WHAT WE NEED IN A CANDIDATE

When I was in college, I took a course called Man and Religion. One day, the professor used the class to discuss what had happened to the collective psyche of Mankind when we created bombs that could literally destroy the planet. He made the point that, before that time, there was a confidence, a comfort, in knowing that no matter what happened here on earth, the earth would remain. There was solid ground beneath us, a planet that we could depend on. Knowing that grounded people’s belief systems, no matter what their beliefs were.  But when that certainty was removed, when man suddenly realized that we had discovered how to blow ourselves out of the stratosphere, fear intruded upon faith. In the deepest strata of our psyches, fissures had opened up. It was as if we were collectively standing on shaky ground, and there was no way to turn back to who we once were. He saw the nuclear age as a dividing line in the inner life of Mankind.

Over the years, we have added to that uncertainty by eroding and destroying the balance of nature to the point that we may only have about a decade left before the earth becomes a dying planet, with no resources left to feed us or provide us with sustainable water and air. People are frightened, and if they tell you they’re not, they’re either in deep denial or they’re lying.

Enter Donald Trump. From the moment he descended on the escalator and declared he was running for president, he has chipped away at the ground beneath our feet. As a candidate he took established norms and tossed them aside as if they were confetti. Electing a president who talked about “grabbing women by the pussy” seemed impossible. Until he came along. A candidate refusing to release his tax returns? Wait, don’t we expect them all to do that? A man who name-calls and bullies and appears to know nothing about the Constitution? According to some, not even Trump thought he’d win.

Over the past 3 years, Americans have woken up each day having no idea what the president is going to do but knowing he will probably do something explosive. We live in an exaggerated world of tantrums, illogic, lies, and borderline insanity.

What we really need in a candidate, besides the obvious – strong, responsible ideas, plans on how to execute those ideas – is a solidity of character that makes us breathe easier, that makes us feel we are no longer huddled on top of an active earthquake fault. We need a candidate who has a calm center and who can’t be pulled off that center. Interestingly, even though it was revealed that Bill Clinton had a fractured and morally questionable personal life, he exuded a sense of gravitas and calm when it came to governing the country. Most of us still believed he would act decisively and responsibly in a crisis, that he would be measured in his decisions when it came to the safety of this country. We haven’t known that in the past 3 years, and the danger is we might forget what it feels like.

There is a human instinct that hones in on a person who is grounded and calm. We inch toward them, knowing that they’re someone we’d jump into a lifeboat with. It’s a quality that transcends politics. Ideas matter, plans and agendas matter. But what matters the most is feeling that the person occupying the White House, who has the nuclear codes very close by, knows how vital calmness and steadiness are, and how dangerous it is to be on a constant diet of chaos.

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