George Friedman

The end of Labor Day weekend in the United States traditionally has represented the beginning of U.S. presidential campaigns, though these days the campaign appears to be perpetual. In any case, Americans will be called on to vote for president in about two months, and the question is on what basis they ought to choose.

Many observers want to see intense debate over the issues, with matters of personality pushed to the background. But personality can also be viewed as character, and in some ways character is more important than policy in choosing a country's leadership.

Policy and Personality

A candidate for office naturally lays out his plans should he win the election. Those plans, which may derive from an ideology or from personal values, represent his public presentation of what he would do if he won office. An ideology is a broadly held system of beliefs -- an identifiable intellectual movement with specific positions on a range of topics. Personal values are more idiosyncratic than those derived from an ideology, but both represent a desire to govern from principle and policy.

As we all know, in many cases the presentation of intentions has less to do with what the candidate would actually do than it does with what he thinks will persuade the voters to vote for him. But such a candidate, possessing personal ambition more than principle, would not be opposed to doing what he said, since it suited the public. He has no plans himself beyond remaining in office.

Then there are those who profoundly believe in their policies. They sincerely intend to govern based on what they have said. This is what many think elections ought to be about: ideas, policies, ideologies and beliefs. Thus, in the case of the current American election, many are searching for what the candidates believe and asking whether they actually mean what they say.


George Friedman

George Friedman is the CEO and chief intelligence officer of Stratfor, a private intelligence company located in Austin, TX.