Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Americans are fed up with Washington. We are tired of a gridlocked government where insults and ideological posturing substitute for civil debates and careful compromises. We long for an occupant of the Oval Office who sympathizes with all sides of the issues and maneuvers to find the moderate common ground.
Such a chief executive might, for example, be a gun owner who nonetheless understands the need for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. He or she might personally oppose abortion, but understand why women alone must remain empowered to make this agonizing choice, albeit with sufficient state restrictions to ensure that the decisions aren’t made frivolously and adequate state support for adoption services as well as the mothers in difficult circumstances who choose to raise an unplanned child themselves. Indeed, he or she might personally oppose the death penalty, but begrudgingly enforce it for heinous crimes in which the culprits have been fairly tried and duly convicted.
And the chief executive we want might favor strict regulation of the big banks, while also support relaxed regulations for the community banks that have never been part of the problem and would be unreasonably burdened by excessive regulations. He or she should be a strong advocate of environmental protections, but simultaneously a proven manager of a vibrant free market economy. He or she should support a strong military defense, even perhaps have a son or a daughter in uniform, but oppose a military that overreaches by blundering into foreign wars that achieve nobody’s objectives and only leave carnage and terrorists in their wake.
Ideally, the desired chief executive will have been raised in the heartland — somewhere say like Missouri — by parents of middling means. We’d like him or her to have a visceral understanding of the middle and working classes, not to have merely read about us in the newspapers. It’s okay, even admirable, if our preferred chief executive followed a state university education with a Harvard law degree, but let that have been earned by merit, not a birthright bestowed by privileged parents.
Similarly, we’d like it if our chief executive’s political career began with election to a local office, say a city council, rather than the top. Good chief executives understand how federal policies affect local communities — and it doesn’t hurt for them to have experience managing local garbage collection (and recycling) too. Sure, we want a chief executive who has risen beyond the local city council — say to governor and U.S. senator — but experience in local government provides a grounding that most national politicians sorely lack.
In multi-ethnic America, it would be impossible to have a chief executive who is a member of all the ethnic groups. But suppose our ideal occupant of the Oval Office is a white male. Wouldn’t it be great if he were also a longterm member of a church with a congregation comprised of both blacks and whites, and wonderful if he had enough firsthand experience with both Latinos and in Latin America to speak Spanish?
We have just this candidate this year. He is Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia — a super guy, and exactly the kind of chief executive the country needs.
Yeah, I realize that the woman he’s running with leaves a lot to be desired. Then again, in her first executive decision, Hillary Clinton made a good one: She chose Tim Kaine as her running mate.
America’s voters are faced with an awful choice this year. Three of the four candidates in the two main parties are sorry specimens of our national politics. These include a billionaire bully whose only political experience has been bribing public officials, his opportunistic milquetoast running mate who learned everything he knows about politics from watching Ronald Reagan’s campaign commercials, and a stuck-in-the-1970s’ feminist who imagines that the country’s only challenge is to foist her through a nebulous glass ceiling. Voters will have to hold their noses no matter which ticket they choose — either that or throw away their votes in protest support for a third party also-ran.
Fortunately, one of the four candidates — Tim Kaine — is actually a good choice. Although voting for Tim will only get us half of what we want, half is better than nothing.
Half is also a reasonable compromise — and at the end of the day, politics is about compromising.