A Hill to Die On
If the party platform is meaningless, then how can a voter best discharge their civic duty to vote for the best candidate? I suggest asking the question, What hill is this candidate willing to die on?
This frames the question in pseudo-military terms. In war, there are many hills that soldiers might fight to take and to hold. Some hills have more strategic importance than others. The most crucial hills inspire soldiers to risk all to take and defend, even death itself.
Also in politics, some issues inspire parties and candidates to risk all. These issues are their real core beliefs. All the rest is marketing hype, subject to the results of the latest public opinion poll.
In the end, a voter can only count on a candidate or party to defend core beliefs.
For example, Al Gore and the Democratic Party pulled out all the stops to defend Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. A core belief of Al Gore and the Democratic Party seems to be solidarity, even to the point of defending the indefensible.
A core belief of Congressman Jim Rogan, one of the House Managers who prosecuted the impeachment case against President Clinton at the peril of his own re-election, appears to be defense of the rule of law.
A core belief of the Republican Party seems to be supporting free trade with Communist China, even though polls show some 70% of the American people oppose it.
The primary driving belief of Pat Buchanan appears to be what he calls "America First," as he has written books on the subject and undertaken the extreme step of leaving the Republican Party to run as a Reform (third party) candidate in order to advance that cause.
Each of these positions is politically risky -- some might even say political suicide. But these positions are the only real mirrors into the souls of the parties and their candidates.
What hills will the candidates on your ballot stake their political lives on?
What hills are you willing to die for?
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Last updated: August 20, 2000; Version: 1.1