Party platforms are wonderful things. Their words contain the articulated hopes and aspirations that supposedly represent what a political party stands for. But how important are they, really? How much should they factor in a decision to vote for a particular candidate for president?
I believe you must vote on the candidate’s character, judgment and experience (I include voting record in experience as EVIDENCE of experience). Why? Because issues come and go. The platform is the stated agenda for the party, true. But it is not a Contract with America (Yeah, I know, sorry Newt.) We can’;t sue if they don’t achieve their agenda or even if they don’t try. They get to stay in power for four years regardless. As Will Rogers said, “On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does” And platforms require a majority in both houses and the presidency for even a snowball’s chance in hell for being a probable thing, forget a sure thing.
So, what have you got left? The presidency is the place where the vision for America (the big picture) is set, where the goals (party platform) is set forth, and where the project schedule and the task lists (pieces of legislation) are broken down and delegated out. Beyond that, the presidency is a problem-solving, decision-making job. As GWB said, “I am the Decider”
Which means you ideally have to have someone who is open to new ideas, flexible and able to think on their feet, with a good intellect, intellectual curiosity, intellectual discipline, analytical ability, ability to communicate, team-building skills, integrity, honesty, judgment and the experience to make all that come together into a plan of action and set of priorities that can be handed off to a team that is marching in formation with their “eyes on the prize” all of which can change from second to second, as is the nature of national and international crises. These are personality, character and judgment qualities — skills that come together to solve crises, i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11, Katrina, the infrastructure problem (bridge collapses that everyone has forgotten now), the 2008 Midwest floods (which are now a distant memory for most people), just to name a few — that are the most important decisions a president ever makes. Even if not even one piece of legislation outside of appropriations bills gets passed and signed during a president’s tenure, we need someone with THOSE decision-making abilities and qualities to sit in that Oval Office.
Platforms are, sadly, for the most part, empty promises — hopes and aspirations, not immediate probabilities. Lawmakers do not feel the sense of urgency except for about six months before the first Tuesday in November on every even-numbered year, when the primary season kicks in full gear (if that often). And even then, they are too afraid of upsetting a voting block to take on any legislation that might require taking a stand or making waves.
How long has universal healthcare been on the DNC platform? At least since 1972, when I first voted. What about a pro-life amendment or the “;marriage” amendment? At least since 1980 when Reagan ran for office, maybe before, I don’t really remember now. If you look at the platforms of either party and read all the stuff they promise they WANT to do (not that they actually WILL GET DONE), it’s been on the party platform for decades now. Given that this is the case, how can the party platform really be taken seriously — as a real Contract with America (again, sorry Newt)? So, in light of these facts, does it really make sense to vote a platform?
As much as I love Hillary and supported her, and I do, and I did and I stil do and will again, her reasoning for asking her supporters to support Obama is flawed for all the reasons given above.
Platforms don’t give State of the Union speeches. Platforms don’t sign or veto legislation. Platforms don’t take calls from world leaders, or attend meetings of the G-8). Platforms don’t sit across from Kruschev in Berlin while he is beating the table with his shoe and keep their cool. Platforms don’t look into the eyes of Putin and other world leaders and try to “see their soul.” Platforms don’t make life and death decisions. Platforms don’t negotiate peace agreements in Northern Ireland, or the Balkans, or the Middle East. Platforms don’t make decisions. They don’t even contain decisions that are BINDING. Presidents do these things. And presidents are people, not platforms.
So, when you vote for president, are you voting for a person or a platform? In the end, all you really have is a man or woman sitting in a chair in an oval-shaped room taking that famous 3 a.m. phone call and praying to God he or she doesn’t screw it up.