Dear Dr. Boli: I have watched the debates of the various presidential candidates, and I feel as though I am no closer to a decision. (I am an independent and a non-voter, but primary season is no fun without a team to root for.) What do you consider the most important issues in the coming presidential election? —Sincerely, A Woman Who Enjoys Politics as a Spectator Sport.
Dear Madam: “Issues” are a distraction. The candidates will always shout loudest about the things that are least under the president’s control. The election will then be decided by people who “vote on the issues,” and who shake their heads in pity and disgust over the lazy rubes who show an insufficient interest in those “issues.” But the president will not be able to make America’s borders impervious to brownish people or stop corporate executives from making all their decisions on the basis of short-term greed. The president will not be able to make teenagers wise and moral, and will have no effect whatsoever on the crime rate in your neighborhood. The president will have no power to stop the war on Christmas, and no one will become a jot more tolerant because A was elected instead of B.
In fact, there is one thing and one thing only that matters in the election of a president. The government must provide certain essential services, and the provision of them is the special duty of the executive branch of government. Will the president we choose manage a competent executive branch that is capable of delivering those services to the citizens who need them? The more stridently a particular candidate insists on his particular “issue,” the more certain you may be that his honest answer to that question would be no.