Tuesday, February 26, 2019


There are not a few skeptics about the political spectacle we are all
about to witness as an historic number of candidates compete to
become the Democratic nominee for president.

On one hand, there are those who think the political process ahead
will be instructive, substantive and useful in the eventual choice of
the Democratic nominee. On the other hand, there are the skeptics
who think most of the campaign will be little more than a bizarre
unreality show pitting publicity and other self-promotion gambits
against each other in an outpouring of sloganeering, manipulative
propaganda, and cynical deceptions.

The latter, the skeptics, also point to the excessive media bias on
both the left and the right as proof that only a minimum of authentic
information will be made available to the voting public, especially
before the first candidate debates in May and June.

So what can a voter do to avoid a spectacle of campaign duplicities
which might lie ahead?

I think a few key matters to look for when attempting to assess the
numerous candidates this cycle include personality, originality,
excessive promising (especially of new entitlements), experience,
and communication skills.

Let me detail each of these with some specifics.

Personality is always important. Not every candidate will have what
is called “charisma,” but a successful winner of a presidential
nomination almost always has an attractive and distinctive manner
and appearance.

Inevitably, the winning nominee brings some original aspect to his or
her campaign, either in strategy, fundraising, communications, or
choice of issues.

Politicians invariably make promises --- most of which are not kept.
Democrats, who usually favor increased government activity, often
promise more or new entitlements without credibly explaining how
they will be paid for or sustained. Free college education, Medicare
for All, and the Green New Deal each have huge price tags. Voters
need to hold candidates accountable for how they will pay for what
they promise.

Although it is clear that many Democratic voters are looking for new
faces, successful political management experience remains a
valuable trait for serving as president. Critics of both Barack Obama
and Donald Trump cite each of them for lack of such prior experience.
This is not about the age of a candidate. An older candidate might lack
experience, and a younger candidate might have a excellent resume.

A president has many roles, including initiator of domestic policy,
director of foreign policy, commander in chief of armed forces, and
spokesperson of the nation. Each of these require good if not
exceptional communication skills if a president is going to inspire
confidence and persuade citizens to follow his or her lead. Abraham
Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan
excelled in communicating their successful presidencies, although each
were very different. Harry Truman was effectively plain spoken, and
John Kennedy was eloquent. Unsuccessful presidents often
communicate unsuccessfully.

These are just some suggestions for how to navigate the turbulent
nomination contests ahead, especially for Democrats who must
choose from such a large number of candidates. There yet might be
a contest for Republicans --- who would need to apply no less scrutiny
of their choices.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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