Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Certainty Craving Disorder

Now the commentators (not the journalists, I think--there is a distinction) are calling for both candidates to publicize their medical records.

Let's set aside for a moment (in a move similar to suspension of disbelief) that there is no law that in order to run for president a candidate must publicize his or her medical records.

What are the commentators looking for? When they blame imaginary "voters who want to know," what are they accusing voters (like me) of wanting? What information would help me to make a better (distinguish, please, from the vacuous "more informed") decision on election day?

Perhaps if I knew that one candidate had suffered pneumonia four times in the last fifteen years, I would deduce . . . what? Perhaps if I knew that one candidate was taking medication for high blood pressure (but that the numbers were presently "under control"), I would deduce . . . what?

I expect that, with medical records in hand, the commentators will parade before us medical experts (suitably vetted to deem the opposing candidate's cholesterol to be nearly fatal), and then it will fall to us not only to judge the candidate's positions on issues but also to judge their physical fitness for the next four-year term. As if I didn't have enough filtering to do already.

I can't wait until Congress passes a law requiring candidates to reveal the contents of their genome--I will be able to make a much better decision, then!

Privacy issues aside (see line 2 above), this frenzy grows out of an assumption that medical history is an accurate predictor of near-future vitality. This assumption is false. While individuals are wise to chart a life course based on the general trends of their medical history, an electorate that guesses whether its candidate will become physiologically unable to govern sometime in the next four years is foolish. There is no way that we can meaningfully predict the future health of our candidates, no matter how much medical information we have.

Your job, dear voter: Ignore it. Ignore the frenzy, attend to the issues, listen to the debates.

If you really are concerned about the candidates' physical durability; if you really do fear that your vote might go to someone doomed to the grave in the next four years; if you want to make sure that good governance will go uninterrupted through the next term; then make sure you vote for a good vice-presidential candidate.

~ emrys

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