Lying in bed the other night, unable to get to sleep, the question suddenly came to mind, “What would or should I want in a President?” Following shortly thereafter was the edited thought, “Well, what would or should I want in anyone that holds any public office?”
After a brief flurry of the time-tested adages...you know...things like honesty, ability, enthusiasm, and the eternal “wants what I want him to want” I decided to clear the slate and try (and I emphasize, “try”) to come at this subject from a different direction. So...here is the result....
The first major concept that I found comfort in was “He or she never looses touch with the electorate.” Someone really smart once said that a good leader knows to stay far enough ahead of his voters so if they wish him ill, they cannot catch him...but close enough so he can sense when they are about to take a hard turn and take it ahead of them, preserving the illusion of leadership. The concept is not only true, but requires a truly dedicated, aware, intelligent person. A stupid person cannot do this. A narcissist cannot do this. Any office holder needs to have people who he will listen to that can give him accurate feedback on the attitudes and moods of “his” people...and the politician has to “want” to listen. And he has to be continually looking for new people to do this, to avoid the insular stagnation of being separated from direct voter input.
But that is not enough. Sure, you can swerve with the crowd and appear to lead...but swerve too often and the voters will be forced to see the truth, that you are not leading but following from the front. They do NOT want that. So...what do we, the voters, want? I think we also want a teacher, a professor. NOT a dictator that talks down to us, but a person who is not only willing, but both able and anxious to explain the path that they would like to take, what its benefit to the voters will be, how it will work, how to tell if the idea works or not. AND, if he is unable to convince the voters of the wisdom of what he thinks should be done, then...and only then...change his focus and approach so as to represent his voters wants and desires, not continue blindly and run over his constituents.
And I want this person to be able to promise me that he or she understands all of this, is committed to it as the only proper way to govern and to promise to quietly and thoughtfully listen to voters if they feel that he or she has gotten away from this way of doing serving the constituency. Ideally, he would identify during his campaign 3, or 5 or ten, people that he trusts who he would listen to if they sensed that he was getting away from this promised method of representation and, if he could not correct his course or could not be convinced that he had gotten off track, promise to resign his office.
This kind of representative is someone I could respect even if his plan and concept of government was different from mine because his election would be the result of voters' decisions, not just mine, and elections have consequences. But if he or she does his or her job: reads the bills, discusses details with constituents, listens and reasons on behalf of his voters, and responds to and protects the concerns of his voters, his heart and mind are in the right place and he has earned respect.
Unfortunately, I have not yet found such a person. Perhaps none exists. But...I can hope, can't I.