Over the course of the past year, I have heard many folks describe Hillary Clinton as the "most qualified" person running for president, and because of that Americans should support and elect her. For now, let's not argue the point of her being the most qualified or delve into all the different ways an individual can be qualified that don't have anything to do with holding a political office or being involved in politics. Let's just look at this statement as a matter of course in U.S. history.
When we examine the history of presidential elections in our more than 200 years as a Republic, we discover an interesting dynamic. There have been many times the most qualified candidate was elected, and there have been nearly the same amount of times when the most qualified was defeated. And, in each case, the "most qualified" was no guarantee of a beneficial presidency, and electing the lesser qualified was no predictor of a bad administration. Let's take a look at a few examples.
In 1960, if we had used the criteria pro-Clinton advocates use for qualified, John F. Kennedy would have been defeated. And Richard Nixon would have been elected eight years earlier than he eventually was. So a less qualified Kennedy defeated a more qualified Nixon, and many would agree that was better for America.
Still sticking with Nixon, let us fast forward to his election eight years later. Is America better off that he, as "most qualified," was elected, and dragged the country through the trials and tribulations and tragedy of Watergate? Again, one could easily argue that a less qualified candidate's winning in either 1968 or 1972 would have served the long-term interests of the country better. And trust in our leaders would definitely be higher today if we hadn't been dragged through Watergate.
Further, for those Democrats who say President Obama is a historically great president, as well as those who long for the days of Bill Clinton, neither would have been elected in the first place using the criteria of "most qualified" advocated by Hillary supporters. It is hard to argue that President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain were more qualified than their opponents under that standard.
My point is two-fold. First, electing the "most qualified" isn't always in the best interests of America. Looking at our history, the most qualified person's winning has often been disastrous for our country. And Democrats ought to be careful because under this standard, some of their favorite recent presidents would have never held office.
Secondly, and more importantly, most Americans aren't looking for a resume, or a job history, per se. They are looking for a leader who can speak to their hopes and dreams, who can lay out a forward-looking vision domestically and internationally, and who can define a strategy to get us there as a country together by bridging divides. And who has the authenticity, competence and trustworthiness that actually prove out they can do this.
It is a blend of words and actions that signal a leadership for which they hunger. And this leadership has an underlying integrity and a belief that we are better united than divided.
At times in our history this leadership has come from the most qualified, but many times it has come from the lesser-qualified candidate. So let us not debate "qualifications." Let us debate visions and strategy. And let us see who lays that out best, by leaving the past behind, and can convince us they have the ability to lead in this complicated world while still being rooted in simple values.
That is who I am looking for, regardless of their resume or party. I haven't seen them yet, but I have hope that person will emerge either by newly arriving or through the important political battle ahead.
There you have it.
Matthew Dowd, founder of ListenTo.Us, is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.
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