How to Judge Presidential Candidates

How can one person possibly have enough info to make a good choice about who to vote for?

The number of topics a president has to be informed in and good at is astonishing:

  • Agriculture
  • Business
  • Military
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Health Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Housing
  • Foreign Policy
  • Transportation
  • Treasury
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Law
  • Technology

To be an expert on any one of those topics would take an entire career of work. A president has a huge staff and cabinet to help, but as individual voters we’re lucky if we deeply know even a few topics.

What makes things worse:

  • The most we get to see of a candidate is a debate or speech
  • What should a president be good at? “Governing”? What the hell does that even mean?

Passing legislation?

LBJ was remarkably good at this, probably the best of the 20th century (FDR had the help of the Depression). But of course that doesn’t mean the policies passed are good policies. And that’s only part of the job, too.

Increasing US popularity around the world?

I think this is generally good, but taken to an extreme would just weaken our relationships abroad.

Following the wishes of constituents?

Initially I thought this was the answer. Best case scenario the elected has a history of doing what his/her electorate asked for. What else can you expect in a republic?

But then I thought of all the lifetime politicians who now take up space in Congress. The people who get reelected term after term probably do this, and arguably they’re a big part of our problem.

Somewhere I once read this great quote:

“Democracy and capitalism are the worst forms of government, except for all the others.”

I don’t have a good answer for this. But it appears no one from the previous few millennia of philosophy does either.