Vote the Platform, Not the Man(ner)

Recently, I’ve been corresponding with a friend on the ever-contentious subject of Donald Trump, a man whom my interlocutor finds objectionable on both political and personal grounds. Political positions can be discussed and debated even if they do not produce agreement or compromise, but a personal animadversion cannot be met with argument. My correspondent considers Trump an unreconstructed vulgarian, loud, ill-mannered and abrasive, all of which apparently render him unfit for office. He simply cannot vote for a man he dislikes.

Personal liking is one of the least reliable criteria for voting. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency is surely proof positive that affection for a political figure—the love affair with Obama was a national phenomenon—can result in unmitigated disaster. The same is true of personal dislike, which may often lead to the rejection of the best, or least worst, candidates for political office.

In Canada’s recent federal election, former PM Stephen Harper was vilified in the press and held in contempt by the majority of the electorate as a dangerous and unsavory character. He was rumoured to harbor a “secret agenda,” though nobody could say what it was. He was denounced as a brooding egotist and a control freak. He was viewed as unsympathetic to the marginalized and disadvantaged, stingy with entitlements, unimpressed by the claims of the arts community for ever greater government largesse, and generally hostile to Canada’s growing and increasingly clamorous Islamic community.