Leadership Considerations for Presidential Elections

Leadership qualities on ready display

Questions of leadership rose up as we celebrated Presidents Day amidst a threatened government shutdown and candidates lined up for the 2020 election. Such questions move us beyond policy concerns and call upon us to notice how character and inspiration and vision and idealism make a difference in our elections.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, recently published another bestseller: Leadership in Turbulent Times. She highlights four of our presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. For each, she marks the key aspects about their respective histories, character, and maxims by which each lived. Her comments about Lincoln are especially noteworthy as she identifies aspects of his emotional intelligence.

…his empathy, humility, consistency, self-awareness, self-discipline, and generosity of spirit. … there was no room for mean-spirited behavior, for grudges or personal resentments.

Leadership comparisons make a difference

Some say we get what we deserve. This is not a cavalier thought and I hope you dwell on it a bit, especially so when next you cast your presidential ballot.

Some of the differences among candidates are nuanced. We see this subtlety between the many vying for significance among the Democrat contenders. All are considered progressive, but by how much and which does this nation need at this point in time?

Trump, on the other hand and as the leader of the Republican Party, is not encumbered with such concerns. It’s him against the rest. Again, what does this nation – do we – deserve?

Still, he faces accusations from within the GOP. As the late Arizona Senator and former Republican nominee, John McCain, noted and was reported by Yoni Appelbaum in the recent issue of The Atlantic:

The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.

 Another recent GOP’s nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney remarked just this past January:

The president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

Our responses foretell what we deserve

Such barbs are nothing new in political contests and, we should admit, we become a bit deaf to the claims. We live in an age wherein calm responses go entirely unnoticed. Perhaps we’ve become politically jaded. Because of our casual response (or lack thereof), there is some truth to the idea that we get what we deserve.

How can this be when the entire nation prepares for months that stretch for almost a half of an entire presidential term? Why is there a lack of what I call a consequential truth when so many of us weigh in with our ballots? Certainly, our massive voting voice should average out to a collective sentiment and wisdom that will pick the best of candidates – the one we collectively deserve.

Small percentages make a difference

Some are aware that presidential elections are not as pure and pristine as we want them to be. There are political shenanigans that curl our ethical hairs and force perspectives and decisions away from our collective senses. Abuse of money and power weigh in, too, causing impressions to be twisted and contorted beyond all truth. We, the voting masses, are left confused.

Recent elections (we only have to remind ourselves of occurrences this past fall) reveal the prevalence of voter suppression. Reducing our numbers at the polls limits our collective voice, skewing voting results well past what we can claim as our collective choice.

A small voting percentage in these elections can have enormous effect. A few percentage points waived away can give advantage to minority contenders. Small marginal advantages can be flipped to elect a lesser opponent. Large margins can be narrowed to leave a constituency perplexed about our very own neighborhoods.

Vote suppression nullifies truth

It’s true that large voting percentages can have an overall devastating effect. If a few percentage points can capture our attention, deliver unwanted results, and point to corruption, what does a large voting percentage omission reveal?

Sadly, the answer is, “Not much!” For almost 200 years we have been satisfied with shoving presidential ballots aside under the excuse ofwinner-takes-all. These are votes that gain no representation before they are submitted into the Electoral College machinery. Translating popular votes into electoral votes on a state-by-state basis should not suffer a loss of representation. This is not democracy at work – it is vote suppression!

My own analysis over the previous 15 presidential elections show that we set aside almost 46% of the ballots cast, giving them no representation at all! The 2016 election was an average example and hit that vote suppression mark almost perfectly.

Equal Voice Voting remedies the representation problem

Equal Voice Voting allows the Electoral College to work as it was intended, granting full representation to the popular vote as well as to every state in our republic (see The Equal Voice Voting formula). Yet we hamstring the process by endorsing a cowardly means for political parties to capture unfair advantages.

The situation is similar to gerrymandering wherein congressional districts are drawn to give greater voting advantage to political parties that are in power. The winner-takes-all approach forces large voting blocs to be silent – unrepresented – on a state-by-state basis.

For example, 13 states in the 2016 election silenced more than 50% of the votes cast in their respective elections (see State-by-State 2016 Analysis). This is not unusual. Yet we ignore this fact election after election after election. We allow this to happen. Our leaders allow this to happen.

Leadership – it demands sensitivity for truth. It requires a vision for fairness and, in regard to our elections, a demand for democracy at work. When we don’t demand truth or fairness or simple representation, our voting voices become silent. It is then that we get the leadership we deserve.

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