Phil Gulley: Stumped

You might have heard we’re electing a new president this November, and though the candidates started campaigning a decade ago, I still haven’t decided who I want it to be. I know for certain who I don’t want it to be, but that has only narrowed the field by one, which isn’t much help. As I write this, there are almost a dozen Democrats vying for the presidency, and a few Republicans, including a man named Roque De La Fuente, who sold used cars in California, then owned 28 car dealerships before transitioning into banking and assisted-living centers. I’ve had extensive dealings with car dealerships, banks, and assisted-living centers, and haven’t enjoyed any of them. I’ve quite possibly found the one presidential candidate worse than Donald Trump.

On Rocky’s (that’s what he asks people to call him) Facebook page, he included the same sentence twice in his platform: “We need to keep our streets safe for our children and ourselves.” The repetition is an obvious error and should have been caught, but it wasn’t, which means Roque De La Fuente isn’t very good at details. How can a man own three banks and a chain of assisted-living centers and not be good at details? I have a feeling Rocky is running for the presidency just so when he’s an old geezer, he can tell his grandchildren he once ran for the office.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for keeping our streets safe for our children and ourselves, which I do by having my wife drive wherever we go. She has driven more than half a million miles without an accident. She’d make a wonderful president. She’s honorable, thoughtful, has a high sense of duty, and a lot of common sense, which is why she isn’t running. If she were, I’d vote for her, even though it would mean losing my driver. I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country.

I’m tired of old white guys running things, so I would prefer a woman in the White House, women having a long history of cleaning up messes men have made. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar strike me as more than capable. Some of Klobuchar’s former employees described her as cruel, though we often decry a quality in a woman that we admire in a man. We never say a man is cruel. We say he “tells it like it is,” as if it’s a virtue, not a vice.

I’m not opposed to a Pete Buttigieg presidency. He’s obviously compassionate, accomplished, and well-spoken. There is some concern people wouldn’t vote for a gay man, which I find appalling. If people are worried about Mayor Pete’s lack of experience, I’ll concede that Pete at a seasoned 50 might be a better president than he is at 38. But his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his suitability for public office. Indeed, his experience as a gay man in America could well be a plus, making him more empathetic to the marginalized and thus more determined to ensure the mantle of freedom drapes evenly upon all our nation. Maybe it’s time a younger person led our country, someone with fresh, guileless eyes, righting the wrongs others of us have too readily overlooked.

I’m tired of old white guys running things, so I would prefer a woman in the White House, women having a long history of cleaning up messes men have made.

What I find most curious, and hopeful, about this election is the number of people reaching for the ring. In the 2016 contest, the leaders of the Democratic Party chose Hillary Clinton long before many states had held their primaries. It didn’t end well for her, and this time around, they’ve thrown open the doors and are letting the voters decide, which explains the surfeit of candidates. On the flip side, Republican leaders in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, and Kansas have said they won’t be holding a Republican presidential primary, denying millions of Republicans their right to vote for someone other than Donald Trump. That sounds like something the old Soviet Union would have done, which seems to be a pattern these days.

I confess that the dizzying array of candidates makes it hard to choose. Though it always struck me as anti-democratic, it was simpler back when the party bosses picked the winner—the primary ballots consisted of one obvious party favorite and a few crackpots thrown in to give the voters the illusion of choice. Now we have to read books, watch debates, and listen to speeches in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a full-time job running for the presidency, and darn near a full-time job figuring out whom to vote for.

It was easier when The Indianapolis Star was owned by the Pulliam family and would publish an editorial every election year, telling us that after much thought and deliberation, they had settled on the Republican candidate and advised us to do the same. I’m wary of any authority, conservative or liberal, who tells us how to vote, even when I agree with them.

It was simpler back when the party bosses picked the winner.

It reminds me of the school elections we used to hold when I was a kid. The teachers, the original party bosses, would put forward their obvious favorite, usually a bright, responsible girl. Then a boy would announce his candidacy, promising more cookies at lunchtime and longer recesses, and come election day, the bright, responsible girl would be annihilated. Infuriated teachers would lecture us at length about our civic obligation to select leaders worthy of the high office of the sixth-grade presidency. It never seemed to occur to us that the boy who had promised more cookies and recess never delivered on his pledge, and we’d reelect him the next year. I’m not implying anything about our current leader. I’m simply recalling my childhood.

If teachers picked our candidates, then Elizabeth Warren would be our next president, hands-down. She’s like every strong female teacher I ever had—smarter than the principal (usually a man), concise, no-nonsense, with little patience for slackers and bullies. My mother was a teacher, and Elizabeth Warren reminds me of her—a kind exterior with a steel core. America could do a lot worse.

Last year, in an effort to woo my wife toward public office, I urged her to start small, like Richard Lugar, who served on the Indianapolis school board in the 1960s, eventually becoming Indiana’s senior senator, back when Hoosiers weren’t intimidated by leaders with brains and courage.

“You should run for town board,” I told her. “You know everyone in town. People respect you. Maybe do that a couple years, then run for the legislature, then become the governor, and then president.”

I had her life all planned out.

She told me to mind my own business.

It’s a shame that with all the challenges our country is experiencing these days, not one presidential candidate is saying a word about the biggest problem of all—that not one single person is listening to a word I have to say.


Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, author, and humorist. Back Home Again chronicles his views on life in Indiana.