Mark Shepard: Voting on character

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Shepard, a former Vermont state senator (2003-2006) in the Bennington District. He owns and operates an engineering business specializing in industrial control and test systems.

On a September post at “Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig,” Dr. Craig writes: “I am definitely advocating that we prioritize policy over character. … During the Carter Presidency … we came to see is that character without right policy is just as empty as faith without works. … Clearly, policy does not flow out of character.”

If Dr. Craig was looking to help elect Trump, he likely failed, as his thinking here is both wrong and a recipe for defeat. Few and far between are people who want to vote for bad character, and I applaud those seeking to vote based on character. Policy absolutely flows out of character and Dr. Craig even points to that with the tie between faith and works from the Book of James, but yet it escaped him. It is not that faith is simply dead without works; a dead faith is no faith at all. Similarly, bad policy indicates a weak character. President Carter is not an example of a man with strong character.

If voters cannot trust the character of the candidate, how is anything that candidate says trustworthy? The value of being honest was quite visible in my races for Vermont Senate where many lawns sported yard signs for both then Congressman Bernie Sanders and me. It would be difficult to find two candidates more different in fundamental beliefs and policy perspective, yet we shared a similarity in that we both openly and unashamedly advocated for ideas we believed in.

While honest presentation is rare in politics, that is what gave Bernie his political success, even while embracing ideas with a history of destruction. That also is what delivered my two victories in a left-leaning district, in years where Republican legislators sustained massive losses across Vermont. After winning, I entered a Republican meeting greeted by the speaker of the House, who just lost his Republican majority: “Shepard, he did everything wrong, and he still won!”

If instead of throwing character under the bus, Dr. Craig, had he considered the character of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, he easily could have made a case for Trump based on character. Whether or not you agree with Trump, it is clear that he has been upfront and has followed the path he campaigned on.

Trump openly provided a list of people he would nominate to the courts; Biden will not. Trump campaigned on a border wall and, even with a disagreeable Congress, delivered. Trump, like his predecessors, promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but unlike his predecessors, he actually did it.

Trump campaigned on ending America’s endless foreign wars. He exited the Iran nuclear deal, decimated ISIS, and rid the world of a top Iranian terror planner. While the resulting increased stability has allowed troops to come home, it also has spawned peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The enormity of that accomplishment cannot be overstated and is instrumental in Trump’s nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. By contrast, Obama/Biden’s inability to contain ISIS, embracing “Arab Spring,” and help toppling governments turned the Middle East into a powder keg.

Trump campaigned on dealing with the very serious China problem and he has done more to address China’s threat to the world than any president back to at least before Nixon. By contrast, Biden is warm to the Chinese government and has done much over his tenure to help China become the threat it now is.

Trump campaigned on bringing manufacturing back to the United States. His policies, including renegotiating trade deals, have delivered much in that regard. By contrast, our nation’s manufacturing exodus happened under Biden’s watch.

Trump has respected the constitutional divisions of power between the federal government and states in both his response to COVID-19 and in dealing with the rioting in the cities. In both he has prepared the federal government to help the states, but not forced that help, leaving decisions about local situations at the state and local level. By contrast, Biden has only criticized the rightful federal actions from travel bans to shortening the time to bring pharmaceuticals to market, while also advocating for the federal government to take control of state and local level mandate decisions with a one-size-fits-all approach. Biden’s most callous moves have been mischaracterizing Trump to put unfounded fear into vulnerable seniors and using the tragic loss of life from COVID to his political benefit.

Yes, Trump has character flaws. He actually has been open about how they get in the way for some voters. But Trump is an open book, perhaps too open for the comfort of most Americans. That Trump, while under constant political attacks including efforts to build false narratives, has delivered so well on his campaign promises, speaks volumes about some of the very good qualities in his character.

Joe Biden is an empty suit, offering nothing but vague statements, giving voters no idea of what a Biden presidency would be like. He has no business running for president and never has, which is why he has failed in his prior runs. The difference this time is the Democrats, with their allies in the press and big tech, have figured a way to run Biden without any focus on Joe Biden, his 47 years of lies, plagiarism and oppressive policies. And he gets away with duplicity on issues and failure to be open with voters important issues like packing the court or even who he would nominate.

We know from Joe Biden’s tough-guy bragging about how his threatening to withhold American foreign policy money as vice president put a stop to a Ukrainian corruption investigation into a company paying out $50,000/month to Biden’s troubled son. What where the other foreign governments and corporations, including many connected to the Chinese Communist Party buying with the millions they paid the Bidens? Huge money does not change hands without something huge in return.

I voted early and was happy that I did not have to rely on policy-over-character or character-over-policy reasoning to vote for Donald Trump, but instead was able to vote for the best option this election on both character and policy. With Trump we know exactly what we will get. With Biden, who was made insignificant in this election, what we get depends on who is behind him.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

15 thoughts on “Mark Shepard: Voting on character

  1. Wonderful op-ed which dropped off front page too soon. Personally would like TNR to move to continuous scroll and nix pages.

    Highlighting character of Donald Trump is what he means to so many conservatives in both integrity and effective policy plus his love for our country and American ppl as well as using position to make life better in other parts of the world. News of normalized relations of Sudan and Israel brilliantly brokered by Trump and Mideast peace team is bc it’s something he took seriously from the jump.

    I do not believe predecessors took this seriously just used issue to score political points knowing full well Palestinians would toss sand in the transmission and storm off bc they do not want a two-state solution.

  2. Mark,

    It is great you are voting on character.

    Here is the latest info regarding sleaze ball, touchy-feely Biden and drug-addict Hunter Biden and their shenanigans.
    The second confirmation/corroboration took place yesterday.

