Have you picked your favorite candidate for President? From my conversations with many people, I would guess that you probably have. Is your candidate still in the running? As we move towards the political conventions and the general election, I am hearing that many are having to let go of their first choice and decide among the “finalists”.
How did you make your first choice? What criteria did you use then and are using now?
For many people, their choice is, for the most part, “pre-ordained” by the identity that they have created for themselves. If you call yourself a “conservative”, a “libertarian” or a “Republican”, you have most likely locked yourself on whoever will become the Republican candidate. If you call yourself a “liberal”, a “progressive” or a “Democrat”, you similarly have locked yourself on the eventual Democratic candidate. End of debate, that’s your choice. Your attachment to your identity has created your choice for you.
Yet, if you are independent or someone who has not intricately linked their identity to their party affiliation, then you are having to determine how to choose between what is growing to look like a choice of Trump or Hillary. How are you deciding?
A recent news report stated that “Nearly seven-in-10 registered voters say they couldn’t see themselves supporting Republican frontrunner Donald Trump; 61 percent say they couldn’t back fellow Republican Ted Cruz; and 58 percent couldn’t see themselves voting for Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.” If these numbers are valid, it could be that voters this year will either stay away from the polls or end up voting “against” the candidate they most dislike. That’s somewhat disheartening.
Beyond the call to vote “against” a candidate, what are you using to determine who to vote “for”? Is there a particular policy that is the most important one to you, such as their stances on immigration, Wall Street, the wars and terrorism, race relations, etc?
May I suggest another criteria to consider? How about looking at which candidate will do the most to unite us?
Whether it is empirically true or simply our perception, most of us sense that the “United” States is the most polarized that it has ever been in our history. Such perceptions have led to a slew of books addressing the state of our “union” or lack thereof. One recent book I enjoyed, The Reunited States of America by Mark Gerzon, states that “everyone, it seems, has his or her reason why the partisan divide cannot, or should not, be bridged.” However, he adds, “Fortunately, even as the naysayers’ voices grow louder, the movement to reunite America only grows stronger. Deepening cynicism and hyperpartisanship is one of the reasons that a movement to reunite America is gaining strength right now.”
I encourage you to read Gerzon’s book and to then somehow get proactively involved in that “movement” to bring us back together. That is one of the reasons behind much of my work, both here at Conscious Bridge and with organizations such as Coffee Party USA. Our country was built on the ideals stated in the first words of our constitution, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union….” What are we doing to maintain that “perfect union”?
A perfect union allows for differences of opinions, in fact it encourages that diversity knowing that greater answers and greater possibilities are birthed from such variety. No one person, party or position can have all of the highest and best ideas. Believing that you and your group knows what is best for all of us is the height of hubris. We must honor our differences and allow for their expression in our political processes. Locking out any ideas or positions leads to a “less perfect union” or “no union at all”.
Last year, Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times where he suggested that what we truly need at this time is a “servant leader”. This is leadership that is characterized by “putting others first and leading from the heart”. I couldn’t agree more. Yet Shultz also offered a yardstick for gauging our new leader. He stated, “Americans who are tired of politics as usual should demand a clear answer to a simple question from every candidate: What will you do to unite all of us?”
So I encourage us to ask the candidates that question now….and to continue after the election asking our next President the same thing—–
What will you do to unite us?
The state of our “union” depends on that answer.