"I hope that no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant." - John F. Kennedy
Like many American citizens, I am disheartened by the nature of the current presidential election. For over a year, there has been a constant barrage of news suggesting that one candidate may be mentally unfit and a sheer menace to our democracy and the other may personify some of our worst beliefs about politicians. It’s no wonder, as the New York Times reports, this election cycle has caused an explosion of personal anxiety.
The daily deluge of negative news and anxiety makes the decision of whom to vote for even more difficult (especially for the independent voter). With this in mind, I would like to suggest a more objective framework to help you, the voter, decide what to do. And for those of you who have already made the decision, this framework functions well as a “check and balance” — a way of making sure your decision is based on more than anxiety, distaste and disaffection for the current election cycle.
Before I get to the framework, to the extent possible, try to cleanse your mind of certain themes and rhetoric. First, try to eliminate the following considerations, none of which have any bearing on executive performance and all of which are strictly verboten in hiring decisions: gender, race, age, religion and sexual preference.
Second, discard political party affiliation as a factor. Over 90% of registered Democrats and Republicans vote for their party’s nominee, yet history suggests that party affiliation does not matter. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, T. Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower are, by popular consensus, the top seven presidents to date. Three were Democrats, three wereRepublican and George Washington was an Independent. A pretty even distribution across party lines.
Third, to the extent that you qualify as a single issue voter — by this, I mean someone who votes solely on the basis of his or her passionate devotion to one issue, whether that issue is the treatment of Israel, the Second Amendment, Roe v. Wade, or taxes – I implore you to consider a more utilitarian approach and vote for the candidate that will solve greatest number of issues in ways that will create the most good for the greatest number of people.
Now that we have cast aside some prevalent voting motivations, I present to you the “Smartphone Framework” for selecting a presidential candidate. Sounds funny? Yeah, maybe. But the results are quite effective. Let’s begin.
Start by viewing each candidate as an equally priced smartphone. Then consider how you would behave if you were in the market for a new smartphone. In making the selection, you would consider carefully its hardware (memory, battery life, display screen, water resistance, etc.) and its software (operating system and apps) in making the final selection. Now let’s see how the same careful evaluation applies to the presidential candidates.
Let’s talk about hardware. By this, I mean whether the candidate exhibits the traits of a CEO. I selected CEO traits because the president is the de facto CEO of a giant corporation that employs 330 million people and does business all over the world. Unlike a CEO operating in a corporate setting, there is no friendly, eager to please board. Just a potentially hostile congress and an independent Supreme Court.
Now let’s consider the traits of a CEO operating at the top of his or her game. Russell Reynolds Associates, a top executive search firm, assists companies in selecting and recruiting the best CEO for a corporation. Dean Stamoulis and Erika Mannion, two executives at Russell Reynolds, studied the performance of the most effective CEO’s and came up with the following common traits:
- Forward Thinking. Plans ahead and is prepared for the future
- Intrepid. Performs effectively in complex and difficult environments
- Comfortable taking calculated, but not careless risks
- Biased toward action, but not too impulsive
- Actively and optimistically pursues new opportunities
- Is thick skinned and perseveres, but not insensitive
- Team Building.
- Seeks to understand different perspectives but does not overanalyze
- Displays intensity/emotion, but maintains control
- Involves others in decisions, but also is an independent decision maker
- Is comfortable with a variety of people but is not too trusting
So when you think of “temperament” or “fitness” to be president, you are really thinking of the candidate’s traits/hardware. That hardware will come in handy if North Korea unexpectedly lobs a missile over Hawaii.
Now we are ready for “software”. The “software” is the candidate’s position on the issues. Many voters have a bias on issues. Some voters pick their party on the basis of the voters’ position on a single issue. Other voters favor positions on issues that the party platform dictates without considering the impact of the issue on the largest number of people. Certainly, there are more objective approaches for both smartphone and candidate software evaluation.
Toward that end, I discovered a nifty organization called ProCon.org. ProCon is a non-profit, non-partisan public charity that provides even-handed research on more than fifty controversial issues, from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy. It advocates information and respectful debate (which seem to be in short supply of late).
ProCon has set up an election quiz, whereby you can select your position on those 50 issues and then see which candidate best matches those positions. The quiz can be found by clicking on this url:
The good news is that you don’t get scored on the quiz, but the candidates do.
I would suggest that you carve out fifteen minutes (probably less than you would spend in the ATT/Verizon store) and make or confirm your voting decision using the Smartphone Framework. Not much of a time commitment for selecting the leader of the free world. Let’s just hope that the candidate that you vote for doesn’t end up spontaneously exploding in flames (sorry Samsung).