In politics, can we talk policy, not personality?

BY MAX FURIGAY ’19
OPINION EDITOR

The start of voting for the 2016 presidential election has finally arrived, and my conversations with others on the validity of each candidate over the last few months have revealed a confusing logical dichotomy: an insistence that personality and politics need to be linked when evaluating a presidential candidate.

This is an irresponsible method of judgement. As a means of illustration, take Hillary Clinton: Many people have called her untrustworthy and Machiavellian. I fail to see how this is relevant in the slightest. If someone’s personality does not affect their policy stances, then why are we, the American public, even considering it? Sure, untrustworthiness might lead to behaviors that do negatively impact Mrs. Clinton’s job performance, such as misleading Congress or the American people, but I argue that anyone’s negative personality traits are not relevant in a political discussion, per se.

Take a hypothetical candidate, Marco Saunders, who proudly proclaims that he doesn’t believe scientists on the issue of global warming, and doesn’t trust the dozens of studies that have been released linking climate change and human action. This personality trait (ignorance) is not good, and I certainly would not want to be this person’s friend. But let’s say that Marco ascribes to a religion that has a pastor claiming that God believes that oil is sacred, and thus should not be burned. If Marco’s policy actions would be identical to what his actions would have been if he were not ignorant about climate change (stricter EPA regulations, maybe a carbon tax), then I argue that his reasoning behind the actions do not matter. While it is unfortunate that an individual may have bad personality traits, it should not change anyone’s opinion of him solely as a presidential candidate.

So when people say that Clinton “would do anything for the presidency” or that Cruz is overly Christian or that Trump is just a general jerk, these are invalid statements to make about the candidates. I don’t care if you don’t personally like the candidate! Do you agree with the majority of their political stances? Try saying “Cruz is a disgusting lockstep uber-conservative,” or, “Clinton flip-flops with the general public so much we have no idea what she’d do as a president,” or, “Trump’s tax plan is a bizarre mixture of populism and libertarianism that it borders on incoherent.”

In this already sensational and seemingly never-ending election cycle (and remember, we started the first stage of this nonsense literally yesterday), the least we can do is try and improve national discourse over these candidates. After all, we’re certainly going to be talking about them for a long time. And for if anyone wants to complain about a candidate, for God’s sake, please don’t talk about how much you wouldn’t want to have a beer with them.

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