In a representative democracy like ours, voters should see themselves as human resources directors, not vote-at-home reality TV show viewers.
So for this column, let’s set aside televised presidential debate performances and act like we’re hiring someone for a job, which we are. Presidents don’t actually debate once they’re in office, anyway. Let’s also set aside each candidate’s ideology, personality, perceived character, and ability to inspire. Those are important, but we’ll get to those later in the hiring process. Finally, let’s set aside our own emotions and preconceived notions about the candidates and their parties. Instead, we’re sifting through resumes and looking at the candidates’ qualifications. Those ought to count for something, right?
We all know Hillary Clinton will be the Democrats’ nominee. She was a very influential first lady who played an important role in her husband’s presidential administration. She then served as a U.S. senator and then secretary of state. Based on those experiences, she’s qualified to make the second round.
If there’s a job that best prepares a person to be president, it would be governor of a large state. On the Republican side, the most qualified candidate is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich is one of two candidates in the race who has served as both a governor and a member of Congress. He was chairman of the House Budget Committee during the only time period in recent memory when Congress actually balanced the budget. As governor of Ohio, he helped turn a shortfall into a surplus.
Kasich’s leadership of Ohio is also important because it’s a diverse state that’s neither red nor blue, which is why it’s one of the few states that matter anymore in the Electoral College, and why no Republican has ever been elected without winning it. Unfortunately, Kasich was on the end of the debate stage Tuesday, not the middle with the frontrunners, and he did not do well.
The debate format also has not been kind to the other governor on the main stage Tuesday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But because we’re acting like human resources directors and not reality TV show-watchers, we’re not so worried about that. Instead, we’re looking at Bush’s resume, which says he was a two-term governor of one of the nation’s most populous states. Florida is also a diverse state with, like America, a large Hispanic population. As governor, Bush once had to respond to four hurricanes in 44 days, the kind of crisis presidents face.
Three other governors will be on Arkansas voters’ ballots come March 1: the state’s own Mike Huckabee, who spent a decade in office; Gov. Chris Christie, who as a Republican governor of a blue state must work with Democrats to get anything done; and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who has served in Congress and then served two terms as governor of Louisiana, where he responded as an executive to both Hurricane Gustav and the BP oil spill.
On the Republican side, five senators will be on the ballot: Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
I’m placing experience in the Senate below experience as governor. While senators deal with national issues, the buck does not stop with them. They are not required to administer much, and with the way Congress works these days, they don’t have to accomplish much, either. Rubio, Cruz and Paul all are eloquent spokesmen for their points of view, but, like then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, they all are serving their first terms in the Senate. Graham, who is in his third term after previously serving in the House of Representatives, is by far the most qualified, but he wasn’t even invited to this last set of debates because of his low poll numbers.
That leaves the three outsiders: Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, all of whom are accomplished individuals even though they have no experience in holding elected office. As human resources directors, we voters might or might not decide to go with our guts and bring in one of these three from the outside to shake things up.
But that should not become a habit. Ideology, personality, perceived character, and ability to inspire – all of those matter a lot. But experience and qualifications shouldn’t be irrelevant. As democracy’s human resources directors, we ought to at least glance at the candidates’ resumes before hiring them for the job.