04 February 2016

Plan B

"Don't forget to mention us."
As an incorrigible idealist, I want my ideal presidential candidate to excite me with a vision of a better USA. How will empathy increase, environmental stewardship improve, international cooperation be strengthened, and the most vulnerable citizens and residents be protected on his or her watch? What political and spiritual values drive this person? If he or she is a Christian, how will their bedrock faith translate into blessings for every citizen and resident, including those who don't share that faith?

Those ideals and values are an important part of how I examine candidates. But it's only half the picture. The other half, Plan B, is how I anticipate they will govern even if absolutely none of their vision for a better USA can be implemented.

For example: The Guantanamo prisons are still in operation; the announced "end" of American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is being rolled back; thousands of immigrants of irregular status are still in limbo.

So idealism has its limits. And still the day-to-day welfare of millions of people -- the whole country, really -- depends on competent functioning of the executive branch. So, dear candidate, even if everything and everyone -- Wall Street, the entrenched bureaucracy, a paralyzed Congress, a lack of resources, even your own inability to convince others -- combine to block your vision, will you at least be a competent Chief Executive?

Of course, competence cuts both ways. Barack Obama has apparently been quite competent. He's nominated and appointed good people to high cabinet and other posts; he's managed most crises calmly; he's followed his own rule of "don't do stupid stuff"; he's even remained calm under attack by relentless well-financed campaigns of slander and false witness. But he's also "competently" run programs I'm utterly opposed to, such as the ongoing drone-based attacks in several countries. So I have mixed feelings about technocratic competence, but I cannot imagine voting for a candidate who can't cover the normal workload of our country's chief executive offer, totally apart from lofty visions.

According to Hillary Rodham Clinton, you campaign in poetry (her concession to the inspirational qualities of Bernie Sanders) but you govern in prose. As we examine our 2016 candidates, is it too much to ask for some evidence of both?

On the level of ideals and vision, I wanted to say how delicious an irony it is that, despite all hype to the contrary, the most Christian candidate so far this election cycle is a secular Jew. But delicious ironies, however intriguing, are not enough. Choosing the right president might be the difference between poverty and reasonable prosperity, even life and death, for thousands of people, so it doesn't behoove me to be glib.

Something like thirty years ago, British Friends put out an outreach poster with words something like the following: "Tired of organized religion? Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." (It was the inspiration for this post ten years ago.) Since my main grievance with liberal Friends has been the removal of the Baby in favor of ever-more-agreeable bathwater, I was interested in this recent post, "On Throwing Out the Baby Jesus with the Bath Water," from a United Church of Christ commentator.

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Don't just believe me about the virtues of Linux Mint 17.3 over Windows and Apple OS. Believe Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

Again, Jason Ricci...

1 comment:

Nancy Thomas said...

Thank you for not being glib. I think the desire for both "poetry and prose" in our next president is good. May God have mercy on us all.