other Democratic challengers to Hillary Clinton. He has a solid track record of winning major elections to secure multiple terms as mayor of Baltimore and as governor of Maryland. In these executive positions, he has been accountable for his actions addressing real problems. He secured re-election in both offices--a much more concrete record than any other Democratic candidate.
The obvious distinction of my favorites from both major parties at this point is that neither Kasich nor O'Malley have the widespread financial support and public relations hype of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Bush and Clinton are thought by many to be the most likely major-party nominees once the parties complete the winnowing process of the next several months. I don't think either of them are suitable to be our next president. There are other qualified people without the baggage of another Bush or another Clinton who can lead our country with a focus on issues and solutions. That is what we need more than anything, in my opinion--someone fresh, who has not been damaged by the national political food fights of the past twenty years. I would be happy with either Kasich or O'Malley as our next president.
Wait! How can anyone say that, you exclaim?! How can anyone possibly say they would be equally happy if either a Democrat or a Republican won the next presidential election? If that is your thought at this moment, I humbly request you read some of my recent blogs about voting for character rather than for party alignment. If we elect a president with the right kind of leadership skills, then their political party won't matter. Either Kasich or O'Malley could do the job, in my opinion.
We have major structural problems in our republic. The inertia of the political system in the United States has effectively disenfranchised the middle of the political spectrum through a destructive cycle that proceeds from the economics of information marketing to filter bubbles to excessive partisanship to passive acceptance of policies that erode the foundations of our Constitution. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the answer is not more partisanship, but less.
Let me use a physical analogy to illustrate my point. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed four months after its completion. The bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, and had been designed by some of the best engineering minds in the world. While there has been some disagreement about the technical specifics of the collapse, the basic explanation is pretty simple: wind created a reinforcing pattern of oscillation in the bridge that ultimately tore it apart. The designers knew about wind and designed for it, but they did not foresee the magnifying effects of resonance. In my analogy, the evolution of information technology and the economics of information marketing are like the resonance in the bridge. Sound bites and filter bubbles magnify partisanship, creating a reinforcing pattern of excessive partisanship in our republic. We have to stop this excessive partisanship or it will eventually destroy our country. Prophetically, although he could not have foreseen the evolution of information age technology, George Washington warned us in 1796 that partisanship was the gravest threat to our republic.
In today's America, neither Jeb Bush nor Hillary Clinton can be effective as president for reasons that are mostly structural, not personal. Either one of them will make the problem of partisanship worse because they are too connected to the political baggage of the past 20 years. I like Jeb Bush a lot more than almost every other Republican candidate. I regret he deferred to his brother in 2000. Unfortunately, in 2015, there is a serious structural issue with having the last three Republican presidents come from the same family. Regardless of his personal merits, a Jeb Bush presidency would undermine America's vision of itself and add to the class and racial division already buffeting the structural supports of our republic. It would reinforce what many already suspect about the relationship between money, privilege and access to government in the world's greatest democratic republic. For her part, Hillary Clinton is a lightning rod for partisan critics. We can debate the justification of the attacks on her over the years, but the fact that she has been demonized by right-wing Republicans is indisputable. Even if a Hillary Clinton administration could avoid ongoing controversy over Benghazi and her personal emails as Secretary of State, it is a sure bet that opposing every Clinton initiative will be more important to Republicans at every level of government than solving America's problems. Electing Hillary condemns us to another four years of the partisan warfare we have experienced during the Obama administrations, and that is unacceptable. Therefore, for reasons bigger than either of them, we would all be better off if both Bush and Clinton simply walked away now.
The most important criterion for our next president will be the ability to forge consensus. Unfortunately, the primary process and the news cycle tend to support candidates who either cater to the extremes of their parties or who come with an entrenched army of party supporters. Neither of those tendencies will produce a candidate that can forge the consensus we need. There are candidates, however, with the experience and ability to lead with a focus on issues rather than personality and division. In my opinion, John Kasich on the Republican side and Martin O'Malley on the Democratic side are both capable of such leadership. They are the nominees I am hoping to see survive the party selection process.