Political Candidates or Statesmen?
Politics was a major part of my early life. Growing up in Washington, DC — the son of the House Office barber — provided many opportunities for discussions about politics.
Many of my first memories were actually discussions about statesmanship. What is means and why it is important. These discussions focused on what we, as citizens, should expect from our elected leaders and how we need to hold them accountable for their promises.
In the early 1950s, there were many elected leaders in Congress from both parties that my family identified as statesmen. They were unafraid to share their values and consistently take positions based on them and willing to consider alternative points of view then use their values to determine if they would lead to changing their position.
One of the things my father taught me was to consider two ways of assessing political candidates: the first is to judge all candidates against each other and determine who would best represent my views, and the second was to consider each candidate against a preferred set of characteristics I expected of our representatives.
Sixty years later, I consistently hear my late father’s advice. I have been fortunate in many federal, state and local elections to find candidates aligned with my values and expectations. Unfortunately, I find the recent elections challenge me to stick to my value-based criteria and slip back to “who is the best of the bunch.”
When I compare the candidates to each other, I find the exercise interesting and in some ways amusing. Too often find their comments more about positions and decisions than the values upon which they base their opinions.
Maybe I set the bar too high for candidates to have fidelity to a set of values and consistent expectations. But, I believe our democracy deserves such statesmen.