Personality vs. Policy vs. Immorality

Personality vs. Policy vs. Immorality

One of your humble blogger’s biggest fans, a friend of 30 years, has asked an important question: “In this election cycle, what weight ought one to place on a candidate’s personality and demeanor and what weight upon the candidate’s policies?” Like most questions in politics today, this well-put inquiry just might have Donald Trump in mind.

Principle Based Politics is going to give a simple, short answer to this fine question. And then, with the help of two other friends, we will take a longer look at what likely is the query’s underlying premise.

Policy Defeats Personality and Demeanor

If this were a political rock-paper-scissors game, policy definitely would beat both personality and demeanor. We understand “personality” to reference things like friendliness, optimism, and creativity. A politician’s policy beliefs certainly matter more than do such traits, although friendliness is fruitful, optimism is optimal, and creativity is cool.

Even “demeanor,” to which we assign the dictionary definition of “outward bearing and behavior,” seems less important than substantive policy positions – particularly if we are talking about personal behavior, or style. Serious examples of unhelpful personality and demeanor would include flaws like having a bad temper, being boring, tweeting meanly, and cursing inappropriately. For the most part, America can live with those things better than we can with bad policy.       

Morality Overrides Even Policy

But back to rock-paper-scissors. What beats policy? Morality. Or immorality, as the case may be.

There comes a point at which a person’s depraved personality and demeanor are not really just that. Instead, they reflect the person’s lack of morals. Dishonesty and absence of integrity are two forms of immorality that matter most in government. And an immoral person is someone America really cannot have as a leader. One who puts himself above the country is yet another.

This is where Donald J. Trump comes into the discussion.

False Equivalencies

In a prior blog post, Lame Ducks: Donald and Daffy (August 1, 2023), among other points, we originally asserted that both Trump and his successor, Joe Biden, have been subject to “scandals” that weaken them as leaders. This caused two of our other big fans and long-time friends to be very, very upset, and their articulate, well-written responses go directly to the above question regarding personality and demeanor versus policy.*

*We subsequently removed the “scandals” section.

“I totally reject the premise, which conflates the issues of these two options (i.e., Biden and Trump),” wrote one of these friends. “False equivalencies are killing our political discourse. Trump is a twice-impeached, multiple-indicted mob boss, who tried to destroy our democracy by rejecting our most sacred tradition of the peaceful transfer of power. The risks he poses are just fundamentally different in kind. He has emboldened the worst voices for hatred and discrimination, and captured a political party demanding cult-like obedience. He is also a loser many times over, who a jury convicted of sexual assault, and a serial liar. He will be written about in history along the lines with traitors and monsters who threatened democracy.”

Ouch, thought your blogger. Double ouch, thought Trump (assuming he thinks). Minutes later, another dear friend offered a similar critique – without having seen what the other had written.

“I read your latest post and continue to take issue with your sloppy moral equivalency of Biden and Trump on the issue of ‘scandals,’” our second upset friend scolded. “There are certainly legitimate points that can be made to attack Biden’s performance as president, particularly if you are of a different political view on various issues, but I don’t think it is intellectually honest to suggest in any way that the two are anywhere equal in true scandalous actions. Even if you count the Hunter Biden scandal on Joe’s ledger, it does not in any way approach Trump’s various malfeasance, including inciting insurrection, actively seeking to upend a lawfully conducted election, undermining public confidence in our democratic and electoral system, undermining our judicial system, and repeatedly lying about all of those things.”

They were right. “There is no moral equivalence between Trump (who is corrupt and in no way moral) and Biden,” the truly humbled blogger responded to them both. “The overall point in this and other posts has been that Trump (especially Trump, for the reasons you explain very well) and Biden are inadequate candidates who should be replaced by their parties. They both are ‘lame,’ in various ways, as the post says. Biden has not been as scandalous, though, and the Lame Ducks post should not have seemed to be equating them in that way.”

If this helps answer the first-mentioned, inquiring friend above, we are pleased.

Please keep your responses coming, as we are inspired by and learn from our many thoughtful readers.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Principle Based Politics does not endorse or support any particular political candidate or party.

  • James Loerts
    Posted at 13:47h, 19 December Reply

    I find it interesting that you recite two random examples both of which support Biden over Trump. That is the kind of “objectivity” more typically found on MSNBC. Was a Liz Cheney quote not available? I guess Principle based Politics is in the eye of the beholder.

    • Admin
      Posted at 14:02h, 19 December Reply

      I always have appreciated your wit, Jim.

  • Gary
    Posted at 15:54h, 19 December Reply

    Another great article. I have a thought and it won’t be as “good” as what could come from an attorney who knows the constitution so much better than me – but will offer it from the standpoint of a Fortune 50 executive (Raytheon)…

    A President, much like a Governor or a Mayor, is a leader of an organization. Their Board of Directors is made up of the people that put them in office and operate within the the corporate policies, mission statement, etc – congress, the judiciary and the constitution. They are, in essence, the “guardrails” for the leadership.

    In football terms, the leader takes the ball down the field to accomplish certain objectives. They do it within the rules of the game. And they have a management team to help get them there; this is the cabinet. One simple truth on Trump; he cannot keep a leadership team together. He insults, fires, they quit, etc. No leader can truly be effective without a strong, coherent management team. He would be removed by most BoDs for this reason alone.

    A leader also leads by example and displays the type of behavior we want others (the US citizens) to follow. I personally have been shaped by my various leaders (bosses and others) whom I admired and tried to impress. So personality *does* count. It has to.

    Lastly, our leaders represent us in world affairs. He/she becomes the “symbol” of America. Enough said there but we should factor this into our vote.

    • Admin
      Posted at 17:01h, 19 December Reply

      Great to get perspective from a smart exec like you, Gary.

  • Jeff Newell
    Posted at 16:43h, 19 December Reply

    I’m definitely not a fan of Trump or Biden and I’d like to see some other options. Trump is the definition of a narcissist, is very crude at times, and creates nicknames for those he doesn’t like. Likewise, I’ve seen Biden call a reporter a “stupid SOB” and a young democrat in Iowa, “a lying dog-faced pony soldier”. Biden is also a narcissist though quieter about it than Trump.
    Trump seemed to be unhinged at times so many people thought he would get us into WIII. But look where the weak leadership of Biden has taken us…………we are at a higher level of conflict (Russia, China and Iran) than we have seen in years. I’d argue that the conflict in Ukraine could have been avoided with strong leadership and diplomacy, but now we’re committed to funding a proxy war that will go on for many years (my bet is at least 10 years). Long, drawn-out wars are not good for anyone except our military industry. We incrementally provide Ukraine with just enough equipment to keep them in the fight (first Howitzers, then Himars, next Bradleys, then M1s, next longer-range rockets, and then F16’s through the backdoor of Europe). Biden is just a mouthpiece for the people behind the curtain that are actually pulling his strings. If one looks at Biden objectively you can see that he has age related mental issues not to mention his episodes of stumbling and falling down numerous times. What other president has repeatedly stated, “I can’t answer anymore questions or I’m going to get into trouble”. It’s embarrassing to see him stumbling and bumbling on the world stage.
    The ruling class and military/industrial complex are running the show and Trump was and is a threat to that. Before he was sworn-into office, democratic leadership was very vocal about impeaching him. When he criticized the CIA Chuck Schumer called Trump “really dumb” for having repeatedly criticized the CIA, saying, “let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you”. Thus, constant investigations and two impeachments. Proof that the CIA and unelected bureaucrats have more power than our elected officials.

    • Admin
      Posted at 17:01h, 19 December Reply

      I really appreciate you weighing in, Jeff.

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