Sometimes I wonder if American voters are just plain dumb. One of the most important decisions the average American citizen ever makes is who to vote for in presidential races, yet many Americans treat these races with the frivolity of elementary-school student council elections. When asked why they voted for a particular presidential candidate, the reasons given by some voters are not just questionable they are downright irresponsible. For example, in his book about the Clinton years, George Stephanopoulos claims that Greek Americans tend to be Republicans but that if someone of Greek heritage runs as a Democrat, heritage trumps everything and Greeks vote for the Democrat. Stephanopoulos cites the example of Michael Dukakis who garnered the lion’s share of the Greek-American vote when he ran for president as a liberal Democrat. Voters of Greek heritage did not ask if Dukakis would be a good commander-in-chief, if he had good ideas on the economy, or if he would be strong in the foreign policy arena. They just asked if he was Greek.
Apparently Greeks are not the only people in America who vote for reasons that no thinking person who cares about the future of our country can justify. Here are a few cases in point: 1) How many Americans voted for Barack Obama primarily because he is black and they thought it would be a good idea to finally have a black president or, correspondingly, how many voted against him because he is black?, 2) How many people are now lining up to vote for Hillary Clinton—even before she announces her candidacy—because they like the idea of America having its first woman president and, correspondingly, how many will vote against her on the basis of her sex?, and 3) How many Americans vote for candidates on the basis of national or cultural heritage as George Stephanopoulos claims his fellow Greek-Americans do? Apparently, but unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is “a lot of people.” I have no problem with people who voted for Barack Obama in his first election if they did so because they thought he was the better of the two major candidates. Of course I did not agree with them, but at least they were voting—even if naively—for the candidate they thought could best lead our country. But I have been told by people—both black and white—that they voted for Barack Obama even though they did not buy his “hope-and-change” message because they thought America should have a black president. Some of these same people even voted for his re-election to a second term, even though they knew he offered no hope and the only changes he was making were bad for our country. Yet, in spite of knowing full well that Barack Obama was not a good president and was not going to be one, for many people race trumped good sense and good citizenship.
Let me be clear here. Just as I do not accept voting for Barack Obama because he is black, I do not accept voting against him because he is black. In fact, those who voted against him because he is black and those who voted for him for the same reason are just opposite sides of the same coin. I have no use for people on either side of that coin. There was one and only one legitimate reason to vote for Barack Obama for president: because it was thought he would be the best person for the job—the candidate best equipped to lead America and the free world militarily, economically, and morally. I take issue with people who believed Barack Obama was this person, but I do not take issue with them for voting the way they did if they really believed he would make the best president.
No matter how important it is for a diverse country such as ours to have a black president, it is even more important for America to have an effective president. Voting on the basis of race is racial bias, period. The job of the President of the United States is too important to be turned into some kind of socio-cultural statement. Yes, one can argue that there will be long-term socio-cultural benefits to having a black president, just as one can argue that there will be similar benefits from having a female president, a Hispanic president, and an Asian president. But even more important than having individuals from all races and both sexes eventually serve in our nation’s highest office is having the best person for the job in that office in every instance regardless of race, sex, or national heritage.
Why is this issue so important? Because there is a high probability that America is going to repeat the same mistake it made in electing Barack Obama to the presidency if Hillary Clinton decides to run. Just as there were people who voted for Barack Obama because they thought it was time America had a black president, there are people who will vote for Hillary Clinton because they think it is time we had a woman president. Voting for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman is just as wrong as voting against her because she is a woman. The economy and our foreign enemies do not care if the president is a man or a woman. It is not as if they are going to temporarily lighten up on the U.S. because they are proud of us for making a socio-cultural statement in electing our president. If you don’t believe me, ask Barack Obama.
Further, unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has a record in office—and it’s not a good record. There is nothing in her record as Senator or Secretary of State that suggests she would make an effective president. She would certainly be a woman president, but is that really enough when America’s credit rating is bottoming out, true unemployment numbers remain stubbornly high, healthcare is being driven down the drain by a quasi-nationalized system she conceived but could not deliver, and our enemies abroad have already been emboldened because voters wanted to make a statement by electing Barack Obama?
I have no problem with America electing a woman as president, but it does matter who that woman is and what she believes. Were it possible, I would take Margaret Thatcher as America’s president right now. Further, if a woman runs in 2016 who has the makings of an effective president, I will give her candidacy serious consideration. But I will vote for her for the same reason I would vote for a male presidential candidate: because I am convinced she is the best person for the job. Her sex will have nothing to do with my decision and it should have nothing to do with yours. The races and genders of presidential candidates should not matter in America, but their ability to lead should. To vote for a presidential candidate for any reason other than merit is bad citizenship.