I believe in giving the other guy a chance. This will sound strange to people who know me well. I am usually quite the critic. I have little patience with those who don’t toe my marks. Though I try to temper my instinct to criticize with fellow feeling, I have to admit to being pretty judgmental. But we are all about to have the opportunity to indulge our inner critic on a grand scale. I am promising to hold back.
Whomever we elect in November, I promise to remember that our electoral system picks fairly, not perfectly. Each of the candidates selected by our primary process — your candidate and mine — has enough character flaws in plain sight to be a tragedy waiting to happen, enough to give us pause at the polls — except that he is so much less bad than that other guy. Time and power will only magnify his shortcomings. I have followed the PBS documentaries on the lives of the presidents closely enough to see how the temptations of the office lay bare every fault, how the need to plaster over cracks with secrets has been the undoing of many great men.
Our new leader will be handed a plateful of problems whose complexity and consequences beggar description. This beleaguered individual can expect no one to cut him slack. Those whose candidate loses will be slavering to exploit each of the winner’s missteps with self-righteous indignation and an eye on 2012. His own supporters, pushed by the electoral process to back him with exaggeration and selective blindness, if not with outright lies, will be ready to gloat and looking for payback time. If their man stumbles on the public stage or doesn’t fulfill their private whims, they too will be snarling at his heels. The media will no doubt be on hand, gleefully cracking the whip.
I –and probably you– at work, at school, at home, have been in similar situations from time to time: taking on a new responsibility, standing in the spotlight of my small world, having to account for every action, because my company or family’s well-being depends on the outcome; feeling I absolutely have to get this right, and I don’t know if I am up to the job.
Our new president will have this experience writ large. Like me –like you– he is not a perfect person. We need to give him a chance; yes, even a chance to make mistakes at a time when every decision he makes is crucial.
Americans, with good reason, have developed a hypercritical view of our politicians that will be very hard to change. But, given the realities of our times, I promise to look for balance between what I expect of this new president and what he can actually do. I believe that I –that each of us–must give him that chance so he is not afraid to stay honest and to put our country’s needs before his own.