As the presidential primary season progresses, a number of fascinating aspects of contemporary American politics have begun to surface.
Most noticeable, of course, is the early and rapid narrowing of the field in both the Republican and Democratic camps. John McCain is the clear front-runner for the Republicans, and most commentators, even those on the conservative side of the party, say that Mike Huckabee is a far more likely vice-presidential choice rather than presidential nominee.
On the Democratic side, the most popular phrase seems to be inspiration (Obama) versus experience (Clinton). It's impossible not to notice, of course, that for the first time in our nation's history, a major party has no white male as a viable nominee. Not surprisingly, both Sens. Clinton and Obama have made much of this, and they're right to do so.
In fact, the four candidates left are a remarkable group. An African-American, with an African father and Kansan mother, who was the first African-American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review; a former first lady and U.S. senator; an ordained Baptist minister and former governor of Arkansas; and one of America's true heroes, a man who not only survived years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp but went on to serve as a U.S. senator from Arizona. Who could have imagined such a remarkable group of potential presidents even a few short years ago?
Given the strength of the candidate field, I find myself both surprised and rather annoyed at the amount of discussion as to "electability" in both parties. The whole idea that Americans should base their votes for their party's candidates on their estimation of which candidate has the best chance of winning leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
There is no job in our nation more important than the president. We have had all too much evidence in the past 50 years of how dangerous a poor president can be to the nation and the world. Partisan politics have caused our country untold problems in the past few decades.
The coming presidential election is, in my opinion, one of the most significant most of us will ever vote in. We are in trouble abroad and at home. We're fighting two wars, both of which are controversial, and our domestic economy is rapidly heading toward a recession. We need a great leader in this our time of crisis. Each voter, in both parties, should be asking himself or herself who will make the best president, and they should vote for that individual. Asking who can most easily win is a path that may well not lead to a great president, and that would be tragic.
It is time for the candidates themselves to stop telling us why they are the most "electable" and to start telling us in detail what they believe, what their policies will be and what personal qualities they possess that will make them great leaders. Let's choose our candidates and our next president wisely and not simply based on estimates of who might win. I believe that if we choose our candidates based on substantive qualities and ideas, then "electability" will follow.