Raise your hand if you feel like you’re the only person who hasn’t announced you’re running.
And November 2020 is still how many months away?
Some folks snicker when the Richard Bransons of the world talk about passengers paying small fortunes to fly into space, but what we’re in for between now and then is exactly why some of us would want to go. Maybe even just stay up there awhile, until all this gets sorted out.
I know. Don’t hold my breath.
Look, I get it. It’s easy to be cynical. For those of us who actually bought into all those songs we sang as kids around the Fourth of July, times are rough. If, as the lyrics suggest, good is crowned with brotherhood, only a quick assessment of the latter is necessary to make one question how much remains of the former. Perhaps even how much there ever was.
I’ve asked the question more than a few times and have yet to get a real answer: name any three institutions of your youth that you still trust implicitly. Not that easy, it it? Scandal and outrage seem attached to almost to everything, and more often than not it proves, at the very least, understandable. In the end, what’s left to count on? The church? Schools? The government? Each other?
Good grief, have you been on Twitter?
So yeah, it’s pretty easy to feel rotten about things. Regardless of one’s political persuasion, it’s entirely possible you’ve felt the last three years have been the longest decade of your life. If indeed our adversaries seek to divide us, and like, duh, we couldn’t have done a better job of gift wrapping it for them.
Me? I’m holding out for a unicorn.
That’s what you hear a lot when start laying out qualifications like these. Good luck, buddy. As if anyone like that exists. Forget the presidency. For any job.
That’s always been a weird argument to me. It’s like being okay with your daughter dating an axe murderer. Sorry, but there are some things about which I am unwilling to settle. Then you get the whole “nobody’s perfect” business. Yes. A great many of our national heroes have lost their luster since I first read about them in school many a moon ago. But did their ideas also dim?
Human beings inevitably disappoint, which is the danger of attaching too many aspirations to those from whom we draw inspiration. After enough letdowns we start to settle. “They all do it anyway”. Okay. Even assuming that’s true, which it never has been, there remains a more important question: regardless of whether everyone does it, should they?
No. This is known as a “standard”. Call it unrealistic if you wish, but you gotta have some things to shoot for. Maybe I watched too many Henry Fonda movies, and a dozen more candidates may jump in before I finish typing this, but here are mine. Because to one degree or another, every one of these qualities is going to be needed. We’re going to have to aspire again.
For beginners, I’m not voting for anyone I can’t trust with the life of my grandchild. Period. If everything is headed off the rails, can I take them at their word? If it means she will die for something before she sees adulthood, can I be content such a decision would be worth her sacrifice? It’s a downer, but we live in that kind of world – and if the answer is no, then nothing else matters.
While we’re talking about trust, are you who you say you are? Let me tell you what I’ve learned about people: I may disagree with you completely about any number of things – but if I know where you are, I can reckon by you. I’ve known a lot of powerful people. A few I can point to like Polaris. They are always right there, in the same spot, and they help you know your bearings. You can deal with people like that. The one who is all over the road, you can never depend on. They also tend to end up in the ditch, and rarely do they do so alone. A person who shouldn’t get behind the wheel risks everyone.
Do not badly want the job. Seriously, what do we always say? You would have to be crazy to want that job. Then we give it to the people who want it and act surprised at the results. Doncha imagine the person best suited to fill the position might be the one you’d need to drag kicking and screaming into the White House as opposed to out of it? Look, I understand the necessities of getting there – but I liked Harry Truman’s response when the office dropped in his lap upon FDR’s death. “Good luck, Mr. President”, the reporters said to the new Commander in Chief on the afternoon he was sworn in. “I wish you didn’t have to call me that”, Truman replied.
Yes, character does count. It counts no matter what party you belong to. It counted 80 years ago. It counted 40 years ago, it counted 20 years ago, and it counts now. The quickest way to find out how much is to disregard it. As a good friend likes to say, if your handshake is no good your paper isn’t either. Care less about making money than being worthy of having your face on it. Do not not cheat your partners, especially your spouse. If you can’t be trusted with them you can’t be trusted with us. Maybe you were an idiot when you were younger, and maybe you have too much you still need to answer for – but this is not hard, people. Individuals can reform, but lifelong patterns of deception and dishonesty don’t just vanish when such an individual’s right hand goes up.
Consider the future. I don’t know about you, but seeing members of Congress try to wrap their heads around how the internet works during hearings awhile back was, to put it mildly, unsettling. I appreciate the value of gray hair more with each passing day, but, wow. Being conversant in the Age of Insta would be good. Start with adopting attitudes more advanced than if God had meant man to fly. Technology has its other aspects, too. In 1945, there were 44 workers per retiree in the United States. In a few years that number will be 2 to 1, which doesn’t account for coming changes in the workforce thanks to AI and automation. Ponder what that will do to programs people count on, such as Social Security. There’s a whole new world headed down the tracks like a bullet train and very few people are talking about it. I want someone who is.
Who do they run with? No, not as in their running-mate. Who do they hire? Who do they associate with? It’s never only the king. It’s the courtiers who have his ear. Does this person surround themselves with quality people? Here comes one of those song lyrics again, but do they more than self their country love? Mercy more than life? It’ll come as a shock to no one that an entire industry of political hired-guns has evolved over the last half-century dedicated only to its own prosperity, available to the highest bidder, regardless of party. They, ideologues interested only in victory on their terms, and paid, self-serving pundits and propagandists who have nested in every corner of the landscape are making governing impossible. It’s useful when a leader has people around who don’t always say what he or she wants to hear, and better when they’re big enough to listen. It’s also good if none of them compel you to lock up the family silverware.
I’d like a peaceful person, but for deeper reasons than that word implies. I mean peaceful in their spirit. When you have the nuclear football, impetuousness is not helpful. People who are predisposed to finding reasonable, lasting solutions are more necessary than ever. Confused seas require the steadiest hand. It’s the ability to remain calm when the whole world seems ready to explode – a quality that may sadly be needed in the next few years. That resolve in the face of uncertainty, and an understanding of the great responsibility that rests with you. The lives of millions of American service men and women are in your hands, if not the lives of people around the world. Be slow to spend them – but if you must, remember that none should be so fearful as a peaceful man provoked to wrath.
Honor, decency, integrity, principle. Kindness. Humility. Wisdom. Justice. I could elaborate further, but you get the idea. The sort of stuff that’s worth defending in the first place. Like Bonnie Tyler, I’m holding out for a hero. A unicorn.
Which, though impractical, seems imminently better than settling for a jackass.