(Author’s Note: This is the 11th in a series of political articles for CommPRO.biz that I’ll be writing leading up to Election Day. FYI – My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column, I opine why I believe that voting only on policy matters can result in electing a flawed president.)
All during this election season, and those of the past, the subject that most dominates political talk are the issues that separate candidates.
What is hardly mentioned is the character of a candidate. (Oxford Dictionaries definition of character: The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.)
This year’s election is unique. A candidate’s moral values might be the deciding factor in who people elect. But as in past elections to many voters it doesn’t mean beans.
As an individual whose first job in public relations was with what today would be called a boutique PR firm, I know that for many political operatives’ character and issues mean very little. What matters to those operatives are who they are currently working for. Like large service firms who might have staff working for opposing interests, some political firms have staffers who work for Republican and Democratic candidates, proving for them it’s the money that counts, not the moral fiber of the candidates.
But, in my opinion, not taking into consideration a candidate’s character can lead to disastrous outcomes.
The first presidential campaign I worked on was for Richard Nixon. I thought many of his policies were what the country needed – signing into law the civil rights act of 1970 that extended voting rights protection to minorities, launching a war on cancer, initiating or approving the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Consumer Affairs, Amtrak and “revenue sharing” with local governments. Today, he’d be called a socialist or worse by the current Republican president.
I still believe that Nixon’s political accomplishments would have given him a place among the greatest of our presidents – except for one important reason: A lack of character. And to me that’s important because candidate’s who lack principles are willing to win at any cost, even destroying their perceived enemies with false accusations, as Nixon and Joe McCarthy did. As a young politician in California Nixon threw around the word “subversive” as frequently as a chef in a diner flips a hamburger. Winning at all costs mattered to him. As president, he had his “enemies list,” which included names of his political opponents and, of course, his involvement in the Watergate affair, which led to his resignation.
Even though I supported many of Nixon’s political stances, would I have been a fan of his if I knew about his character flaws – I don’t think so, because I believe that a candidate who wants to win at any cost is as dangerous as having a tiger as a house pet. You never know when it will decide not to like you.
Contrasting Nixon was President Jimmy Carter, whose presidency in terms of accomplishment was zero, when compared to Nixon’s. But Carter has one attribute that Nixon, whose character changed according to the phases of the moon, lacked. Carter had character. Whether you agreed with him on political matters or not, and I am not a fan of his administration, you knew that he wouldn’t stick a knife in your back if you disagreed with him. The same goes for President Barack Obama, an obsession with our current characteristically-flawed president.
But that’s history. In a few days most of the nation’s voters will go to the polls. Will character play a part for whom they cast a ballot? Probably not for too many voters. In my opinion it should.
Trump: During my lifetime I have met what I call “users and givers.” “Users” are people who are nice to you only when they think you can help them. “Givers” are people who excuse the actions of “users.” Thus, they are taken advantage of. President Trump, by his actions goes further than merely being a “user.” It’s impossible to classify his personality with one word because he’s an egotistical, narcissistic, egomaniacal, narrow-minded, self-interested flawed person. In addition, he has a “continuous lying personality disorder,” to coin a phrase. And don’t take my word that he can’t be trusted. Just google the list of people who he has fired or disparaged because they had the audacity, in his flawed mind, to not agree with him.
When he was asked if re-elected he would do anything different by Savannah Guthrie during the October 15 town hall, he said, he did nothing wrong. “I’ve done a great job. We have the strongest economy in the world. We closed it up. We are coming around the corner. The vaccines are coming out soon, and our economy is strong. We are at a level with jobs like we’ve never been before. We’ve rebuilt our military. We’ve rebuilt our borders. We had no borders. We had no nothing. We’ve rebuilt so much. We’ve given you the greatest tax cut in the history of our country. Greatest regulation cut, equally as important. And we created new levels of jobs that nobody thought was possible. And next year is going to be better than ever before.” Trump’s answer includes so many lies that’s enough of a reason to vote against him. (Check out the facts of what he said. Don’t take the word of your favorite pundit. And you’ll see for yourself his lies.)
Trump cannot be trusted. That was reason enough for me to vote against hm.
Biden: In contrast to Trump, Biden, over the years, has shown that he is a good, caring, empathic person. As someone who has had to overcome a stuttering problem he gives his personal telephone number to others who stutter to try to help them. And after the October 15 town hall, instead of rushing off the stage once the cameras were turned off, he remained behind to answer questions from the audience who hadn’t had the opportunity to question him during the telecast. While I disagree with some of his political decisions in the past, he is not afraid to say that he was wrong, unlike Trump who throughout his town hall showed that despite the evidence showing he was wrong about the coronavirus, refused to admit he made a mistake and still will not admit that he was ever wrong about anything. But being empathetic is not enough of a reason to vote for a candidate. Unlike Trump, Biden’s policy proposals will help the great majority of Americans. Trump’s helps the wealthiest.
Biden has demonstrated time-and time again that he has the character trait that should be most important to voters – he can be trusted.
With Biden you know what you will get as president. With Trump, his four years show what you will get if he is re-elected – me first government.
The two most flawed presidents during my lifetime are Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, but there is no comparison between the two. Nixon did what he though was best for the country; Trump does what he thinks is best for himself.
That’s why even though Joe Biden was not my first choice for president, or my second or third either, I enthusiastically voted for him. By his actions he has shown that he can be trusted. He has character. Trump doesn’t and can’t be trusted.
I’m not the only person who believes that a candidate’s character should be considered before voting. Never before have so many hundreds of former government workers, some at the highest levels, including important Republican officials and high-ranking military officers, have publicly thrown their support to a political candidate. It’s not that they approve of Biden’s policies. It’s because that they believe that a president without moral values is a danger to the country. And so do I.
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.