THE BLOG
10/31/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The "Which Candidate Would I Invite To Dinner" Debate

You can't even wait in line for gas these days without overhearing somebody talking about the election. Whether they're touting the integrity of their own candidate or attacking the other team as evil, incompetent, immoral, know-nothing thugs, everybody's got an opinion.

On the one hand, it's exciting to see the American electorate so engaged. Previously apathetic 20-somethings are off the couch and have Facebooked their way into a formidable voting block; voter registration is at a record high and I'm getting more political e-mails every day than I am ads for promoting sexual improvement products and missives from displaced Nigerian princes who need my help collecting their temporarily inaccessible funds.

The question isn't whether or not we're engaged. The question is: What debate are we actually engaged in?

If my in-box is any indication, we seem to be more interested in personality debates than policy issues. It's like we care more about whether or not we can personally "relate" to a candidate than we do about their actual plans for our country.

Which is kind of ironic, because most of us aren't going to be inviting the President over for hot dogs, or palling around the pool hall with the VP. But we will be personally affected by their policies each and every single day.

You know, that boring stuff like health care, the war and the environment? Well, they kind of affect you. And that other thing? Something about jobs, and, uh, money and gas prices? Oh yeah, that's right, the economy.

Well it's sort of a problem, and it would be nice if people could quit debating which party makes better apple pie and come up with a plan to fix it.

I'm just as guilty as the next person of being more interested in a candidate's wedding pictures than I am their policy positions. But get a grip people. This isn't about who you'd rather have over for dinner, this is about the future of our country.

We only choose a president every four years, and I don't think it's too much to ask to expect voters to look beyond a candidate's personal "narrative" (to use a cool new word I keep hearing on TV) and think about the real issues facing our nation.

A candidate's personal experiences may influence and inform their policies. But, at the end of the day, the touching video their PR people crafted for the convention is going to be forgotten before all the boiled shrimp are scarfed up at the Inaugural Ball.

It's not about who overcame what odds, or how white their teeth are or where they went to school, or which church they belong to. It's about who best understands our country's (and the world's) problems and what plans they have for getting us out of - let's just call it like it is - the mess we're in.

I'm not suggesting that past behavior is irrelevant. As Dr. Phil likes to say, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. But the behaviors - past and present - that we need to be evaluating are their policies, not personalities.

We're choosing a president and his potential replacement, not a couple of new buds for bowling night.

So choose wisely America, because the whole world is going to live with your decision.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, author, keynote speaker and business consultant who specializes in helping individuals and organizations create happiness and success. Her latest book is Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear - For more info - www.ForgetPerfect.com