A friend asked, earlier, what 5 traits I would look for in a president that I got to design – what aspects, policy positions, attributes, would mean the most to me. I took a minute, then I wrote.
* I want a leader whose intellectual integrity I can trust – that means, to me, someone whose decisions (appear) not just guided by, but subject-to a comprehensive reading of the facts. Even the ones they don’t like. Even when it undercuts an argument that their gut wants to make. I want a leader, whose own leader is the fruit of honest, cultivated, curiosity. One who wants to FIND right, rather than just be SEEN as right. Someone who cares what’s true.
* I want a leader who understands America. That sounds trite, but it’s important. One who understands not just our founding principles, but the breadth and diversity of humans that’s represented in this multiethnic secular republic of religious freedom and ideals it may yet one day live up to. One who understands, not on paper, but in-person through relationships, what different regions, gender ethnic and religious minorities are like, and what they face in terms of trials. I want somebody who sees and has an interest in the details of the tapestry, and not just the broad strokes. Someone who’s just not interested in vague americana shorthand, and feels personally accountable to COMPREHENDING what all of the factions want.
* I want a leader keen on acting in good faith. In case it isn’t immediately clear why this is worthy of inclusion on the list, I’ll point to the dysfunction wrought across the federal government, as sabotage-appointees handpicked for their life’s work objections to the mandates of the agencies they’re tasked with heading up, have demonstrated what a mess it can make when the head of an organization opposes that organization’s core mission. I want a leader for whom that kind of sabotage would feel like a moral failure, rather than a victory, because I want this country to succeed. Abolish any department you want, but don’t force taxpayers to remain on the hook paying for agencies that aren’t allowed to do what they’re there for because the boss was put in place to neuter that.
* I want a leader who knows how to bring out people’s better angels. The presidency is an executive position, but it also comes with the opportunity, and the duty, to inspire. Whether that’s building a consensus for a policy they’d like, by making that case to the press, or whether that’s setting agendas for their party in congress, there is a tone-setting, pace-car quality to the presidency as an institution that grants that desk a hard-to-ignore voice. I’d like to hear that voice, from my idealized leader, used unflinchingly to help us as a nation find our kinder, most American of selves. I want a leader with an interest in fostering a healthy responsible engagement with one another and a more perfect union.
* Finally, I want a leader who understands the problems that we face, and knows enough about the issues to arrive at nuanced insightful readings of the moving parts, and can articulate opponents points of view in their own words, and explain with a measure of respect what they’ve decided are the flaws in that approach. I want somebody in the chair who has no patience for a talking-point that plays well, but ultimately won’t play out in point of fact. A person of real comprehension, who’s surrounded with the same. That’s what I’m interested in.