As a longtime observer of Presidential elections I have always found myself asking the same questions: What kind of ego must someone have to believe that they are the right person to become President of the United States? Secondly, after determining that in fact they are the right person for this lofty position, how arrogant do they have to be to spend the next 14 months or so talking about how wonderful they are and why they are the right person for the job? Finally, what kind of emotional strength is necessary to deal with the potential rejection of this magnitude? It seems to me that these questions of emotional health and strength are of major consequence when selecting our President. World history is replete with examples of leaders who lacked the emotional health necessary to successfully serve as our President or for that matter any nation’s leader.
I raise these issues because it is clear that the office of President of the United States comes with unimaginable stress. It is the kind of stress that literally turns one’s hair grey and places individual emotional and physical health at risk. Given these realities, it is interesting that physical and emotional health are rarely overtly raised as primary concerns during the selection process. Perhaps we believe that the vigorous demands of the primary process will gradually eliminate the physically and emotionally weaker contenders while the stronger will survive, sort of a survival of the fittest process. But is survival and success in the process truly a barometer of emotional or physical health? These questions are of extreme importance. Our national security is essentially in the hands of one person. The President’s ability to deal with the stress that comes with decisions of life and death, war and peace and economic boom or bust must be considered, yet how?
This is where arrogance comes into play. During the past several months we have been treated to classic examples of arrogance. While we might normally find this characteristic unpleasant in a colleague, there seems to be an affinity for this characteristic if it is part of a candidate’s presentation. It is perceived as the courage to tell those who have traditionally held power to move aside. The presentation doesn’t have to be substantive, just blustery and fervent. We have seen this play out on both sides of the campaign. The arrogance and courage to challenge the “establishment” is enough. Making promises of a better tomorrow, even if any detailed discussion of how to achieve that tomorrow is lacking, attracts millions of supporters. They believe because they want to believe. The arrogance is in the belief on the part of the candidates that through the power of their personality alone, they will lead a revolution that will achieve those goals. These candidates are charismatic and create loyalty as they bring their followers into their dreams. However, there is no reason to believe that arrogance will enable these candidates to withstand the stress of transitioning their dreams and promises into reality. It is, in fact, frightening to consider their reaction when reality comes crashing down on their dreams. This is where the question of emotional health becomes so important.
Many of us have been engaged in this unpredictable and unprecedented Presidential primary season. We have been treated to behavior that we could never have imagined. We have watched all of the experts and party officials both surprised and shocked by events. Yet while we have been entertained, shocked and appalled, reality is quickly crashing down on our world. Who will have the physical and emotional strength and stamina to serve this country’s best interests? Only after we have answered that question should we begin to ask which candidate’s policies and ideology will best serve this country. Without those two attributes, policy and ideology become of little importance.