I've spent a lot of time thinking about politics this year - well, a lot more than I used to - and trying to square away all of my own biases to make sure that I'm making a good decision next Tuesday.
Unfortunately, politics in America has taken on too much of a sports flavor, with too many voters taking a "my team versus your team" stance on elections. While I can admire those who feel so strongly about core issues of abortion, gun control, etc. that they are morally obligated to vote their party's ticket, I think there is a large section of voters who are technically neutral walking into each election cycle.
As we all know, it doesn't necessarily play out like that.
Some of us like to be seen as sober and conservative and vote Republican. Some of us are trying to hang on to our younger days of being carefree and liberal and vote Democrat. Some of us at the front of a long line at McDonald's, staring at the menu and prepare to vote for the Green Party.
In the middle of a campaign, it's easy to ignore the opposition's candidate, waiting for gaffes to appear via YouTube or your Facebook wall to further shore up your own caricature of who he or she is.
I certainly do not claim to be immune to getting swept up in all of this. To be totally honest, I can't tell you why I feel Obama is more qualified to run the country than Sarah Palin. It might have to do with that winking thing, but I'm not sure.
Frankie and I were talking about this as we had lunch today and what fascinates me is just how difficult it is to create a "perfect" candidate. Set aside the actual meat of policy issues and think about just how hard it is to mold a candidate to be universally acceptable.
* We want them to be experienced, but are wary of DC insiders.
* We want them to be loose and human, but we'll question the judgement of putting them on Saturday Night Live. We'll also question whether Kennedy or Roosevelt would have danced on Ellen.
* We certainly wouldn't elect a candidate who was an abject business failure, but if they have too much money, we get suspicious.
* We'd also prefer that they've had success in their lives, but we crucify them for being too driven. We don't want a president who is too ambitious.
* We want our candidates to be smart but not to the point that they seem to be intellectually elitist. (For the record, this drives me crazy. I refuse to believe that a president can be too smart, educated or intellectually curious.)
* We want them to be sober and serious, but not like Al Gore was.
* We expect them to rely on their advisors, but question them if they lack experience. Again, we don't want them to be too smart, either.
* We want a candidate who understands what it means to be middle class in this country, without actually being middle class. Serious presidential candidates can't be cops, teachers or even plumbers before they decide to run.
* We want candidates that campaign well, but if they raise too much money, we'll question how they got it.
* We want our candidates to make connections with the voters without seeming condescending.
* We only want our candidates to look good and sound smart on television, but if they don't, we'll just blame the media. Some of us will go as far as convincing ourselves that it's unfair to ask simple questions with a camera or tape recorder present.
* We want passion, but not if it means sighing/winking/getting upset during a televised debate.
* We want them to look and smell nice, but not, you know, $150,000 nice. We also like war heroes, but not if they look like they've been in an actual war.
Safe to say, we're a pretty finicky bunch. While this was a fun hypothetical exercise to kick around for the past week, it has also depressed me as a voter.
If a candidate has to clear this many hurdles with regards to superficial window dressing, there's not a great deal of hope for someone truly dynamic to break through. That saddens me as an American on a very profound level.
You can blame candidate's handlers, the high ranking members of the party, the media (both liberaly agenda-ed and conservatively hate-based) and anyone else you like, but unfortunately, the buck stops where it starts.
This is not a candidate problem, it's a voter problem. Once we can figure out what we want, I'm positive they'll dig someone out to meet those demands.
Late addition edition:
I forgot three that got the ball rolling for me in my excitement to get this written - I really should keep some sort of notebook for this reason.
* We want our candidates to represent our changing country, but let's keep the names less terrorist-y.
* We want our candidates to be their own person - mavericks at times - but ignore that voting the party line is what they are elected to do. They are in office to represent the voters and at times that means voting for things they might not be totally behind.
* We want our candidates to learn from their mistakes, but if they change their minds too many times, they're tabbed as flip-floppers.
(Image from PunditKitchen.com)