As I look at the lackluster, third-string run of candidates running for President, I am certain that 2008 will be yet another year of voting for the Lesser of Two Evils... and probably not lesser by much. However, in the spirit of boundless optimism (which is sorely needed right about now), I realized that there are some pretty constant qualities in the candidates who actually win.
Americans elect Presidents with the following qualities:
1. Charisma - We want our President to be a nice guy who seems like someone you'd like to have dinner with. We want someone who is charming, but not to the point of seeming fake. A good President is an orator who can make you feel good, and be able to tell you a story that might bring tears to your eyes. A good President makes you want to take charge and fix problems rather than wait for someone else to do it.
2. Likable - All the smarts in the world aren't going to win you the Oval Office if you're a jerk, or if you act like you're smarter than everyone (even if you are, which is actually a good thing). We don't want a soft or weak President, but we do want a President who can be nice. We want someone who laughs spontaneously, speaks off the cuff, make jokes and is occasionally willing to make fun of himself or herself, and yet can get up and make an inspiring speech. We do not want a President who is vindictive, easy to anger or just plain grouchy.
3. At least one "everyman" feature - Bush likes to work on his ranch, Clinton liked fast food, Carter used to be a farmer, Reagan played cowboys in the movies, even Nixon had his dog Checkers. We want a President who has as least some aspects that he or she shares with the common man that has nothing to do with politics. It's easy to tell when someone is faking this, and that kind of patronizing is worse than arrogance. We want someone who takes his job seriously but does not take himself too seriously. We want someone who does not act like he or she is above everyone else, even if it's true.
4. Optimistic - The U.S. President must be optimistic about America and must believe that it is the greatest country on Earth, despite its problems and flaws. The U.S. President must be willing to say about any problem, "This can be fixed and here's how we are going to do it." The U.S. President must be able to make us feel optimistic about the future, by convincing us how we can, and must, improve our country.
5. Prior executive experience - This is absolutely an imperative in my mind. We have had many Governors and Generals as President and very few Senators. There's a reason for that. The Presidency is not an entry-level executive position and anyone who hasn't run a state, a large company, a military branch, or something equivalent, has no business even running for the Oval Office. Vice-presidents count, obviously.
Look at every election for the past few decades and the winner always had more of these qualities than the loser. Fortunately, for the sake of the country, Hillary Clinton has _none_ of these qualities. Plus her speaking voice causes intestinal cramps, or at least it does for me. Four years of that shrill, nasal whining and we might just turn into France. And even _France_ isn't France these days.
p.s. I actually think Ron Paul is a very principled person... in fact the only consistently principled person on the Republican side. I don't agree with everything he stands for, especially his call to immediately withdraw from Iraq, but on the other hand, he's the only candidate who actually seems to stand for what he believes and to believe in what he stands for, and makes decisions based on conservative and libertarian principles and not based on which lobbyist he has last spoken with or what he thinks his current audience wants to hear. Given the way the major candidates and the media is shutting him out, it seems they recognize it too. I'd say the same for Kucinich on the Democrat side, except that he's completely wrong about almost everything. Of course, neither one of them stand a chance.