I didn’t vote for Dick Cheney. Nobody did. He came as a part of the package with George W. Bush. I didn’t vote for him either, but that is another story. The point is that there were a whole lot of folks for whom nobody voted who came along with the election of the president, including Cheney and Rumsfeld and the whole lovely bunch who visited upon the American people the worst, most senseless and longest war in our history.
When you vote for a president, you vote for a whole lot of people whose names are rarely mentioned before the election. The president will have her role, of course. She will — okay, he or she — give speeches, meet with foreign dignitaries, and generally be the public face of the United States government. More than that, however, she will appoint a huge group of people who will very much influence the everyday lives of citizens: the head of state, of defense, of the treasury, of labor. She will appoint the people who run critical organizations like the Veterans’ Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, the Justice Department, and, of course, she will appoint at least one person, and likely several people, to the Supreme Court and many, many more to the lower federal courts.
So you don’t just vote for a person. Every time you vote for a president, you vote to send the country in a direction, and that direction might have thunderous impacts on your daily life, and that direction might affect the conduct of the country for generations after that president is long gone. Consider just one point. The Democrat candidate has announced that she will be taking major steps to slow, and ultimately eliminate, global warming. The Republican candidate has announced that the whole idea of global warming is a hoax. If there is such a thing as global warming, and the evidence is overwhelming, then spending the next four years ignoring it will have an effect that will run into the next century and beyond.
We are shooting blind on this, of course. We can’t ask, and they won’t tell, who it is whom they will appoint as Attorney General or Secretary of State or Secretary of State, not to mention the host of lesser positions. This is why — sorry to harp — it is so profoundly important to measure the candidates, not by their personalities, and not by their genders, but rather by their policies. What do they think about the areas of daily life that affect you most. Will an increase in the minimum wage affect you? Will an attack on global warming affect you and yours? Will it matter to you what the president thinks about people of color?
The list of policies is long, so the job of educating yourself is substantial. We owe it to ourselves, and most certainly the candidates owe it to us, to put aside all questions of personality and lay out as fully as possible what kind of policies each candidate will pursue and therefore what impact each candidate is going to have on our lives, and, quite likely, the lives of generations to come.