45 Things I Want in a Presidential Candidate


A year from now we will (very possibly) have a new president-elect in the U.S. As a registered voter in California, I will have zero influence in deciding the election. But that doesn’t keep me from having opinions about what kind of candidate I’d like to see succeed in becoming America’s 45th president. If I did happen to live in a state like Iowa, New Hampshire, or one of the other “primary” battlegrounds where my vote might feasibly matter, I would be looking to cast a vote for a presidential candidate who fit the following qualifications. Are there any good candidates out there?

Someone who…
  1. Is ethical and principled.
  2. Is eloquent, nuanced, and good with the media.
  3. Is well-read and can speak the “intellectual” language without sounding aloof.
  4. Can relate to working people, NASCAR folks and the NPR crowd without seeming inauthentic
  5. Has a record of being nice to and working with members of the opposing party for the sake of getting things done for the people.
  6. Stands by convictions, but isn’t afraid of compromise.
  7. Can give “moderate” a better name and can build consensus and temper the intensely partisan nature of Washington.
  8. Is a Christian. The authentic, “I think about everything through the lens of Christ-following” kind.
  9. In list of favorite books, films, TV shows, music, etc… has at least a few things that are bold and/or unpredictable.
  10. Reads Grantland.com, and could feasibly write for them.
  11. Saw The Tree of Life and found at least some value in it.
  12. Is generally in favor of lower taxes, but willing to compromise and isn’t shouting “no new tax hikes EVER!” from the rooftops (we need to be reasonable).
  13. Has read a Cormac McCarthy novel.
  14. Can find Kazakhstan on a map.
  15. Is a good politician in the “I have great relational skills and can win friends of all stripes” sort of way.
  16. Does not believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
  17. Favors smaller, streamlined government, but doesn’t see government as a n’er-do-well bogeyman either. Rather, looks for what government does well and has done well historically and what states & the private sector do best, and budgets accordingly.
  18. Genuinely, passionately, actively cares about the poor and suffering.
  19. Has a reasonable plan to simplify the tax code and shrink federal bureaucracy.
  20. Recognizes that America needs to be weaned off of oil; seeks policies that are friendly to clean energy and alternative fuel research/development.
  21. Can be articulate and impressive on Meet the Press.
  22. Hated the term “freedom fries.”
  23. Cares about human rights and is against torture.
  24. Doesn’t want American to be more like Europe, except in having a less car-reliant culture.
  25. Policies are friendly to business and favor job creation.
  26. Has the leadership style and familial demeanor of Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights.
  27. Is pro-life on abortion, stem cells, cloning, etc.
  28. Also pro-life on things like helping the poor, reducing global misery, ending slavery/trafficking, etc.
  29. Has experience as an executive (preferably in business and government).
  30. Cares for his or her spouse and children.
  31. Sees the separation of church and state for what it was originally intended to be: a protection for religion (against government meddling), not the other way around.
  32. Favors policies to protect the rights of private schools and private businesses on matters of religious preference.
  33. Reads constantly.
  34. Supports gradual draw-down of troops abroad and perhaps a slight reduction in military spending.
  35. Supports reforming TSA and Homeland Security to make them more efficient.
  36. In general does not have an “America is the police of the world” attitude, but isn’t isolationist either.
  37. Doesn’t believe in bailouts.
  38. Can reasonably articulate “The Bush Doctrine” and situate it within history.
  39. Has a favorite Radiohead song. Or at least knows who Radiohead is.
  40. Would consider asking someone other than John Williams to compose music for the inauguration.
  41. If elected, won’t spend half of his or her time in office fundraising and campaigning for reelection.
  42. Values intellectual nuance, complexity, and avoids simplistic black & white binaries.
  43. Favors faith-based charities and boosting the non-profit and volunteer sectors.
  44. Wants the world to flourish, but not because America is the “last, best hope” for mankind.
  45. Isn’t perfect.
What sort of qualifications are you looking for in a candidate? 
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18 responses to “45 Things I Want in a Presidential Candidate

  1. I’d vote for that guy.

  2. me too–in a heartbeat!