    Make sure to read all URLs to get the full picture


    First Corroboration, A Hunter Biden Business Partner Affirms March 13, 2019 Email: A Hunter Biden partner, who prefers to remain anonymous, confirmed the authenticity of a March 13, 2019 email discussing “renumeration packages”, in a deal involving CEDF, a Chinese energy firm.

    The CEDF “meet and greet” payment was $5 million, of which Hunter would get $1 million (20%), of which $500,000 (10%) was reserved for “the Big Guy”, i.e., VP Joe Biden, according to the email.

    Excerpt from the “authentic” URL:

    “One of the recipients on an email chain with Hunter Biden that was published earlier this week has authenticated the document, Fox News reported.

    The email in question, which is dated March 13, 2017, purportedly shows a business partner of Biden’s discussing “remuneration packages” for participants in a deal involving CEFC China Energy, a Chinese energy company that was owned at the time by Ye Jianming.

    The New York Post published portions of the email on Thursday as part of a series of stories based on documents purportedly from Biden’s laptop.

    Some Democrats have questioned the authenticity of emails published by the Post. But according to Fox News, a person copied on the March 13, 2017, email confirmed that the published document is authentic.”

    Second Corroboration, A Former Hunter Biden Business Partner, Toni Bobulinski, Affirms March 13, 2019 Email: He is the second person to affirm the email. He details Joe Biden’s push to make millions from China.

    Others may come forward to corroborate/authenticate other emails within the next few days.
    It is best not to prejudge the developing news.

  3. Mark,
    Thanks for this commentary. It has gotten me thinking about character, what it means and examples I have seen in my life.
    For over 30 years I worked in a small Vermont elementary school where working with children meant not only teaching reading, writing and arithmetic but also developing character. A large part of this had to how to handle yourself when mistakes were made. This included not blaming others but taking personal responsibility and then making things better.
    Character for me has been shown when people put a greater good ahead of personal gain. Another job I had for 28 years at the same time I worked at the school was writing a weekly column on my town for the Herald of Randolph. The editor and owner of the paper at that time was M. Dickey Drysdale. When due to advancing age it became time to turn over this important community newspaper in our part of Vermont, he made the choice not to sell to the highest bidder. Instead passed on the paper to a local young man who had started working at the paper in high school, was deeply committed to the towns it served and knew that the paper was about more than the bottom line.
    Again, Mark thanks for this commentary and the food for thought it has provided. Character does matter and should be one of the factors we take into consideration when choosing who we want to serve in government at all levels.

    • According to your standards, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and other totalitarians are vindicated because they were “concerned for the greater good.” Kind of a sneaky method to justify the current violation of our rights. Typical for your kind.

      • Ken,
        I do not think Mr. Drysdale having other considerations besides simply the bottom line and how much he could make by selling his paper puts him in the same category as Stalin, Mao and Castro. Likewise when I think of my four relatives currently in the military, including two now station in the Middle East, I believe they are motivated by more than what they receive in pay and benefits. Being able to consider more than one’s self and being willing to give something of one’s self for the greater good is, at least to me, an indication of good character and something I value and appreciate when I see it in people.

        • Unending poisoning of well-written op-eds showboating self as possessing character and integrity a bit rich Freitag as evidenced by selfrighteous and insulting behavior here on TNR. Any accolades are generally given by others not selves.

          Continuation of ongoing insult campaign has come flying back in face – ya wouldn’t recognize character or integrity if they hit you between eyes w/a baseball bat.

          As unlikely as it may seem – is my hope that you and ilk finally come to recognize integrity and what it is to be honest – but not holding breath.

    • While you’re sounding your trumpet for your own character, you should tell us where you stand on the killing of unborn children. Such a position is a good determiner of one’s true nature.

  4. I voted for Trump in 2016…. you ask why ??

    I am sixty-nine years old and have voted in every election since I registered to vote !!

    I voted for Trump, as I was sick of slick-talking political hacks, all talk no action politicians
    and that includes the three stooges Vermont has in DC…… what a shame.

    I have to admit the President is far from a slick talker actually he’s pretty crass, your typical
    NYC businessman and we know he knows how politics are run, and if you take a shot at him, beware he will respond, and you won’t like it, so far liberals still don’t get it…..Idiots !!

    The President has fought all sorts of ” FAKE ” allegations since day one, any other politician
    would have buckled, he just calls it like it is ” fake “, Oh yeah he was correct apparently
    the DNC ” Hillary” was the ring leader another ” bitter fool ” ….

    So far he has done what he has promised, even with all the roadblocks from Democrats, If they
    had worked with him for the Country instead of a party, think where we would be as a Nation.

    So on Nov 3rd I’m headed to the polls and voting for a complete Conservative ticket and the
    first box will be for DJT 2020. Conservatives may not have all the answers but we know who
    caused all the problems………

    Wake up, People.

  5. “Shepard, he did everything wrong, and he still won!”

    Please elaborate….we need to know all the “wrong” you did!!!! Very much so. Well done.

    • Neil, I suspect it relates to my goal, which was not to win, but to engage. I encouraged and engaged in real conversations on issues rather than trying to find a position that simply made me tolerable but was truly meaningless. I took clear positions on as many issues as I felt I understood them to that level, while certainly being willing to change if I was shown a more sound position. And I had a ton of fun doing that! It is far less stressful than win or lose being understood as simply the election results. Ideas don’t tear down or take root in one election cycle. Bernie Sanders, for all the utterly wrong-headedness of his ideas, truly has a lot that people could learn from him. He pressed his ideas and kept pressing and finally got them to take root in a small way, and then a bigger way and if it were not for the tight controls by those who pull the levers of the Democratic Party, he would be their nominee and likely might have been in 2016. Moving ideas is the only way to steer a culture.

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