The American President represents much more than an institution. To people around the world he is representative of their hopes and fears for the future and is the focus of intense feelings and emotions. The voting process represents an extremely significant period in American politics where US citizens vote for their President. Their votes are reflective not only of the candidate they like and respect the most, but are also an indication of the person that they predict will be the most effective once in office.
Despite this, their decisions are based on the candidate’s performance prior to, and during, the election process. This performance that may not necessarily be a good indication of their actual ability to run the country; the qualities needed to become a President are very different from those required to be a successful President once in office. This paper will address the attributes that are commonly cited as being necessary for someone to become a President and will dispute a number of these, offering the opinion that they are not necessarily the correct basis on which judgments should be made.
The skills and methods by which an elective may become a President are explored and will be compared to those that are actually required and valued once in office. In the United States the absence of a monarchy entails that the President often becomes the object for nationalistic or monarchical type sentiments that people in countries like England would direct at their Queen. The President is undoubtedly the most important figure in the US and holds several roles including Chief Executive, Commander in Chief, Head of the National Party and Chief Legislator.
However, like the Queen in England, his supreme court have opposing powers to him and thus limit his ability to carry out some of his roles. Many people recognize one of the most important attributes for a Presidential candidate to be is a good, strong decision maker with a clear vision and direction. Candidates often use the election process to discuss problems that are evident in the way in which the country is currently being run and make willful claims as to how they would do things differently. They swear that they will have the backbone to take decisions that Presidents before them have failed to take.
These type of statements appeal to the American public as they provide hope for a better future and an expectation that things will change for the better. The truth, however, is very different. Congressmen have their own electorate, interest groups and opinions on how the country should be run. The President is actually very limited in his ability to command congress to do anything and thus, the implementation of his decisions is actually a very difficult thing to achieve. What is, perhaps, more important than an ability to make decisions is an ability to persuade and influence others.
If you ask people if they would vote for someone who uses strong powers of persuasion to sway their vote they would probably say no, they would prefer to vote for some who have a strong direction and vision. They wouldn’t like to feel that clever vocabulary or some type of sales approach has influenced them. No, they prefer to consider themselves people who have made a good decision based on the facts. The truth, however, that they probably were persuaded and swayed during part of the election process. This is not such a bad thing.
The ability to persuade others is crucial to a successful President as he needs to be capable, through whatever means necessary, to convince others to carry out the decisions he makes. It is therefore clear that, whilst a clear vision and direction is important, what is more important both in gaining the role and completing it successfully is an ability to persuade and influence. The person who manages to influence others will do the better job, once in power it will help him get things done and in becoming President it will help him win.
A further attribute that the American public will look for when selecting a Presidential candidate is a consistency of purpose. People want a President who will have courage to commit to their course of action and achieve the plans they lay out during the electoral process. However, again this may not be an attribute that delivers success once a candidate is in power and we often see very different expectations of the President. President George Bush can be cited as a prime example of this. George Bush was clear and strong in his plan to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussain, so much so that he took the United States to war.
However, he later faced a great deal of criticism for his actions and many camps argue that he should have admitted he was wrong and should withdraw US troops from the US. His commitment to action was no longer valued. This paper is not intended to debate this point and pass judgment on George Bush’s actions but is using this example to show that the attributes that people may look for when selecting a President; consistency and relentless purpose may not always be what they expect once they are in power.
An attribute that features heavily in people’s decision when selecting a President is realism, they like a family man whose values and emotions may seem to reflect their own. They want to feel that their President, as much as possible, has the same feelings and fears that they do and will thus act in a way that is in their interests. Whether appropriate or not, the past and present personal life of a Presidential candidate features heavily during the election process and people look for someone who has lived their life in a good and true manner.
Whilst such attributes provide an indication of a person’s character and may be seen to represent the way in which they will behave once they are in power, they are not necessarily what people look for once their President are in power. They are more concerned with a person’s ability to cut themselves off emotionally from any decisions they make, distancing themselves from a situation in order to look at a bigger picture. The phrase “don’t mix business with pleasure” could not be more appropriate for a President in power.
Once in the Whitehouse people consider the figurehead to be an American institution; he works for them. Personal life is no longer to be considered to be of relevance and, in many respects; they do not wish a President to show feelings as these can be construed as a weakness. Other commonly cited attributes that people discuss when they are asked what they look for in a President include honesty, integrity, leadership and intelligence.
These types of attributes entail that the opinions people form of candidates prior to their election, and thus the benchmark against which they are judged once they are elected, can never be met; they are all extremely subjective values. A candidate who is elected as a new President, a replacement for the incumbent, will always be heralded as the next big thing. The nation will feel strong hope for the future of America and will truly believe that things will change for the better.
However, the likelihood is that these expectations can never really be met. Time will change the position that the President occupies in people’s minds; what people perceive as good leadership now will almost certainly change over the course of the four years between elections. As such, these attributes cannot accurately be used as representations of how well a candidate will perform once in office. This paper has addressed a number of the common attributes that people cite as important within a Presidential candidate.
Through exploring the difference between winning an election and actually running a country, the flawed nature of the factors upon which many votes are cast is revealed. Whilst people recognize they are voting for someone who will run their country, they rarely seem to consider the attributes that will be valued in this role, instead focusing on those required to get there. Fighting a Presidential campaign is very different from being a President. Along these lines more emphasis should be placed on attributes such as attention to military threats and needs, the economy and American interests, both at home and abroad.