The Iowa caucuses are just under a week away. It’s not my place to tell anyone for whom to vote, but I will tell you that if I were in Iowa, I would be caucusing for Carly Fiorina.
I rank politicians—bishops, too, by the way—on an unforgiving scale: Rare indeed is one who makes it to “tolerable,” let alone “acceptable,” and only a thin cream at the very top will ever receive the accolade “adequate.” Fiorina is great. I am not only voting for her, I am supporting her, and that’s a very rare thing: To be able to affirmatively support a candidate who’s actually any good at all, rather than simply voting for one who is acceptable is off the beaten path of American politics. Unfortunately, I suspect that my reasons are too idiosyncratic to be of much help to other people. I am acutely aware of the gap between the kind of questions that I ask, the things that I find probative, and the things that apparently everyone else does. (We talked about that on episode six of the podcast in regard to Anglicanism. 1) Nevertheless, I wanted to offer a few comments, for whatever they’re worth.
I support Fiorina because she is a great fit for my prejudices about how a President’s mind ought to work and what kind of personality a President ought to have. I grew up in Britain, where politics was largely fought in competing manifestos, before moving to the United States, where politics is largely fought in competing campaign promises; what 9/11 taught me, however, is that political promises are poor metrics for assessing a candidate’s suitability for office—and not for the reason you’re thinking. Once elected, officeholders are often overcome by events: President Obama by the financial crisis, for example, or the second President Bush by 9/11. Who would have guessed, when those men won their respective nominations, that those events would define their presidencies? I’m more interested in—I think it’s more important to know—how does this candidate think about the world? How do they process information? What are their instincts, what is their disposition? What’s their likely Myers-Briggs type?
Seen through that lens, Fiorina is a very comfortable fit for me. In no particular order, she’s calm, intelligent, knowledgeable, quick, forthright, analytical, information-oriented, articulate, and has just the right balances of aggression and relaxation, curiosity and modesty. She has a pragmatic attitude and a conservative temperament. When she doesn’t know something, she seems inclined to woodshed until she understands it better, but without being overcome by the kind of “analysis paralysis” that besets President Obama. (On this, I share David Axelrod’s assessment that voters want a contrast with Obama’s placid, professorial passivity. 2 But there are many stops between that station and Ted Cruz’s arguably-excessive bellicosity.) Her background prepares her to delegate and run a large bureaucracy in a way that, for example, a Senator never could be. I cannot imagine her saying the kinds of things that Pope Francis says about ideas not mattering, or feigning ideological disinterest in the way that Obama does. She’s not a lawyer, but she seems to think (perhaps because her father was a ninth circuit judge, in an earlier time) as I do; we are, so-to-speak, melodies in the same key.
Having said that campaign promises are not strong metrics, however, I must add that they are indirectly useful because they can reveal a person’s substantive ideological views—and those do matter. So far as I can tell, hers are largely a good match for mine, save only that I am rather more pro-Russia than she is. (Politically, I remain in great part a product of Gingrich, Bork, Rehnquist, Hayek, WFB, the elder Kristol, the Sharon Statement, Goldwater, Rossiter, Kirk, Oakeshott, and, ultimately, Burke.) And in terms of the politics, she’s a pro-business, pro-life conservative; she isn’t a populist, but she’s a fighter, and in a climate in which the populists want a fighter, I think that they can get behind her; at the same time, I think that the way that she speaks about big government will keep the libertarians happy. So she checks off all the major constituencies within the GOP.
Lastly, it is not wholly without relevance is that I work for a women’s college that puts a lot of stress on women leaders—so duh I favor women leading. I also favor women stepping up and refusing to waiting their turn or await an invitation, no special privileges, no special pleading, just getting on with it and getting it done. No one invited Fiorina: She saw a problem and she ran toward it. That’s a good thing. That’s a leadership move. And while we’re on this point, I will say on a matter of personal privilege: If you support Mr. Sanders, that’s fine—but realize that you don’t then get to tell me that you’re more in favor of women’s leadership than I am when I’m voting for a woman to actually lead and you’re voting for an old white dude because he’s offering free stuff. The first and only valid meaning of “female leaders” is “females, leading.”
To my mind, Fiorina is the clear frontrunner and the obvious choice. Over to you.