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Jim Firth: Being a presidential candidate vs. being president

Voters are evaluating candidates for president now. The idea that their choice will provide our country with a president who represents us all doesn’t appear to hold much sway just yet.

The Republicans have a blustering outsider leading (first in New Hampshire — second in Iowa), an extremist evangelical in second place (third in New Hampshire — first in Iowa), a missing in action senator or a governor in third, and a mixed bag of “establishment” or “outsider” or never elected in fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh place, plus more.

The Democrats have a former first lady, senator, and Secretary of State (second in New Hampshire — tied in Iowa), a current senator and self described “democratic socialist” (first in New Hampshire — tied in Iowa).



There are other lesser known candidates from a series of “Third Party” groups like the American Independent Party, American Freedom Party, Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Party Of Socialism And Liberation (Psl), Peace & Freedom Party, Veterans Party Of America, to name a few.

The Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary election narrowed the field of candidates. It will be important for voters to listen for and pay attention to statements from remaining candidates as to how they intend to bridge the divides in our country.

In July 2016 the Democratic and Republican parties will hold national conventions where the party standard-bearer will be selected. The chance that another “Third Party” choice could emerge is still very real. Some candidates could be running so the name of their party appears on a ballot. In addition to the “Third Party” candidates, there are over two dozen individuals running for president from all across our country.




Being a candidate for president is very different from being president. The job of running for president involves organization, dedication, lots of time, lots of help, lots of money, personality, stamina, humor, knowledge of issues ranging from local to worldwide with everything in between, and the ability to explain to voters why you are the person who will best represent the interests of an enormous and diverse nation.

The job of being president involves many of the attributes of a candidate, but requires additional elements that are often missing in the “primary” election process. Up until the major party conventions most candidates are vying for their party’s nomination. After the major party conventions, the remaining candidates will turn their attention to explaining the difference between themselves and other candidates, plus their party’s differing views on substantive issues. If a major “Third Party” candidate emerges after July 2016, the equation changes significantly. The added elements in the final run to the November 2016 Presidential election involves candidates explaining how they are the person who will govern our country and be the Commander in Chief.

The United States of America is diverse. As President Obama stated in his last State of the Union address, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency  —  that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

The divide that currently exists didn’t come about overnight, although the statement from Senator Mitch McConnell in 2008, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one term president;” set the tone for much of what was to follow. Although Senator McConnell failed, and President Obama served two full terms, the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010, and the Senate in 2014. When Democrats don’t vote, they don’t win, as was the case in 2010 and 2014.

The Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary election narrowed the field of candidates. It will be important for voters to listen for and pay attention to statements from remaining candidates as to how they intend to bridge the divides in our country.

For me, the art of governing is found in the ability to compromise. Leading a nation as big as ours, with as many points of view as there are people and organizations espousing those points, finding solutions to problems, maintaining our freedoms, ensuring our liberty, and providing justice to all of our citizens requires skill and cooperation that are rare.

But, for our nation to be secure, prosperous, and set an example of how, no matter how we differ as Americans, we will continue to make our country the envy of the world, we must elect a person who can find common ground.

Jim Firth is Chairperson of the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee. His opinions are his own, and not those of any organization.


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