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Champion of Democracy?

April 7, 2008

“The more people that have a chance to vote, the better it is for our democracy.” Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton advertises that Americans live in a democracy. She doesn’t stand alone. The popular dogma is that the country is run directly by the little guy. It would be refreshing to hear the truth. Americans live in a representative republic. Politics cannot change that fact.

The unique construction of the election process indicates a democracy in only the most general sense. America needs more than a general sense. We are in tough times and need an effective leader that cares about the freedom and rights of all citizens, not just children. The country needs common sense and commitment to character. Do any of the candidates hold a healthy portion of what America needs? The behind-the-scenes politics of our lawmakers says something about the true character of each candidate. Who is truly fit to answer the phone during a national crisis at 3 AM?

Ms. Clinton makes a pretense of being populist and freedom-loving. The reality is that she wants to exclude people from the political process because her ideas and ideals are best for the country. That is dangerous thinking for a free country…unless you live in communist Russia. She is inflexible and determined to have her way. Her policies, laws and enforcement of laws has shown that she is not a friend of the U.S. citizen. Economic policies that she has clearly supported have not worked for America. As a professed “co-president”, she must be held accountable for her history. Can Hillary Clinton overcome her checkered past?

Barack Obama reflects a thinking man with a certain level of kindness and generosity. He is a new political generation. However, standing up for issues under great heat is not always his strong point. He has shown to give in to media pressure. “Pastorgate” is a classic example. He took the easy way out. He has refused to stand firm to his commitments of opinion. He caved in to “guilt by association”. He failed to recognize that if he is guilty by association, then every candidate is unworthy to hold office this year. When faced with intense scrutiny, he doesn’t stand up, but rationalizes his stance and slowly melts under pressure or takes the high road. He seems to be a valuable public servant and even a statesman. He has a charisma and consensus-building ability. Being a self-proclaimed “nice guy” has its downfalls, especially in politics. He seems to value the views of other people, but doesn’t seem to carry his own personal value seriously. His lack of self in the public as well as lacking a sense of directness indicates a flaw that America doesn’t need. Does Barack Obama have a strong backbone or will he continue to blow in the wind of public opinion because of insecurity? Is he too nice? Is the high road a real place politicians can go?

John McCain seems to have proved his character overall. He has demonstrated that he is a consensus man that can draw from all sides. His dealings with the Democratic lawmakers shows that he works well with lawmakers. This can be either a weakness or a strength. However, his true ability to create movement should be of concern. He rarely stands alone for issues that he strongly believes in and fails to truly stand out. Does he believe in anything with all his heart other than the concept of a righteous America? The country has yet to hear what it needs. Does John McCain have political grit? Is he strong enough? Is he too moderate?

Character has been called the “measure of a man”. The Josephson Institute of Ethics indicates six pillars of character. Which election candidate best fits these projected ideals?

Trustworthiness
Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends and country

Respect
Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements

Responsibility
Do what you are supposed to do • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your choices

Fairness
Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly

Caring
Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

Citizenship
Do your share to make your community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed and involved • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment

Admittedly, there is something to be said for the study and understanding of ethics. Ethics falls far short in the political arena and in the world in general. Character is something more than ethical ideas. The idea is that leaders do not command excellence, they build excellence. Excellence is being all you can be within the bounds of doing what is right. To reach excellence, a leader must have good character and continue to steer the course of what is right. Character is a process, not an event. Character has been America’s consistent problem in the last century. Maintaining a leadership with a reasonable level of character in one of the most powerful corruptive atmospheres is a problem. Unfortunately, lifetime and long-term politicians have not proved useful. When Americans are truly concerned with electing the best candidate, balanced character is the best measure of worthiness. Ethics is a good place to start. The problem is that politics always get in the way.

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