Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reflections on unqualified candidates

I read a very interesting article (with video) about a high staffer from McCain's campaign. He was talking about the choice of Palin for McCain's Vice-President:
"When a result happens that puts someone who's not prepared to be president on the ticket, that's a bad result... Both parties have nominated people in the last decade who were not prepared to be anywhere near the Oval office." -- Steve Schmidt
First, we would have to define 'unqualified' in a non-partisan way. According to most of the opposition party, your candidate isn't qualified for the high office of the presidency. I'd also like to craft a definition that wouldn't rule out someone like Lincoln, who served only two years in government office and was a failed Senate candidate, but was known as a passionate speaker and advocate.

Actually, maybe it's better to debate whether a particular person is unqualified rather than try to create a definition that works in all cases, including the case of Lincoln.

Unqualified in '08
In the 2008 presidential elections, we had two candidates who had questionable credentials: Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Neither had been in high public office for very long-- only 3.5 years for Obama and 1.5 years for Palin. Obama had never had executive experience or responsibility for managing a budget, while Palin did.

Obama, though clearly less qualified in terms of experience, was nominated (in part) because he had a better chance of winning than Hillary Clinton. Palin, also clearly less qualified in terms of experience, was nominated because she brought good speaking skills, excitement, and appeal to women and evangelical Christians.

Is it OK to nominate some who is unqualified because it gives your side a better chance to win, and you believe that your candidate, despite lacking some important qualifications, would do a better job than the opponent? Both the Democrats and the Republicans said 'yes' to that question in 2008.

Should We Risk It?
Sometimes you take that bet, you embrace that risk, in pursuit of a higher reward. Sometimes it's because that bet is the only one that might pay off, so you accept it knowing the problems. We, as a democratic people, are proudly unruly and somewhat disrespectful of rank and office. We will, no doubt, sometimes nominate and even elect the 'unqualified' person because we see some special characteristic that mitigates a lack of qualifications. Neither the opponents nor proponents will have an unbiased judgment about whether a candidate is unqualified, or whether failure ensued due to lack of qualifications. There is no way to scientifically test qualifications and discover what is necessary and what isn't.

So be ready to debate the candidate's qualifications, but know that being 'unqualified' isn't a veto on running or winning.

Extra: Biblical qualifications.

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