The measure of a candidate

Published 11:28 am Saturday, September 19, 2015

by Andrew Book

Every presidential election season seems to get longer and longer. It is hard to believe that, mid-September 2015, we are already neck deep in considering the candidates who have put themselves forth for the Democratic and Republican nominations for an election that is more than a year away. Yet, here we are! If 2012’s election is any indication, we can expect that some of the current “front-runners” will have faded and new candidates will have emerged before the primaries are completed, but regardless of who the contenders are by the time primary and general elections occur, each of us will need to decide who will be receiving our votes.

I have talked with people who determine their ballots in many different ways. Some are “party-line” voters who are going to vote for every Republican or Democrat (depending on their affiliation) on the ticket. Other people have a single issue that drives their choices: they decide that a candidate’s position on one hot-button issue is the most important thing for them and so they vote for candidates based on their position on that one issue (abortion, immigration, and gun control are single issues that sway some voters). Other people try to balance multiple issues that matter to them and select a candidate who lines up with their views on the most issues.

Each of these methods has benefits and drawbacks, but I want to add something to our consideration — something that may be more important than a candidate’s position on any issue: their character. My hope is that we would consider candidates not just on their positions on “the issues,” but also their record as people of character who we can trust.

At the end of the day, a candidate’s positions on issues that are important to us do not matter if we cannot trust that they will follow through on their promises and stick to the positions they articulated during their candidacy.

Their positions certainly don’t matter if the motivation driving them is a longing for power, a desire to reward supporters, or a single-minded ideology that cannot adapt to the changing world!

Several years ago, my family had an experience that highlighted the importance of character and trustworthiness. Through a work connection (outside of church!), we were around a group of lobbyists for one of the major parties. This group would laugh at how easy it was to manipulate a block of voters simply by saying, “I agree with you” even though the politicians never did anything to support that position! This experience left a bad taste in our mouths about politics in general, but was a powerful reminder that we need to look deeper into a candidate than to simply hear them say, “I am _______” (pro-life, pro-choice, pro-death penalty, pro-military, or any of a number of other positions).

Instead of simply listening to their words, we need to listen to their lives. Take time to learn about any candidate you are considering supporting. Look at their lives and their careers. Look at the things they truly value based on the actions they have taken not just the words they are saying.

Look at whether they have a record of matching their actions with their words and doing it well. I would rather support a candidate who I can trust to be a man or woman of integrity, even if they don’t quite line up with my ideal positions on the issues!

I do not know who I will be voting for in the presidential primaries or general election, but I can tell you this: it will be a candidate whose record indicates that they truly support those things they claim are important. I will be voting for someone who I can trust with the power, influence and hard decisions that will come from sitting in the Oval Office, and I hope you will, too. I am not interested in telling you who to vote for, but I do hope that you will vote, and I hope you will look closely at the women and men who are running for office in order to see if they measure up to the office which they are seeking!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or