What matters most in a political candidate?

This week’s opinion is in response to the following comments by Thomas Sowell, a nationally syndicated columnist and academic, concerning Hillary Clinton announcing her 2016 presidential candidacy bid:

“They [Obama and Clinton] attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism — “the first black President” to be followed by “the first woman President” — and neither to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism. It is staggering that there are sane adults who can vote for someone to be President of the United States as if they are in school, just voting for “most popular boy” or “most popular girl.”

Sowell holds degrees from Harvard, Columbia and a doctorate from Chicago, so I’m not arguing with the man’s intellect. He does, however, write from a conservative point of view, which has most likely produced this slanted insight insulting to the nation’s competence.

To claim that our voting public makes decisions based on “demographic symbolism,” defeats the purpose of a democracy and disparages the importance of elections.

Yes, there was a minute portion of individuals who voted for Obama because he is black, just as there is the same minority who will vote for Clinton because she is a woman. But assuming our president and Clinton are simply the attractive choice because of race and gender is absurd.

The comments also assume our voters are stupid enough to vote on exterior physical traits that have no bearing on running a country.

But we refute this. Those who vote care. They care enough to get in their vehicles, drive to a designated polling area, wait in line and fill out a ballot. And voters don’t do this because they consider the democratic process a popularity contest.
In the 2016 presidential election — as in every uninhibited election at any time and place in history — voters will vote for the candidate they think can do two things: hold office in a way which reflects the voter’s own beliefs and get the job done better than the rest of the field.

So if Clinton, a Democrat, is elected as the nation’s first female president next year, the results are not because of vogue femininity. If she becomes president, the majority of our voters felt like she best represents their opinions, as well as having the ability to either implement changes or maintain stasis that aligns with those opinions.

She’s the only Democrat to announce her bid so far, and the Republican Party hasn’t posed a threat with its current candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida both lean too far right to win a majority of the votes. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has also announced he will run, but he’s a relative no name to the media.

But whether it was Clinton or another woman, now or 10 elections from now, some female was always going to endure criticism for reeling in the “popularity” vote. Novelty is quick to draw attention but quicker to lose it, as one attraction recedes into platitude and the next takes its place.

When it comes to electing our country’s leader, I’m fully confident “sane adults” will look past flesh and into the content of one’s actions and beliefs because this and nothing else is what makes a person — even the president.