The 2016 election cycle has been a never-ending carnival of political wedgies. Nothing could have prepared us for the repetitive sequence of awkward and uncomfortable surprises we have experienced over the course of the past year.
At the beginning of the primary season, the two major political parties offered an unusually broad array of candidates that included liberals, conservatives, progressives, nationalists, socialists, and libertarians. In addition, they offered debates that were strikingly superficial and juvenile, more similar in character to a Saturday Night Live skit than to a serious debate about who should serve as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. On top of that, they revealed to us the deep fissures within the major parties and within the conservative and progressive movements; neither major party has a consensus candidate.
As the primary season comes to a close and the political parties narrow in on their nominees, many of us still have not decided for whom we will cast our vote. Which of the candidates would make the best President of the United States of America? As we the People consider our answer to this question, we should take into account the following criteria, each of which will significantly affect the way our next president will govern:
- Proven Character: we the People should want our next President to have a relatively good track record on matters of character. We are not looking for a perfect candidate, but we are looking for one who is trustworthy. We should beware of a candidate with a long track record of being untrustworthy with his or her spouses, business partners or with the public, and we should beware of one with no track record at all.
- Stance on Policy Issues: we the People should want our next President to take the right stances on major public policy issues. Although it is unlikely that any candidate will share all of our views, we’d like them to be as close to us as possible on the most important issues. We should seek a president who is pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-marriage. We should seek a president whose track record or stated policy positions show concern for the poor and for religious and ethnic minorities. We should seek a president who is neither a hawk nor a pacifist concerning war.
- Governing Style: we the People should consider our President’s governing style. Take, for example, the closely-related questions of authority and strength. On the one hand, we want to avoid voting for a candidate who is feckless and weak, easily pushed around by Super PACs, special interest groups, corporations, or leaders of foreign countries. On the other hand, we want to avoid voting for a “strong” candidate who cannot tolerate dissent, comes unhinged when challenged, or uses government power to silence his or her opponents. Instead of these options, we want a president who gives evidence of personal humility and professional resolve, who possesses the ability to reason and persuade, and who can govern with wisdom and strength even in the face of opposition.
- Proof of Wisdom: we the People should elect a President who is known as a wise man or woman. A wise President will show good judgment in the way he or she speaks and acts. A wise President will not be unprincipled, volatile, quick to judge, or quick to demean.
- Religious Commitment: we the People should consider, to the extent that we can, a candidate’s two layers of religious commitment. The first layer of religious commitment is a candidate’s stated religious beliefs. If a candidate is seriously committed to Christianity, Islam, Scientology, or Buddhism, their commitment will surely affect their decision-making. The second layer of religious commitment concerns idols. The Bible teaches that a person’s “god” may not be a supernatural deity; rather, a person’s “god” may be an idol such as sex, money, power, success, or the approval of other people. In other words, a person’s “god” is whatever they consider ultimate. And what a person considers to be ultimate will surely affect the way that person governs, and will affect it in deep and profound ways.
These five criteria are by no means the only criteria, but they are five of the most significant, whether we are voting for the nominee of a major or minor political party, or considering a write-in candidate. We the People should take these criteria into account when casting our vote for the highest office of the land.