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Madden: What the right presidential candidate has done matters more than who you think she is

Daily Northwestern

Daily Northwestern

Joe Madden, Columnist

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When my mom, the smartest person I know, last took me out to lunch, she told me she was glad Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been humbled by some political event. Whether or not that perception was correct, I was confused as to why she thought she knew Emanuel was not humble and that he should have been humble.

Her treatment of her personal perception of Emanuel as fact made me realize that one of the most troubling realities about the upcoming presidential election is people value their opinions of a political candidate over his or her actual actions in office.

The office of the American presidency is one of the most complex and taxing positions conceivable. The visible aging of presidents alone shows how much is demanded of them on a day-to-day level and how the sheer number of nuanced situations they must deal with on a daily basis changes them physically. And when we consider a person for his personality (emphasis on his), rather than his political experience, we are leading our country down the wrong path. For the same reason that all jobs require some post-secondary education, we should not elect a candidate whose plan is to start learning on the job. We expect experience in our accountants, our babysitters and our barbers. We need it in our president.

When it comes to politics, we should vote based not on how we perceive a candidate to be but on what we know about him or her. When we put ourselves in positions of such importance that we feel comfortable commenting on what we “think” about a president, we lose sight of how complex and demanding that office is. We become judges in a beauty pageant rather than participators in democracy. And we allow discrimination to color our thoughts in treating female candidates in particular as pageant contestants rather than stateswomen. Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished American presidential candidates in history, and we have heard more about her pantsuits from news media than we have of just about anybody else.

If we don’t rely on our initial reactions to a candidate, but instead vote on a combination of political experience and agreement with our own political views, we will elect someone actually capable of holding her own as president. Oftentimes, opinions and judgments on Clinton’s personality and her intelligence are rooted in sexism. I care much less about Clinton’s failure to fit the impossibly contradictory expectations of her personality made by sexists than I do about her foreign policy experience. We should not let that perception of her as somehow deserving of more scrutiny than a male presidential candidate — both in political experience and wardrobe — decide whether or not she should be president of the United States in 2016.

Joseph Madden is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.