I’ve been watching the election with bated breath. Well, ok, I’ve been watching it mainly with a feeling of disgust. There’s been hour after hour of talking heads evaluating the horse race and ignoring issues. Or at best, they whine about how the media is ignoring issues… while they—also the media—ignore all issues except whether the media is ignoring issues.

The scary part is the vapidness of the whole race. All of the candidates seem to be smart people. They can form complete sentences (most of the time), and they can combine the sentences into paragraphs. So already, they’re better than some of the gems we’ve had in the White House in times past.

But at this point, I’m truly scared. We have multiple crises in the U.S.: economic, environmental, and educational, to say the least. We need serious policies to address these problems, and policies that measure outcomes and change in the event the policies aren’t doing what we want them to do.

That would seem like common sense, right? Implement a policy and if it doesn’t work, change it? But we don’t operate that way. Most policies seems to be set ideologically, with little or no outcome monitoring. In the rare cases we do measure an outcome, we choose sloppy measures that can often drive more harm than good. (See: “No Child Left Behind” and “Test Scores” and “Teaching to the test rather than teaching children to think”, respectively.)

The current Presidential election is proceeding with the same utter lack of thought. No one’s asking what skills a President should have, how to measure the skills, and then examining the candidates against that measure. Instead, we’re just collectively blustering, slinging mud, and basically blathering on like idiots.

What I want in a President is wisdom. I want a President who is thoughtful, who seeks out a variety of views, and who makes decisions that seem appropriate for the circumstances. I don’t want someone who simply knee-jerk follows the party lines–the parties aren’t particularly competent, in case you haven’t noticed.

I would judge that by watching the way a candidate runs his or her campaign. I would look at the decisions he or she makes, who they talk to, whether they talk about the issues, policies, and solutions, or whether they stay solely on the “character” issues. (Yes, character is important. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle. I want character and competence, but the whole competence question seems to have vanished, except as an attack on character.)

So … we’ll get the politicians that our system selects. And we’ll get the politicians we deserve. By definition. I simply fear that what we deserve may not be the path we’d want.

Election 2008: Blech. Where’s the wisdom?

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