  3. I live in Iowa, so I can be your representative. When you find this guy, let me know. I have a feeling the only thing we can be sure about is #45. But I won’t give up hope!

  4. I feel like the person you’re calling for is not a human at all, but actually, a super human. Can the man (or woman) who “reads constantly” (# 33) find enough time in the day to “care for his or her spouse and children” (# 30) or “have experience as an executive” (# 29)?

    Plus, a lot of “qualifications” you’re calling for are impractical, generationally speaking. A person who has ample experience in business is likely a generation or two ahead of Radiohead and isn’t interested. A person who is great with social media is likely too young to have the know-how to “fix the budget.” An academic who spends his or her time scouring GrantLand.com and developing complex opinions is likely introverted and unable to relate with your average NASCAR fan. Etc.

    Show me the man or woman who can successfully and ethically balance intellectual pursuits, family life and his role as the leader of a business or government — and I will gladly vote for him. Otherwise, my hope will remain elsewhere.

  5. As a registered Oklahoma voter, my ballot will have the same impact as yours, although my vote will fail to affect far fewer electoral ballots than will yours ;-)

    However, I must reject your entire list based on No. 40. Music that reminds me of “Star Wars” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is often the only interesting thing about the inaugural ceremonies. Unless of course the person asked is Bruce Broughton; then I will reconsider my rejection.

  6. #16 of course will be controversial…yet believing the Garden of Eden is located in the Missouri is controversial in and of itself.

  7. This list actually made me laugh a bit and I hope you wrote this up thinking “there couldn’t possibly be someone who fits all the qualifications.”

    In my opinion I don’t even need the president to be a Christian. I have yet to see many good “Christians” in a presidential office, yet that is not the criteria I will judge them on.

  8. Don Miller for president! ;)

  9. This is great and cheeky. Love it. But what’s with not liking John Williams? Granted he is the “Coldplay” of soundtracks but that’s okay right? :)

  10. I don’t see how numbers 12, 18 and 37 can coexist in what you would like to see in a president. I’m more of a socialist myself. To me, social justice (how I would, in a word, embody what you described in number 18) encompasses every person contributing to the greater good of their society by allowing the government (whom the people would ideally trust) to equally disperse amounts of money earned by all (but particularly those of the rich, business class) to go towards social programs that get at the roots of problems. To me it seems that bailouts come in to play when governments fail their people, so perhaps number 37 is congruent with the other things I am questioning.

    But I’m Canadian, after all, so what do I know, eh!

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  12. I generally like this list, but #39 is a dealbreaker for me. The only way I’d vote for a candidate who fits that criterion would be if that Radiohead song is “Creep,” and if the candidate’s sole reason for picking it is because Thom Yorke disowned it.

  13. Genuine question from a non-American:

    Are #7 (gives “moderate” a better name / can build consensus) and #27 (pro-life on abortion, stem cells, cloning) mutually exclusive? Or to put it differently, can you name a moderate who is also staunchly pro-life?

    • Well, I think so, but then, I’m pro-life. I have a feeling there would be a whole lot of people on the left side of the isle who would find a genuinely pro-life candidate to be the very definition of not-moderate. Most of the time when the media talks about “moderate Republicans” they’re rather less pro-life. But not necessarily always. This fictional candidate we’re talking about would have to be pretty special to pull it off.

  14. I’m silly. I don’t think he has to be a Christian. You know, I believe a good president, like a good American, can be Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or a variety of religions. But what do I know?

  15. And to address 416expat, I’d say Bob Casey b/c if you prolife moderates, mostly you gotta go Catholic, though he does compromise at times on certain types of funding.

  16. Excellent! Especially 1-9. I may make a list of my own.

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