Monday, September 24, 2012

Cheryl the teacher

Below is a thoughtful comment from a voter who understands how to make the important choice voters must make in November. What we should be looking for, if we're being grown-up about our voting options, is not the candidate who lines up perfectly with each one of us on every issue. It's obviously unrealistic to expect each one of us to find a candidate with whom we agree about everything, but we still hear a lot of people knocking candidates whom they judge deficient on a particular issue.

Cheryl, the teacher in the video below,  probably has disagreements with both candidates. Teachers are known to have some serious concerns about a lot of the ideas proposed by educational reformers of all ideological persuasions. How then to choose which candidate can best represent her? Cheryl noticed that when she attended a roundtable with Governor Romney, he had a lot of fixed and "old-fashioned" ideas, and did not seem interested in her input at all. He did not seem able to relate to the concerns of people like her. Cheryl's impression of President Obama, on the other hand, is of someone who would respect her opinion and be willing to listen. She can imagine having an open conversation with the president about the issues of most importance to her. I think Cheryl has latched onto to something fundamental here.

When I read complaints, particularly from the president's critics from the left, who might have objections to the president's continuation of the war in Afghanistan, or who think he should have been tougher on the banks, or have problems with some other issue on which they feel he has not measured up to their expectations, I think these people are not asking the right question. Instead of looking for perfection, instead even of deciding to "settle" for the candidate who comes closest to their position, they should just try to imagine having a conversation with each candidate about whatever is bothering them. Would he treat them with respect? Would he listen? Try that mental exercise with both candidates and then decide which conversation would be more satisfying.

Even people on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum from the president might want to consider which candidate would do a better job passing this test. The president might get exasperated with his political opponents; he might even mock them on the stump. But consider how President Obama bends over backwards to engage in respectful dialogue with members of the opposite party. Mitt Romney does not seem to have the capacity to do that. He admitted that he just doesn't concern himself with people with whom he disagrees, and we have seen that attitude repeatedly during the campaign.

Wouldn't the candidate with whom a voter can best imagine having an open, respectful conversation on whatever topic is of interest, be more likely to best represent the wide divergence of views of all Americans? If you think that's Mitt Romney, then neither Cheryl nor I are going to be able to reach you. For most people, however, I suspect that candidate is going to be Barack Obama.

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