Watching Politics from the Pew: The Presidential Obstacle Course

In late October of this year, I will be taking part in an event called the Tough Mudder. It is a race through hills, water, and mud that goes on for 10–12 miles. As if that wasn’t enough, it is filled with 25–30 crazy obstacles, things like diving into a dumpster full of ice water, or climbing over hay bales and up half-pipes, or crossing streams on greased monkey bars, or running through a forest of wires, some of which have 10,000 volts coursing through them.

Preparing for and running in an event like the Tough Mudder can tell you a lot about yourself. In a way, a presidential race is very much the same way. It is long, full of obstacles, and designed to expose weaknesses.

Let’s say, for a moment, that you had the opportunity to design the “obstacle course” candidates must go through to run for President. Obstacles might consist of their stance on certain issues, or their history of successes and failures, or their religious affiliation, or their debating ability, or something as simple as how they come across in conversation. What obstacles would you include?

I think it’s a good exercise to think this through, or even write it down, because these races are full of distractions and meaningless arguments. For instance, the headlines were recently dominated by Newt Gingrich making the following argument: Romney says he’s not a career politician-> He would have been if he had won his races-> Therefore he’s sorta lying-> I’m honest about being a career politician-> Vote for me!

This argument is nonsensical in the extreme. If my big issue is not wanting a career politician (it isn’t), why would I vote for a career politician on the basis of him exposing a wannabe career politician? And yet this is what they are talking about on the news and it is somehow hurting Romney’s numbers.

Be wiser than that. Too often Christians call for more character and better values in leaders, but they get just as caught up in the mud-slinging as anyone else. Put the presidential candidates through your list of obstacles, challenges, and guidelines. That way, your vote will be a sincere act of citizenship and wisdom, rather than a guess that emerges from a thousand silly arguments.

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.


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