While we may rant about divisiveness in politics, we are a huge part of the problem. Distracted by misinformation and media hype, voters often walk into the voting booth with blinders on, only motivated by selfish interests. Sadly, we are programmed to respond to polarizing issues, instead of examining the complex web of problems plaguing our nation.

Often we gravitate to the candidate who can satisfy our narrow moral interests or significantly improve our state of prosperity. I maintain that is the worst possible system for electing a just, compassionate, and capable leader.

We need to deeply examine our values as a nation and cast our vote for the candidate who can best uphold those principles. I am always troubled when voters support a candidate on the basis of a seemingly slick resume. Let us not assume that someone good in business will automatically make a great president. Remember it is the business world that gave us outsourcing, job reduction, deregulation, and environmental neglect.

I’m more interested in how a candidate achieved his success -- how did his business decisions affect other people's lives? Will he merely reward prosperity or will his policies provide a ladder of opportunity for all people -- rich and poor? Does he have the capacity to inspire decency in others?

I suggest we really step out of our limited thinking and see the big picture. Social issues, often trivialized in political campaigns, ultimately do matter. All of us should care if a president supports minority rights, even if we are not black, gay, or a woman. The “heart” of a democracy is damaged when all citizens do not stand up for equality and fairness. When the majority imposes its will on the minority, that shames our entire nation.

When we tell people who love one another they can’t marry, we show disregard for all Americans. When we keep people in disadvantaged neighborhoods from voting, we rob all citizens of a voice in their government. America is not just a bottom-line sheet, as some would suggest, but a nation still deeply invested in diverse cultures, creeds, and religions. Our strength has always been inclusiveness and diversity, and if we think otherwise, we are drifting from our essential Democratic values.

Does it matter that someone is religious or believes in God? Maybe that would be true if all religious people practiced what they preached. Some presumably religious people have a war-like mentality and wish to assert American domination around the globe, under the guise they are strong, moral leaders. If we only base our foreign policy on economic self-interests, our standing in the world will continue to suffer, and we will lose in the long run.

Instead of questioning whether a candidate is religious, isn’t it more meaningful to ask if he is a man of true principles? If a candidate opposes abortion, what will he do to improve the lives of impoverished women and children? Will his spiritual values bolster his belief all people deserve a fair shake? Will the next president inspire the masses to create a more humane society?

At a time when the country is so bitterly divided, we need to search through the tangle of issues and see beyond the hype. We must examine our hearts and minds. The best president is not an idealist or even a pragmatist. In politics, there will always be corruption, and honesty will always be up for grabs. The best president is a visionary who will fight every waking moment for justice and opportunity for every citizen. This is not a lesser-of-two-evils contest. We are selecting the next leader of the Western World. We must remember what is at stake is not just economic stability, but peace and security around the globe.

Loncaric is a Chicago writer. Her opinion pieces and essays have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Detroit's Metro Times, and Philadelphia City Paper. She guest lectures at Chicago's Roosevelt University.