Ken Connor

Voting for Virtues. We should also keep a candidate's personal virtues in mind when voting for a president. The outcome of the last congressional election demonstrates that "virtue" is not a four-letter word. Presidents wield great power, and before entrusting a man or woman with that power, we should be sure that they are honorable, just, courageous, humble, thrifty, prudent and wise. The virtues that candidates have cultivated in their private lives will often determine how they govern in their public lives. What virtues have characterized the lives of the candidates before this campaign? The American public has a duty to inquire and a right to know.

Pragmatism and Principle. In politics, many of the day-to-day issues boil down to a matter of pragmatics. There are, after all, lots of different ways to skin the cat. People of good will can, and often will, disagree on the best way to address a large number of problems. Some issues, however, beg for a principled approach. Abortion is one example. Euthanasia is another. Embryonic stem cell research is a third. These issues involve profound questions about human rights and human dignity. The right to life should not be subject to being negotiated away in a backroom deal. Unless the right to life is protected, all other rights are meaningless. The rights to worship, speak, or assemble as one pleases means nothing to a corpse. Sizing up one's stand on the right to life should be an important consideration in the assessment of any candidate.

The Role of Religion. Article VI of the Constitution provides that, " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the United States." That does not mean, however, that a candidate's religious beliefs are irrelevant. Because religion is so fundamental to a person's character, it is an important factor to consider when evaluating a candidate. Religious faith affords a source of strength that transcends one's own resources. It can be an anchor that keeps one grounded through the difficult and depressing days that face any president. A solid foundation in Christian thought may have other positive effects. The Christian religion has been at the heart of Western culture and political thought for hundreds of years. Self-evident truths, equal protection under the law, separation of powers--all are grounded in the teaching of the Christian religion. Christian thought teaches that we have obligations not to just ourselves, but others also--including the weak and defenseless. While one's religion is relevant, we must keep in mind that we are electing a president, not a preacher. There is a difference--and we should not forget it. In the coming days, much discussion will center on the religious beliefs of candidates. The differences between Christianity, Mormonism, and Islam will be under scrutiny. Ideas really do have consequences, and belief impacts behavior. Therefore, the discussion of religion in public life is not only appropriate, but necessary. One can only hope that the discussion will be thoughtful and civil rather than rancorous and inflammatory.

These are just a few of the criteria that Americans will do well to consider in selecting their next president. It's an important choice. Nothing less than the future of our country and the fate of the free world is at stake.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.