4 Traits of My Ideal President[ial Candidate]

There are a whole lot of people who have said that they are running for President in 2008. While d@mn near all of them would be better than the current occupant of said office, this “choice” leads me to wonder: what would the perfect president/presidential candidate look like? Before I weigh in on a specific candidate, I think that this is an important question to think about, and I would encourage all voters to do the same (we’re all voters, right?). I want to take a look at what makes an ideal candidate to me.

1. A Leader that is a Servant
2. A Thinker and a Doer
3. A person of Integrity
4. A Populist

First, Presidents must be leaders. Sure, that is obvious, if you have a simplistic definition of a leader as “the person ‘in charge.'” To me a leader is really a servant. They serve their constituents, the people that they are “in charge” of, the people who put them in that leadership position. They meet the needs of people and organizations. They solve problems. They put forth a concerted, honest effort to make things better. My ideal candidate would subscribe to the servant definition of leadership. They would not see leadership as a title, but as a responsibility. They would not see leadership as an opportunity to exert power, but as an opportunity to induce positive change. They would not see leadership as work, but as service.

(The question then is, who would this servant be serving? In the context of the President of the United States, this person should be serving the citizens of the US. The modern-day election process has made this…complicated. Elections cost money, and most of the time elected officials end up serving the people that pay them money during their campaigns, and them alone. This problem is only solved by taking the money out of politics and returning elections to the voters, but I digress.)

Secondly, Presidents must be both thinkers and doers. Effective Presidents cannot be one or the other, but must be both. The current holder of the office represents the antithesis of thoughtful action. For example, Herbert Hoover was a thinker and Richard Nixon was a doer. They were both failures as Presidents, Hoover due to his impractical yet unwaivering belief in the Efficiency Movement and its theories, Nixon due to his short-sighted and dishonest decision to do just about anything to stay get re-elected. An example of a thinker and a doer is Franklin Roosevelt, who [was by no means perfect but] rethought this country’s economic landscape and laid the foundation for what we now call the Middle Class. My ideal candidate would create through thoughtful action. They would understand the implications and nuances of any actions that they take, and determine how to deal with them before acting. They would be proactive, not reactive. They would consider and consult with all stakeholders in any action that they take.

(One could argue that this is not much of a test because even Nixon thought about what he was doing before he did it. The truth is, this can only apply to leaders that can be trusted, which is the next part of this ideal leader.)

Third, and most important, Presidents must have integrity. Not only do they need to be trusted by the people of this country, but they need to be trusted by everyone throughout the world. They need to be consistent but not bull-headed. They need to be fair but not weak. They need to be conscientious but not indecisive. The difference between someone who has true integrity and someone who is simply a loyalist is that everyone trusts the person with integrity. Those that agree and those that disagree with a person with integrity both know that they will be told the truth, and they also know that a lesser person would likely not be straight with them if they were not on the same side. Nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy, where American distrust is something that far too many nations have in common across the globe. I go back to consistency as part of the integrity of a leader because people have to be able to trust you to do the right thing no matter the situation’s degree of difficulty. My ideal candidate would be trustworthy in the eyes of all Americans and citizens of the planet. They would see the truth as a non-negotiable necessity and not a sliding scale. They would see full-disclosure and transparency as a tool of a functioning democracy and not an enemy to their plans. They would see honesty, especially when it is uncomfortable, as a sign of strength and not of weakness.

(No caveat to this one, other than the obvious one that says it is difficult to find a politician you can trust.)

These first three traits are indeed pretty broad, and I think pretty easy to agree on.

The fourth and final trait my ideal president[ial candidate] would embody is a belief in populism, which means that they believe that people, not entities, should run this nation. They believe that power and influence should be driven by people and what they want, not money and what it can buy. They listen to everyone and are willing to make decisions that will help those that need it most. They are not afraid to ask themselves or other people to sacrifice to benefit another human being. They are empathetic to people’s needs and able to articulate those needs and ways to address them. My ideal candidate empower people by making their voices matter, for real.

That’s my leader. What embodies your ideal candidate?

One Love. One II.



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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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