Or, rather, the importance of being Bernie Sanders.
In any election cycle, most informed voters focus on a candidate’s position on the issues when deciding for whom to cast their vote. Are they in favor of more social spending? Do they support smaller government? Deficit reduction? Or building up the military?
Certainly, asking such questions is critical when selecting a prospective president. But does a hyper-focus on the issues leave the voter with an incomplete picture? I suggest there is an equally important focus when evaluating a candidate’s worth, and that focus is an evaluation of their character.
Public figures appear fond of taking responsibility for mistakes for which they are indeed responsible. But what does taking responsibility actually entail? Based on the lack of consequences, apparently very little.
Clearly, there is a dearth of resignations from politicians who have accepted responsibility. For instance, has anyone been held to account for misstating the cause of the attack on our consulate, its ambassador and workers in Benghazi? Certainly, a film maker has been jailed, as some suspect, for producing an obscure video; yet in light of recent happenings, it’s unlikely that the video in question was the precipitating event.
Words, as they say, are cheap, and without a commensurate consequence, ring hollow. Indeed, an act as nebulous as taking responsibility, sans penance, is simply whitewash. How refreshing would it be to hear a candidate withdraw from a race to atone for their particular transgression? Ironically, that’s a candidate I could get behind.
Elections have also become poll-centric. There are a multitude of voter opinion polls released each week, revealing variously the attitudes of the democrats or the republicans, the independent voter, the registered voter, or the likely voter, on any number of issues. These polls are conducted by the media, colleges and universities, and by the candidates themselves or their campaigns. And what is the purpose and effect of gathering this information?
It’s simply to provide the candidate a position on the issues as a means to be elected. In other words, a political position based on poll data doesn’t provide a view into the beliefs, attitudes and souls of the candidates, but rather creates a reflective surface in which the voters see themselves and are thereby fooled into believing that the candidates represent their values, positions and aspirations.
Lip service is not passion and will never be the bedrock upon which a successful presidential platform is built. Achieving worthwhile change is often a titanic struggle against staunch opposition.
Though imperfect, the Affordable Care Act was passed by the barest of margins and without bipartisan support. That landmark legislation was not the work of the indifferent, but rather the product of elected officials who had a deep-rooted belief in the wisdom and rightness of providing healthcare to all. A halfhearted effort borne of lukewarm enthusiasm would never have succeeded.
Which brings me to the Vermont Senator and current presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Whether you like his brand of Democratic Socialism or consider him a public enemy, you must admire his character. Sanders is not persuaded by polls. Simply look back at any position speech he has ever given.
He has never veered from his message that the government has an obligation to do more and to provide for those who lack, whether it’s food, shelter, healthcare, or education. Sanders says what he means and means what he says, and there’s no doubt that, if you vote for him, you know exactly what you’ll get. Such honesty and passion beget accountability and produce results.
Whether you support a larger or smaller government, a greater social safety net or a revitalized military, you would do well to to examine your candidate’s character. Does he share your passion for the issues? Will she put service above self to achieve those goals? Despite opinions which prioritize other characteristics, it is of paramount importance that your candidate be an earnest one.
After all, isn’t it critical to know that your vote is being cast for the change you believe in?
By: Emily Dowden ’18