It’s All About Character

by | May 3, 2015 | Politics/Government

The historically awful legislative session is over in Indiana.  The Governor took a historic hit in the polls so his reelection next year is not a forgone conclusion.  Our senior U.S. Senator is retiring.  The Presidency is an open race.

It is a perfect storm that is creating a campaign season that will look a little like dominoes on steroids.

A political writer once told me that the candidate that makes the voters feel better about things is the one that almost always wins.  I think her rule applies only in competitive races, but it is still a good measure.  So how does a candidate make voters “feel better?”  I contend that they do it by showing voters that they possess the strongest character.  Let’s face it, most of the big things that have happened lately were not a part of any candidate’s platform for election.  And therefore, I am concluding that our elected officials are only successful by successfully dealing with the unexpected.

Two examples:

1.  RFRA.  We all know the story.  But this self created crisis also created opportunity on the fix.  There are some that applaud what is being described as the fix.  I don’t.  The right thing to do was to protect the LGBT community comprehensively, which will happen, sooner or later.

2.  There is an HIV outbreak in Scott County, a rural county in Southern Indiana—a result directly related to an intravenous drug use crisis in the area that can no longer be ignored.  The conditional state needle exchange that was passed last week is a step that needed to be made to address it.  Kudos to leaders for getting this step done, although it was harder than it should have been.

How has our state office holders done on these two goodies?  Could someone else have done better?  And to those who think state government is done handling either of these, you would be wrong.

Let’s review the platforms of every single candidate that ran for office in last year’s election and see which ones, if any, had a position on either of these issues directly or indirectly.  (Crickets begging chirping….) Like all of you, I didn’t have an opportunity to vote for a candidate that stood strong on any of this in 2014.  I didn’t have that shot in 2012 either.  No one is to blame for that, it is just the way things are.

My point is, aside from not voting at all, voters’ biggest mistake is that we are making choices for the wrong reasons too often.  We are voting on character.  At least we should be.  If you are a candidate, you should be running on character.  If character is not a candidate’s strong suit, that candidate shouldn’t be running at all.

A political campaign that is purely based on the predictable issues really should be over in a few minutes.  In between yawns, a typical campaign runs like this:  “Here’s the list of candidate positions—match those up with the voter’s view on each—tally them up— and now get in there and pull the damn lever.”  Finished.

Americans are lucky, and I really mean that, to often have a longer period of time in campaigns for candidates to accidentally show the electorate of what their character is made.  The problem is, voters are not taking advantage of that accidental benefit.

Any campaign that is designed to “not mess it up,” should enrage voters.  Governor Pence’s 2012 campaign was a classic example of one. It was classic because it was so predictably typical.  We have seen a lot of those campaigns in Indiana lately.  In a state that is typically not a battleground and where Republicans are supposed to win, our voters regularly get treated to less than inspirational sales pitches by those who have inherited a lead in the polls.  Mitch Daniels did not run like that in 2004 and Barack Obama obviously didn’t either when he surprisingly carried Indiana in 2008.  Now that Indiana Republicans seem to be headed into a historic fight with each other, I wonder who will win each domino race.  But I don’t wonder how.

I am betting it will all come down to character.  Well, I hope it does any way.

On the Democrat side, I hope for the same thing.  The Democrat candidate for any Congressional, Gubernatorial, or legislative race should be required to support civil rights protections for the LGBT community, a statewide needle exchange program, public schools and the teachers union, every other labor union and a woman’s right to choose.  I’m not saying I do, but they should.  If a Democrat candidate doesn’t, don’t run. Democrats need to be Democrats.  With character.  My friends are tired of hearing me say it, but I will do it again right here:  no Democrat should want one of their own to win if he or she doesn’t stand for Democrat principles.

It needs to be a choice based solely on character.  Having all of those views above doesn’t make a Democrat special, it just makes them a Democrat.

Any campaign that is designed to out-finance the opponent, and to spend all of its energy avoiding that tragic mistake of having people really get to know the candidate should be a big turn off to all of us.  To all real and potential candidates who are excited about the opportunities our current roster of officials seem to have created:  show your character, embrace it in your campaign, make voters choose based solely on it.

And don’t be afraid to lose for the right reasons.  That is a far better result for all of us than winning for the wrong ones.

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