Not really a facetious question. Each political party has had problems in the past with people who were disastrously bad for the country but who were nominated and elected anyway (Warren Harding is perhaps the best example for the Republicans, while Jimmy Carter would stand in for contemporary Democrats). Perhaps the most interesting feedback comes from The Politics of Polarization
, which attempts to separate out the myths driving party politics from the reality of who would appeal to the moderates who are the real contest ground of any election outside San Francisco. The most key portrayal of the politician to look for is as follows:We would argue that of all the tests national candidates must pass, the personality test is the most important. This test may be summarized in three questions that voters are asking and that candidates must answer to their satisfaction. First[, i]s the candidate a person of strength, with core convictions and the ability to act on them through challenges and criticism? Second[, i]s the candidate a person of integrity, who displays consistency over time, who tells the truth, whose words and deeds coincide? And thir[d, i]s the candidate a person of empathy, who understands and cares about people like us?
[corrections in brackets are grammatical, not substantive]
The report goes on to make these points in the negative:Candidates who say only what they think others want to hear cannot display strength. Candidates who shift position on what should be matters of conviction cannot pass the integrity tests. And candidates who are far removed from the lives and feelings of average families will have a hard time understanding the daily challenges these families face, or credibly conveying care and concern about them.
Now, however, I come to the really important question: would Warren Harding and Jimmy Carter pass this test? I think the answer is "Yes." That should give us pause as we consider candidates in the light of the "strength, integrity, and empathy" criteria, because it would not eliminate exactly the kind of candidate who would pass this test and nonetheless be disastrous for the country.
On the other hand, for those who are worried that the Democrats will listen to this and get somewhere, Why should they start learning from history now?
They haven't before. They have their ideas. Rather than caring about making progress toward implementing them, they want a king to get all of them, whatever the people vote. California Republicans have made the same mistake (it must be something in the air). Politics is not about final solutions. It is about the compromises that lead to progress toward one goal or another. If you care about something, find people who find that more important than their opponents, and vote for them. Keep it up. Be patient. Realize that utopia WILL NEVER BE ACHIEVED, but human beings are perfectible, and you'll have the right attitude to go out and persuade people. Otherwise, you'll find yourself at the other end of a gun, and I'll be either aiming it or cheering it on, taking as my text a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling:Macdonough's Song
"As easy as A B C"--A Diversity of Creatures"
Whether the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth--
These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.
Whether The People be led by The Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote--
These are things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.
Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King--
Or Holy People's Will--
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!
Once there was The People--Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People--it shall never be again!
For those who read this and decide, in their own self-dramatizing way that this means I'm actively out there hunting you down with a rifle, it's probably time to grow up. The conservatives in the California Reuplican party probably know better than to think this way, but most of the liberals I know have a fantasy about their necessary existence and a paranoia that everyone knows them and is plotting particularly and personally against them. I'd recommend a good psychiatrist. I understand that many are available now.