Top 5 Things We Should Have MORE or LESS of in Presidential Politics

5. LESS discussion of quarterly fundraising totals. When did the chief fundraisers or bundlers become the most important people in a national campaign? The national media is fixated on money in politics (very bad) but covers the subject all out of proportion to its importance. The fact is that past big-money candidates have included John Connelly, John Glenn, Mario Cuomo (he never ran), and Phil Gramm, and none of them ever were elected.

4. MORE plaudits for politicians who are willing to take principled positions at real political cost to themselves. We say we want legislators who stand up for what they really believe, but when they do, we ridicule them for having a tin political ear. I’m speaking of people like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who believes in comprehensive immigration reform, and Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who believes that troops in the field should be funded, not abandoned. The mainstream media is all too willing to join the “How dumb can they be?" chorus even as they lament the lack of “principled” political figures. 

3. LESS crocodile tears for non-voters. There is no law that says you have to vote. Voting routinely exceeds 95 percent in totalitarian and authoritarian societies, and that says nothing about those countries’ civic health. The good news is that if you lose an election in America, we don’t normally cut your head off. Non-voting is a choice that more citizens should exercise if they are not truly interested in the process. Most non-voters are not terribly interested in public policy anyway.

2. LESS focus on government doing MORE things. We constantly hear candidates promise that the feds will take on even more functions (universal healthcare, better education, protection from natural disasters, abolishing poverty). Instinctively, we know this “multitasking” is beyond government’s competence, and yet we vote for the politicians who make the most extravagant promises. It just leads to more cynicism when government can’t deliver.

1. MORE focus on government doing things well. We place no emphasis on government actually doing better what it is already obligated to do. Rather than a new universal healthcare plan, why couldn’t candidates address how the tens of billions of dollars already being spent on healthcare could be better utilized? Ditto education dollars. We would be far better off if we demanded candidates focus on implementation and fine-tuning of existing programs rather than commit government to vast new responsibilities.

And we would be a lot less cynical, too.