The office held by any public official has an aura of glamour and power. And voters often unfortunately focus on that image when they vote for a candidate. They should not.
Their view to the contrary should be based on the personal makeup of the candidate: his bundle of personal qualities.
I contend that every candidate for every office whether President or small town mayor should be based on four things: a candidate’s values, decision making skill, being right on the issues and having a spine of steel.
When push comes to shove values are always the basis of good decisions, while skill in making good decisions comes from training and much practice. And being right on the issues requires using the common sense that most of us have. But even though one has these qualities in spades, without the toughness to always stand one’s ground they will matter little.
Values are what define us. Often they are shown by our faith. And how we exercise it in our daily living while we handle myriad difficulties whether they involve our finances, our relationships or our health. Or something else. We show the values we have by how we handle each of them one by one.
Skill in good decision making is usually learned. Those running an organization or a business can obtain a great deal of practice, and if they evaluate their own performance objectively they can quickly learn from the results of their good and bad decisions. Over time they will become quite skilled at making decisions to produce the results they want. A successful stay-at-home-mom running a household might be the most skillful of all at this. She must be disciplined and skillful in making decisions to properly raise her children, the results of which may not be apparent for a long time. And if not done well all Americans will pay.
Being right on the issues is mostly common sense. It is using factual information—not emotions—to make decisions. And being aware of the difference between the two. It is using valid quantitative data to evaluate whether one approach is better than another. It is thinking of the long term benefit to America not the short term and immediate which often is harmful. It is thinking about other Americans rather than one’s own parochial interests.
Toughness in approach is not a quality one is born with. It is developed over time. One becomes tough only by having toughing experiences. This principle is in nature: The trunk of an oak growing on the rocky side of a mountain with little water is much tougher then the trunk of a banana tree growing in the fertile soil of a tropical rainforest. One develops callouses on the bottom of one’s feet by walking or running, not by sitting on one’s butt.
Toughening experiences can be of many types. Most are of the nature of financial, family, medical or business. It might be the indignity of always being short of money in a society that judges each of us all too often on that resource. Or it could be a divorce, difficult children, or a death in the family. Or it could be life threatening illnesses, or the continuing disabilities which made both Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Charles Krauthammer quite tough. Or it could be running a small business with the always difficult problems of cash flow, product quality, dependable and productive employees and where the temptation to cut corners to increase profits or to even survive is always present.
The more of these experiences one has over a longer period of time the tougher that person will become. Which is why all else being equal someone older is usually tougher. Their years of life if lived aggressively would generally allow them to have more toughening experiences. It is often called wisdom.
Some might argue that some candidates who have aggressive and blunt personalities are born tough. But they are wrong. These individuals are handicapped by the insensitivity which generally accompanies that type of personality. And these individuals are rarely good at developing relationships which are essential for those holding public office.
As presidential campaigns begin, the amount of money each candidate can accumulate is the overriding focus by the media. Yet that money can be used to create an image of a candidate which could be dishonest and untrue. My hope is that today with the transparency allowed by our social media, voters will focus more on a candidate’s actual personal qualities rather than an advertised image which may or may not be valid. To all of our benefit.